Pumpkin is definitely a fall favorite, and with the season just around the corner, what a better time to learn how to can some?
The only alternative to freezing the pumpkin to preserve it is by using a pressure canner. Since it’s a low-acid food, you need the high temperatures of the canner to kill any harmful bacteria.
To can pumpkin, you have to seed it, skin it, cube it up, and place those cubes in canning jars. Of course, you also have to prepare the supplies and process the jars, so keep reading if you want to know more and learn how to do that!
How to Can Pumpkin Step-by-Step
Here are all the supplies you’re going to need for the whole pumpkin canning process:
- Pressure canner
- Canning jars with their lids
- Canning tools (lid lifter, jar lifter, canning ladle, funnel, bubble popper, and canning bands)
- Kettle or large pot
- Large bowl
- Small pot
- Kitchen towels
- Vegetable peeler or sharp knife
- Cutting board
- Slotted spoon
This is probably the hardest part of the entire canning process because the rind of this vegetable is quite tough, which can be a bit of a challenge when you have to cut and peel the pumpkin. But it’s not impossible!
After experimenting with different techniques, this is the one we’ve found the easiest and quickest:
- Remove the stem. You can simply cut it out as you would if you were carving a jack-o-lantern, or you can slice your pumpkin in half and remove the stem from the section that has it.
- Cut the pumpkin in half if you haven’t done it in the previous step.
- Use a spoon to scoop out all the pumpkin guts. Don’t throw away the seeds! You can use them to make pumpkin seed butter, salt them or roast them to have as a snack.
- Lay one half of the pumpkin with the cavity side down to prevent it from sliding around.
- Slice it in half again and repeat with the other half. Depending on the size of your pumpkin, you might need to cut it a bit more so you end up with five or six wedges.
- Cut each wedge into slices approximately one-inch thick.
- Use a vegetable peeler or sharp knife (a paring knife will do the trick) to remove the rind. If the rind is too hard, we suggest microwaving the slices for 1 minute to soften it.
- Chop the slices into 1-inch cubes.
Once you’ve finished cutting up all the pumpkin, it’s time to prepare your jars and canner.
Prepare the Canning Supplies
For those who have never used a pressure canner before, we suggest that you read the manufacturer’s instructions first.
To prepare your canning supplies, you should:
- Wash the canning jars and the lids with warm, soapy water and rinse them thoroughly afterward. Make sure not to boil the lids because it can affect their ability to seal.
- Place the jar rack into the pressure canner, set the jars, and fill the canner with water.
- Sterilize the jars without the lids by boiling them over medium heat for approximately 10 minutes.
- While you wait for the sterilization process to end, you can bring the water you’re going to need to fill the jars of pumpkin to a boil in a large pot or kettle over high heat.
- It’s crucial that you keep both the jars and the lids warm until they’re ready to use. You can warm them in a small pot over low heat, as long as you check on them often so they don’t boil.
- Lay a clean kitchen towel on the counter and line up your freshly washed jars and lids on top of it. To prevent the jars from cooling down, we usually like to take them out of the warm water as we need them, one at a time.
Now that all the ingredients and supplies are ready, we can finally move onto the fun part!
Remember we told you to bring a large pot of water to boil while the canning jars were being sterilized? Well, this is the step where you’re going to need that. To can your pumpkin cubes, you have to:
- Place the cubes in a large pot and cover them with water. If there’s not enough space in your pot for all of your pumpkin, don’t worry, you can do it in batches.
- Boil for 2 minutes.
- Use a slotted spoon to transfer the cubes from the pot to the jars. Try to avoid smashing down the cubes as much as possible.
- Ladle boiling water over the pumpkin, leaving a 1 inch (3 cm) headspace (i.e. the space between the top of the pumpkin cubes and that of the jar).
- Release any trapped air bubbles with the bubble popper by gently running it between the glass and the food. If you don’t have a bubble popper, you can just use a clean ruler or a chopstick.
- Measure the headspace again, and add more water if needed.
- Wipe away any food or liquid on the rims so there’s nothing that can prevent a seal from forming.
- Finally, attach each lid and canning band. Keep in mind that overtightening canning bands can prevent the vacuum seal from forming.
We’ve reached the final stage of the process! Here’s what you should do to process the jars of pumpkin:
- Use the jar lifter to carefully place each filled jar on the pressure canner’s rack. The pressure canner should be at least half-filled with simmering water.
- Adjust the water level according to the manufacturer’s instructions. If you need to add more water, it can be a good idea to use the already hot water from your large pot or kettle if you still have some left.
- Fasten the pressure canner’s lid and set temperature to high. Don’t put the weighted gauge on the lid just yet.
- Bring the canner to a boil.
- Let the canner vent for 10 minutes, then place weight on the vent.
- Adjust the processing time for your altitude according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Typically, you should process pint jars for 55 minutes and quart jars for 90 minutes.
- Once the processing time is over, turn the heat off and let the canner cool completely for at least 1 hour before removing the gauge.
- Mindful of the steam, remove the lid, and let the jars adjust to the pressure change for a few minutes.
- Lift the jars with the jar lifter and place them on a kitchen towel. It’s important that you don’t place the hot jars on the bare counter because they can crack,
- Let them cool completely for between 12 and 24 hours. You should know your jars have sealed successfully when you hear a “pop”, but if you want to check, simply press down in the middle of the lid. If you notice that it has no give, it means the jar is sealed. If you can otherwise press the lid in, and it pops, even if it’s just a little, your jars are not sealed.
There you have it! You’ve finished home-canning fresh pumpkin to enjoy whenever you want. Just remember to date, label, and store your canned spoils in a cool, dark place for up to 12 months.
How to Can Pumpkin Purée and Pumpkin Butter
Unfortunately, you shouldn’t can pumpkin purée nor pumpkin butter. The density of the purée and the butter is too thick for a home pressure canner to be able to kill all potentially harmful bacteria. So you have to stick to canning pumpkin in cubed form and then purée it or use it to make pumpkin butter.
If you really want to have some readily available to blend into a soup or make pumpkin pie, then you can simply freeze the pumpkin. But again, don’t can pumpkin purée or pumpkin butter because there’s no way to do it safely.
Frequently Asked Questions
No, you can’t can pumpkin in a water bath because it’s a low-acid food, which means it can breed deadly botulism spores. The only way to kill harmful bacteria is by processing the pumpkin at very high temperatures that only a pressure canner can reach.
Yes, you can! Luckily, the process to can winter squash is very similar to canning pumpkin.
That’s very easy! Just open a jar, strain out the liquid, and mash. Bear in mind it won’t get thick like fresh pumpkin, but depending on what you’re making, you might not need to strain out the liquid at all (for example, if you’re using it for a soup base).
As you can see, canning pumpkin is a rather straightforward process, the hardest part of it is removing the tough rind. Luckily, we’ve given you some useful tips so that you can add this delicious bounty to your stores.
Just remember the two crucial points of canning pumpkin safely: use a pressure canner and don’t can pumpkin purée or butter.
Other than that, enjoy making soups, stews, pasta dishes, pies, and more with your home-preserved pumpkin!