Preserving pumpkin safely
Enjoying pumpkin year round is easy; just remember home canning can’t always replicate commercial canning.
Fall is just around the corner with its beautiful colors, flavors and produce. Pumpkin is not only for decorating but also a delicious and nutritious addition to your diet. Michigan – grown pumpkins are available between August and November. Recommended varieties for cooking and baking are smaller, sweeter varieties known as the pie pumpkin. Some varieties are Peek-a-Boo, Sugar Treat, Dickinson Fields, Baby Pam, Triple Treat, Kentucky Field, Buckskin and Chelsey. These types are good choices for cooking because they are meatier and contain less stringy fiber than the carving pumpkins.
When looking for suitable pie pumpkins avoid bruises, cracks and soft spots and stick to pumpkins in the range of four to eight pounds; they will yield the best pulp. Pumpkins have a fairly long storage life if kept at cool room temperatures. Pie pumpkins are rich in antioxidants and vitamin A, vitamin C and vitamin E, cooked; it is low in calories and rich in dietary fiber.
- Do not store in the refrigerator or in a damp place. Moisture causes rapid deterioration.
- If stored properly, a whole, unblemished pumpkin can be stored for three to six months at 45 degrees to 50 degrees F.
- For best quality and nutritive value, preserve no more than your family can consume in 12 months.
- Wash thoroughly under clear running water prior to cutting or cooking. Do not use soap.
Ways to prepare pumpkin:
Pumpkin can be frozen or canned, Freezing is the easiest method to preserve pumpkin and will result in a quality product later on. Thoroughly wash the pumpkin, prick with a knife or fork in several places. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 30-45 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit (until tender). Once cooked, remove from oven, let cool to touch, cut in half, scoop out the stringy contents save the seeds for roasting if you choose. Remove the baked pumpkin from the rind. At this time, you may mash or process, or just pack into freezer bags or rigid containers leaving ½ inch headspace, label, date and freeze. If freezing large quantities of pumpkin, consider portioning based on favorite recipes and marking the freezer bags with the name of your favorite recipe and portioned amount frozen in bag. When it is time to bake your favorite breads, cookies, and pies your pre-portioned bags will be ready to go, remember to thaw frozen pumpkin safely in the refrigerator never at room temperature.
Michigan State University Extension recommends that pumpkin only be canned in 1 inch cubes using pressure canning methods. Pumpkin butter, mashed or pureed pumpkin, or winter squash are too dense to be safely processed by home canning methods. Remember what is canned commercially cannot always be replicated by home canning and be safe to consume. To prepare pumpkin for home canning, wash, remove seeds, cut into 1- inch wide slices, and peel. Cut flesh into 1 – inch cubes. Boil 2 minutes in water. Do not mash or puree. Fill jars with cubes and cover with cooking liquid leaving 1 inch headspace. Wipe jar rims, adjust lids and process in a pressure canner 55 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts 11 pounds pressure for a dial gauge canner and 10 pounds of pressure for a weighted canner. If you want pumpkin puree, when you open your canned product, you may then mash or blend it to the desired consistency you want before incorporating it into your recipe.
Enjoy the flavor of fall all year long by preserving this delicious crop. Incorporate it into your soups, side dishes, baking and desserts. Taking some time in the fall to preserve pumpkin will enable you to savor the flavor during the chilly months ahead.