If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you know that I started vegetable gardening this year. And with all this surplus produce I managed to grow (despite a constant battle with bugs and diseases) comes a new hobby, canning. I was sort of familiar with water bath canning from my childhood. But I don’t do half measures and take it slow, no sir, I dive right into the heart of the matter. That’s why a pressure canner appeared in my kitchen. And that crazy contraption opened a world of possibilities for food preservation.
My garden gifted me two beautiful orange babies, 12 and 10 lb pumpkins. It might not seem like much for some, but is quite a big deal for a first timer such as myself. I watched those babies grow right on the chain link fence in their makeshift hammocks all summer long. Finally, before the first danger of frost came looming, I cut them off and started plotting possible ways to preserve the sweet orange flesh.
My freezer is quite tiny, so storing both pumpkins in there was not an option. Besides, I prefer a more long term solution that doesn’t require electricity for storage. Cue the pressure canner. It is perfect for preserving low-acid foods without any added vinegar due to the extremely high temperatures that can be achieved in increased pressure environment. If I do this right, I might not need to buy any pumpkin puree for the rest of the year, and this means something, because my husband is a pumpkin pie eating monster. Every thanksgiving there is a pie for everyone else and a separate pie for him. But I digress.
Through some research I found out that pumpkin should not be canned in a puree form due to possible inconsistencies in density. I don’t always follow FDA/USDA guidelines (but you totally should wink wink); however, this time I decided to play it safe and as botulism free as possible. That meant I had to cut the pumpkin in 1 inch cubes and can it in water, which will later be drained.
I have to confess, cutting a big pumpkin is quite a challenge. My husband somehow managed to chop it up in quarters without resorting to his trusted hatchet (totally wouldn’t put it past him). We carefully cleaned out the stringy insides with precious pumpkin seeds and saved those for later roasting. If you can’t wait for this part, just scroll down!
Once this was done I placed pumpkin pieces on two cookie sheets and cooked them in the oven at 350 for about half an hour. This was just enough to make peeling easier without the flesh being overcooked. It still came out nice and firm.
After the skin was peeled, I tried to cube the pumpkin as described earlier. It is definitely not easy to do to a half-moon shape. Try making neat 1 inch cubes, I dare you. You will end up with all sorts of pyramids and trapezoids, but that is ok, I figure.
Meanwhile, the jars got washed and heated in the oven for sterilization. Yes, I know this is not an approved method, but I find it much safer than playing around with a pot of boiling water. I’d rather have all of my skin unscalded, thank you. You can be a big
boy girl person and follow the rules by the book.
I filled the jars with the pumpkin “cubes”, trying not to pack too tightly. Overall I ended up using 7 quart jars, the maximum amount that my pressure canner can handle. I filled them with boiling water to just about 1 inch from the very top, put on lids and screwed on the bands. From here it was just following instructions for my canner, which might be different than yours.
Once all the venting was done and the pressure reached 11 lbs (required for my altitude), I just had to keep an eye on the gauge for 90 minutes and adjust the heat if necessary. Yes, an hour and a half! That is an awfully long time. However, I don’t think the whole process was too taxing on our electricity bill, since the stove stayed on a low setting during most of that time. In any case, that was the longest I had to pressure can anything. Boooring. But 7 potential pumpkin pies are so worth it!
After the processing time was done, I had to wait for the canner to cool down. Attempting to cool it down artificially can result in jar breakage, and I didn’t just endure 90 minutes of gauge-staring for that! Also, I am not lifting a freaking heavy pot with 7 quarts full of stuff in it and I do not advise you do it either. Eventually the pressure indicator came down on its own and I could pull out my 7 quarts of beautiful pumpkin flesh. All of them sealed almost right away, surprisingly.
I did read about some people complaining that pumpkin canned this way can be watery. I have not opened a single jar yet, so I cannot answer that question. I will, however, report on it the moment this baby comes out of the pantry. Worst case scenario I will have to drain it through cheese cloth for a while. Still worth eating the fruit of my labor.
But what happened to the second pumpkin you might ask? It still had some green on it, so I left it to ripen in the craft room. I do have grandiose plans for it though. First of all, pumpkin butter. It’s like apple butter but out of pumpkin. Sounds delicious? Second of all, pickled pumpkin. That one can be either horrible or delicious. I will play it safe and can only a few jars. Aren’t you intrigued? I know I am!
Now the bonus you’ve been waiting for, roasting the seeds!
The trickiest part is separating them from the pulp. Just fill a bowl with water and work your fingers through the orange stringy mess, loosening the seeds. They are quite slippery and pop out without much effort. Once this is done, make a very salty solution for the seeds to soak in. I mixed 2 cups of water with 1/4 cup salt and let the seeds absorb it for a few hours. Then just drain the water, spread the seeds onto the cookie sheet and pop them in the oven at 350 degrees. All of that surface salt will start crusting on the bottom of the cookie sheet, but that is nothing to worry about. Stir your seeds every 5 minutes and don’t let them brown (unless you eat them with the shell like my husband). Once there is a tiny bit of brown appearing, pull them out, cool and enjoy! Eat as much as you can, they are very high in magnesium, which is very scarce in modern American diet. Also… do they make your tongue numb too after a while?
Well, I am off to plot my next project. Be sure to like my Facebook page and follow me on WordPress! Canning season is about over and I have so many neglected hobbies to write about ; )