Canned Pumpkin

pumpkinIt embarrasses me that just this year it occurred to me that if I could buy canned pumpkin I could probably can it myself. Up until then I’d either have to think ahead enough to go get a squash from the root cellar, split, clean, roast, scoop out, and mash the meat before I could even begin to think about starting a pumpkin pie or pumpkin bread or pumpkin soup.

That’s not entirely true. After roasting a big winter squash I’d freeze the left-overs in 2 cup bags or glass jars, but even that required me to think enough ahead to thaw the frozen chunk of deliciousness waiting to happen.

Not that thinking ahead is a bad thing. In fact, I’m quite in favor of it. Still, sometimes I get a hankering for pumpkin and am waylaid by the lengthy process to get it from actual pumpkin to a puree I can use in my baking.

This year we kept Fern Creek’s biggest squash, a Green Hubbard which I planned to split (not necessarily evenly) with our apprentices in the basement. So yesterday–a nice rainy November day–was the perfect day to roast it up and preserve it.

My instructional guide was the Joy of Cooking cookbook given to me by Mark’s Aunt Ruth as a shower gift nearly 36 years ago. That book has been my guide on a lot of culinary adventures over the last 36 years.

Until yesterday I would have taken an ax to the mammoth squash, and hoped for the best as I hacked away, but I happened to be at a Friendsview Strategic Planning Board meeting the night before where we were served a delectable dinner chockfull of local ingredients, including a large Hubbard squash. The chef came out and described the dinner about to be served, including where ingredients came from, and he happened to mention his preferred way of opening up a large squash. That’s what I did yesterday  and it was way easier and safer.split-squash

Needed:

1. 1 large winter squash or several smaller ones–pumpkins, butternut, and hubbard squash all work (just don’t try to use a jack-o-lantern as these overly large pumpkins aren’t meant to be eaten).
2. A pressure canner, pint jars and lids
3. Salt is optional

Prepping the squash:

1. If you have a large squash, put it in a plastic bag and tie it loosely. Drop it onto a concrete slab or gravel driveway. It will split into several large chunks. Otherwise, and more conventionally, cut the squash in half.

2. Remove seeds and stringing center and either feed them to chickens or a compost pile. Consider roasting the seeds for yourself and your loved ones.cookedsquash

3. Roast the squash cut side down (harder to do when you have chunks) in a 350˚ oven until easily pierced with a fork, about 1 hour.

4. Cool. Meanwhile wash and warm up pint jars.

5. Either send the squash meat through a ricer, strainer, or puree in a food processor (my choice). Add salt if desired, but not too much. Estimate 1/2 tsp. per pint. (Then remember when you used it that you salted it.)

6. Add 2-3 inches of water to the pressure canner and begin heating. Here’s for a good primer on using a pressure canner, which you should definitely read if you’ve not done this before. Meanwhile fill jars with pumpkin puree, leaving 1 inch headspace. Take a knife along the edges to displace air pockets. Wipe the rims with a clean damp cloth and screw on lids.

7. Process for 80 minutes (yes, 80 minutes) at 10 pounds of pressure.puree1

8. Let jars sit for 12 hours or overnight before removing rings and storing.

I am looking forward to having local, organic pumpkin a pantry step-away all winter long…

 

 

 

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