Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pressure Canning Pumpkin (On My Anniversary)

I have to say that of all the veggies out there, pumpkin has to be one of my most beloved. It tells me it's my favorite season, makes one of my favorite pies and my very favorite certain latte. Yup, I love pumpkin. But, have you noticed the stuff in the can doesn't taste so good unless it is doctored up quite a bit (i.e. in a pie)? I have, ever since last year when I made my own pumpkin puree (and froze it). What a difference! This year due to my canning bug I wanted to can it. Pureed. But you can't! It's a safety thing. So I had to decide, freezer or canned? I chose canned, obviously, and I canned it reluctantly cubed. Although, honestly this really makes no difference because I can just drain it and mash it when I need it for something like bread or pie. No biggie.

So! This particular canned item started with 3 small/medium Small Sugar heirloom pumpkins from a farm a few towns over that we have been going to ever since our wedding in 2010. This is where we got the pumpkins to decorate our October wedding with, we made the small ones into vases and filled them with sunflowers and blue hydrangeas for centerpieces. They were beautiful. *sigh* Anyway, I am getting on a tangent... 'cause yesterday was our anniversary. Yes, I canned on my anniversary.

Let's break it down shall we?

I peeled, split and scooped out the seeds. Then...

... I split the halves in half and cut into strips then chunks, about 1/2"-1" dice.

Filled up a large pot and then covered with water (as best you can because pumpkin floats!). Bring to a boil and cook for about 2 minutes. You do not want to cook it through at this stage, the canner will do that for you.

Fill your jars and cover with cooking liquid leaving 1/2 and inch of head space (make sure to de-bubble). Wipe rims and place lids and rings on, tighten ONLY finger tight.

As you can see I have a double pressure canner which can hold about 18 pints or 9 quarts. Personally I do not like my jars to touch so I don't put more than 7 jars in one layer. And, also, as a side note this canner was made in 1942 and is being lent to me by my great-great aunt. No really. People in my family live a long time! My great-great-grandmother was still alive when my brother was little before I was born, therefore we have once had a true FIVE generation family! Currently we have four generations. Sorry that's another tangent. My bad.

Anywho! This canner has preserved probably thousands of jars of food. I cleaned it, put in a new seal and it was good as new. I will need to replace the gauge and petcock at some point but for now I just over shoot my pressure by and pound or two and call it good.

Put the canner over high heat and with your vents open wait for the steam to flow "freely". When it is set your timer for 10 minutes to exhaust all the air. When time is up close your vents (or whatever your canner's manual says) and bring up to pressure.

Ten pounds please. Set your timer for 55 minutes for pints, 90 minutes for quarts. Pints I feel are a smart choice for most home cooks unless you have a large family. One pint will equal about one can of commercial pumpkin (I assume) once drained and mashed.

After time is up I take the canner off the stove and let it rest on my wooden cutting board. Once it comes down in pressure to zero I open the vent (petcock) all the way and let it set a few minutes. Then I open the lid but don't lift it off, I just leave it resting on top for about 30 minutes. After that I take the jars out and set them on a towel in a draft free place to cool (like the above). Also, pictured is the book I have used this year for my instructions. It is a classic but it's the updated edition so everything is up to date (although it still gives instructions for using bail jars so it must be a die hard author). Bail jars are NOT considered safe anymore but those who grew up using them like my grandmother and mother-in-law still use them for acid foods like pickles. I see the appeal, I do. But, I prefer to use them for storing beans and rice dry.

I promise I will do a post this weekend on my canning totals! I know right now that I have filled over 100 jars with deliciousness. Wow, right? Not bad for my first year of serious canning and not a very good garden! Next year I plan to up that by about another 3-400. Wish me luck!

Til next time!

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