A week ago, our family visited my parents’ Hill Country ranch and came back loaded with produce.
My mom — a notorious green thumb — sent us home with 6 medium to large pie pumpkins as well as kale, Swiss Chard, cucumbers (more later about the pickling we did) and tomatoes. She also sent enough basil to make two rounds of pesto and freeze an entire tray of basil cubes (more about that later, too).
For the pumpkin canning, I followed the directions in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. Refer to the book for more detailed instructions, but the process went like this…
1. Wash the pumpkin. Remove the rind (we used a peeler for ease) and seeds. Cut flesh into 1-inch cubes.
Side note: The discarded parts of the pumpkin we fed to our chickens, and one sizable chunk that fell on the floor went to the dog (who is crazy about winter squash and pumpkins, raw or cooked). Pumpkin is a natural dewormer.
2. Sterilize jars in boiling water. The Ball book says I will need 1 quart jar for every 2.5 pounds of pumpkin. I weighed the peeled but not seeded pumpkins using a digital scale to guess at how many jars to sterilize. I found that I needed about 1 quart per every pound of pumpkin, but it may have been how I packed the jars that caused the discrepancy. In any case, I always prepare extra jars.
3. In the meantime, bring pumpkin cubes to a boil in a pot of water. Boil them for 2 minutes and turn off the heat. The goal is NOT to soften them all the way through. Just to get them warmed up so you can hot pack them into jars.
4. Hot pack pumpkin into sterilized jars, topping with hot sterilized water from the pot you boiled the pumpkin cubes. Be sure to press them down with a tool of some kind to maximize the amount of pumpkin in each jar and remove air bubbles, but try not to smash the chunks too much in the process. If you don’t pack them well, you’ll end up with a lot of room for liquid and need more jars than the recipe suggests.
5. Process jars in a pressure canner. You’ll need to process pint jars for 55 minutes and quarts for 90 minutes. In order to do this, fill your canner with how ever much water the manual tells you. Mine says 1 1/2″ of water. Then load up your pressure cooker — I use a 10-quart All American but any kind designed for pressure canning will work. Screw the lid on and heat ‘er up. Let the canner steam without a weight for how ever long your manual says. Mine says 7 minutes. The Ball canning book says 10. (I went with my manual for speed.) Then, put the weight on and start the time.
6. When the jars are finished processing, take the canner off the heat but do not remove the weight. Allow the canner to depressurize naturally before removing the weight. Then open it up and allow the jars to sit and cool for 10 minutes before removing them and placing on the counter to hang out.
After they cooled and sealed, my jars needed a good wipe down. We have lots of minerals in the water that leave a white residue. This is normal.
Because we did a big batch with 3 sizable pumpkins, we ended up with 11 pint jars and 7 quart jars. There will be quite a lot of pumpkin pie and breads this year. The pumpkin bread recipe my stepdaughter and I tried earlier this week is phenomenal, by the way. Check it out here. However, we cut the sugar down to 1 c. total in the first batch. The next one I am going to cut it down to 3/4 c. and see how it goes. The coconut oil made it super moist and tasted great.