I couldn't bear to let our carved pumpkins go to waste so I had the kids bring them inside to me this morning and I got to work chopping them up for canning :) I just LOVE the smell of freshly sliced and grated pumpkin and this will let me enjoy this time of year just a little bit longer. There's nothing like cooking up a pumpkin pie in those dark winter days and triggering wonderful memories of fall :)
They have a bit of a tough skin to peel but as you get going I find that it gets easier. You start to get the feel for the right pressure you need to apply to your knife while keeping your loose fingers clear in case it slips *grin*. I'll admit it slipped on me once and it sort of give my heart a jump start! LOL.
I had already washed some of my pint canning jars in hot soapy water with a splash of bleach to disinfect them as they had been sitting in the crawl space all year so once I had all my pumpkin peeled I cut the pieces into 1 inch thick spears roughly the height of my jars but short enough to leave the 1 inch head space needed for a proper seal. What at time saver!! When it was time to pack the jars all of the spears were the exact height so there was no need to mess around trimming them to fit :)
I thought that I would share with you how I can pumpkin just in case you want to try doing it with your pumpkins to :) Pumpkins are a low acid vegetable and very capable of growing botulism if processed improperly so make sure you use a 'pressure canner' and NOT a 'water bath'.
When you have collected all of your jars, sealers, rings and have your pumpkin peeled and sliced it's time to prep you pumpkin for packing into your jars. Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit and place all of your pumpkin spears into a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring the pot to a boil and let it gently boil for a couple of minutes only. You will see that your pumpkin spears are starting to turn brighter orange as they start to cook and you only want them to be barely fork tender. You are going to pack your jars hot so even if you don't think they are quite done turn off the burner anyways because as you pack your jars the ones in the pot will continue to cook while waiting to come out.
Put on a clean pair of rubber gloves and grab a jar :) Your rubber gloves are going to be your body armor as you grab hot spears of pumpkin out of the pot and pack them in as tightly as you can vertically into your jars without mushing them. As soon as you have filled a jar, use a ladle and pour in enough of the hot water from your cooking pot to cover your pumpkin spears and make sure you still leave that 1 inch of empty head space at the top of the jar. Wipe the rim clean with a cloth so there are no bits of pumpkin where the sealer will touch and pop the jar into the oven to keep warm while you pack the rest of your jars :)
As soon as you have all of your jars filled with pumpkin and liquid it's time to get your sealers heated. I usually use Bernardin sealers which recommend that you only heat them to 180 degrees. Check the directions on your box as they may be different and if you happen to have old sealers you may find that they still say you can boil them for a full 5 minutes! I must say I sure do miss the old sealers that you could just pop in the pot and boil without worrying about over heating them *grin*. Once your sealers have been heated as directed, remove your jars form the oven with your rubber gloves on again and put on a hot sealer one at a time placing the finished jar each time directly into your pressure canner.
With your pressure canner fully loaded clamp on your lid, place it on your stove top burner, and turn the burner on high. As soon as your canner starts to 'vent' out of the steam pipe time it for a full 10 minutes and when the time is up shut the valve or place your weight on the steam pipe depending on which model of canner you have.
Process your batch at 10 pounds pressure for 65 minutes and that's it :)
Now if you don't have a pressure canner or just don't want to do all of that work *grin* then you can definitely freeze your pumpkin! I had way to much for my canner and I only wanted to do one batch so I grated up what was left of my pumpkin.
Our favorite cake and pie recipes call for two cups of pumpkin so I measured out 2 cups into each of my freezer bags so when I want to use one it will be exactly what I need :) You can also freeze pureed pumpkin, pumpkin butter and pumpkin pie filling as well.
Three pumpkins later I have 18 beautiful pints of canned pumpkin, 6 packages of grated pumpkin for the freezer and 1 blistered finger from all of the peeling *grin*. If you have a favorite pumpkin recipe that you would like to share with me I would love to hear about it :)
PS. Looking for more great recipes? Check out the Hearth & Soul Hop & Real Food Deals :)