Thursday, October 20, 2016

Canning: Pumpkin

If you've been following along with the pumpkin-related posts to date, you should have a pumpkin already peeled, seeded and chopped. Be sure that the pumpkin is not chopped into too large of pieces. What's the point of canning pumpkin if you can only fit three chunks in each jar? The next step of your operation will be to gather your canning equipment, and review the basics of canning. The technique used for canning your pumpkin will be hot packing, and you will use a pressure canner to process your pumpkin.

Place your peeled and chopped pumpkin into a large stockpot, cover with cold water and bring to a boil. Only allow it to boil for a minute or two, you just want to get it hot, not necessarily to cook it. It will get plenty of cooking in the pressure canner! Put your hot pumpkin chunks into your hot jars. In this case I decided that quarts would be good. You can add a teaspoon of salt to each quart jar if you desire.

Next you will need to fill the jars with boiling water. An electric kettle works wonders in this situation!

Check your headspace using your headspace tool. You should have an inch of headspace for this canning application.

Turn your headspace tool over, or find another suitable thin plastic tool, and work out any air bubbles that may have formed during the filling process. Simply slide the tool down the outside of the food and work it around a bit. Shake, jiggle, pry, whatever you need to do to get those little bubbles out!

Use a clean damp dishtowel or paper towel to wipe the rims of your jars.

Use your lid lifter to place your lids onto your clean jar rims and screw on the rings. Remember that your rings should be "finger tight." They shouldn't be loose, but you don't have to crank them down with all your strength either.

Once the water has come to a boil in your pressure canner you can lower your jars into the vessel. Since the jars will likely be hot, you will want to use your canning tongs to lower them in safely.

Once the vessel is pressurized and the weight is rocking nicely you can start your processing timer. I strongly urge you to refer to your pressure canner user's manual for processing weights and times. For me, I processed 1 hour 30 minutes at 15 pounds pressure.

Don't forget that when your processed jars come out of the canner, they should be placed on a dishtowel on the counter and not touched until they are completely cool. If you put a hot jar onto the cold counter, it may burst. If you move a warm jar, the seal may be broken. Just be patient, and wait for the little fellers to cool. It will be okay, I promise.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

How to Peel A Pumpkin

As I was tackling the task of processing my larger pumpkins I had to figure out the most efficient way of peeling it. 

Using a sharp, sturdy knife and a large cutting board I began by cutting out the stem and slicing the pumpkin in half. Be sure to use long, fluid strokes while slicing. If you hesitate the blade may get stuck, and you could have a dangerous situation on your hands!

Using a large metal serving spoon I scraped out all the guts and seeds and set them aside for later.

Once the guts were all scooped I started to cut the pumpkin into strips. Please be very careful with this step, as the pumpkin is very slippery and hard to hold onto.

I cut each strip into chunks. The chunks don't necessarily have to be very small, it just makes it a lot easier to peel.

Once my strip was chunked I sliced off the skin on one side and the guts on the other.

After your pumpkin is peeled and chunked you can do whatever you want with it. Some of mine I boiled up for the goats to eat.

I froze some of it for later, and the rest I canned, but that's another blog post!

Thursday, October 6, 2016

Roasting Pumpkins

First I cut off the stems, cut them in half, then with a spoon I scraped out all the guts and seeds, and set them aside. Be sure to use a strong sturdy knife and a large cutting board. Just because they are little doesn't mean that they aren't difficult to cut. The skins are quite tough and once you make your first cut they get very slippery and hard to handle. Cut with long deliberate strokes and don't hesitate, or your blade may get stuck. That's all you need! A slippery pumpkin rolling around with a sharp blade sticking out of it! When it came to the scraping, I found a small metal spoon with a rounded end, rather than a tapered end. This made it easier to scrape the guts without digging into the flesh. If you are roasting your pumpkins to cook or bake with, I suggest doing a better job of getting the guts out than I did. Mine are for goats to eat, and they don't care if they're eating pumpkin guts or not.

I preheated my oven to 350 degrees, and lined some baking sheets with parchment paper. Next I arranged the pumpkins on the sheet pans with their cut sides down. I baked the little fellows for about 30 minutes before I began checking on them.

The easiest way to test for doneness is with a fork. If you are able to push your fork easily through the skin, they are done!

My smaller pumpkins took 30 minutes, the larger ones took about 45 minutes to cook. If you are roasting pumpkins for your own use, you can make them into pumpkin puree quite easily. Just scrape the skin from the flesh with a spoon and put the flesh into a blender or food processor. Process until smooth and you've got pumpkin puree! Just remember that it is not advisable to can pumpkin that has already been pureed. Always can pumpkin in chunks and puree when ready to use. If you need a way of preserving your pumpkin puree, put it in a reclosable container or a zip top bag and put it in your freezer. Don't forget to label and date the container so you know what you've got!

Saturday, October 1, 2016


Last year one of my co-workers approached me and asked me if I would like her Halloween pumpkins for my goats. Of course I said yes! She told me that her family had painted their pumpkins that year, so they were still good and hadn't rotted like carved pumpkins would have. Painted pumpkins don't worry me, because you can scrub the paint off, and if all else fails you can peel the pumpkin and leave behind any stubborn spots of paint.

So, the first task was to give the pumpkins a bath! I put them all in my bathtub and added a drop of dish soap. Using a vegetable brush I scrubbed and scrubbed until the majority of the paint had come off. Now I just needed to decide what to do with so much pumpkin!

First I tackled the smaller pumpkins. I decided to roast them, since they were small, and save their seeds to plant in my garden.

The larger pumpkins took much more time to process. I peeled, chopped and froze one and saved the seeds to toast.

The rest of the pumpkins I decided to can.

I realize that this seems like a lot of work just to feed some pumpkins to my goats, but it makes for some very interesting learning experiences to share! Besides, during the colder months my in-the-yard friends need some extra calories to keep warm, so it will benefit them as well!

Just like any of my other themed-event kickoffs, this page will be used as an index, and links to the various projects listed here will be added as they are published. Please remember to check back often!