Preserving Pumpkin

Pumpkin was another one of those things I just never imagined myself preserving. As I’ve gotten more comfortable with cooking, though, I started to use more pumpkin. I love to put in baked items like our pumpkin cookie bars. Plus, who doesn’t love a fresh cooked pumpkin pie! There are a couple ways to start preserving pumpkin and we did both this year. 

Variety of Pumpkins

I don’t know this for certain but I do believe you could choose to preserve just about any type of pumpkin out there. However, there are some pumpkin varieties that are more suited for preservation. These varieties tend to be smaller so they actually fit in your oven to bake them. They also tend to have a higher sugar concentration so the pumpkin has more flavor than the large pumpkins that tend to be more bland. Other pumpkins also tend to be really stringy, which is not what you want. You want a nice smooth flesh that is easily blended to make a puree. 

Pie Pumpkin or Sugar Baby

As its name states the pie pumpkin is perfect for pies and preservation! These pumpkins are usually pretty small. We were able to fit a couple on each baking sheet when we were preserving them. They don’t have a ton of meat on them though so if you want to preserve a lot you will need several pumpkins. Each pumpkin for us did about 2 quarts of pumpkin chunks. 

Cinderella or Fairytale Pumpkins

These are what I would consider a medium pumpkin. They are usually light tan or light orange in color and are great for processing and baking. They, again, fit very easily in the oven as well. These have a little bit of a thicker skin than the pie pumpkin. This makes them a little harder to peel but the flavor of them makes it worth it. 

Dickinson Pumpkins

This is one that I’ve heard about (and seen on Instagram) but I have not tried myself. This is actually what Libby’s uses in their canned pumpkin! In fact, Libby had these specially developed for them. That tells me they are a great variety. They are light orange and have more of an elongated shape. Again, they have the thicker type of skin too. 

Pumpkin.
This pumpkin is ready for the first step in preserving!

Processing Pumpkins for Preservation

The first part of the process remains the same regardless of which method you choose to preserve pumpkin. First you need to bake the pumpkins. Put the entire pumpkin on a baking sheet. Bake on 400 until it is fork tender. This is going to vary largely on the size and type of your pumpkin. The pie pumpkins took about an hour. The fairytale pumpkin took about an hour and half. These are a bit bigger so you will have to have more oven space for them. One the pumpkin is fork tender you will peel the skin off of the outside and remove the stem. CUt the pumpkin open and remove the seeds that are inside. 

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between the “guts” and the rest of the pumpkin. Honestly, I was wrong. It’s very easy to tell the difference between what needs to be removed and the flesh that you want to keep. Once these steps are done you can choose how you want to proceed. 

A peeled pumpkin, ready for preserving.
This is what a peeled pumpkin looks like!

Canning Pumpkin

Once you’ve followed the above steps you can cut the pumpkin into chunks. Add these chunks to your jars. We used quarts and got 2 quarts out of each pumpkin. Do not puree or mash the pumpkin into the jars. Fill jars up to the hips with pumpkin. Once the pumpkin is in the jar add hot water to fill the rest of the jar to the hips. 

Pumpkin has to be pressure canned. Due to the low acidity it’s not safe to process it in a water bath. You will need to process quarts for 90 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure. Process pints for 55 minutes at 15 pounds of pressure. 

Also, as a note here, don’t remove the lid of your pressure canner until it has fully de-pressurized. This causes syphoning, which is what happened to our jars this year. It’s common to want to rush the process with pressure canners because they take longer. However, I promise it is worth waiting and you’ll be thankful you did. 

To use the chunks simply strain out the water and mash the chunks! You could also choose to put them in a processor if you want a really smooth puree too. I usually choose to put them in the food processor because it’s super simple. 

Freezing Pumpkin

Once the pumpkin has been baked and the seeds have been removed you can freeze the pumpkin. You can simply chunk up the pumpkin and put it into a freezer safe container. Or, if you choose, you can puree the pumpkin too. If you are canning, this is not an option. I chose to puree mine before freezing. I cut up the chunks and put them into my Ninja food processor. After just a few minutes of blending I had a nice smooth puree. Put your puree into freezer safe bags or containers. 

Pureed pumpkin.
I use my Ninja food processor to puree pumpkin for freezing.

To use it you should first thaw it out. If it is a puree then once it is thawed you are good to use it. If it is chunked then you will most likely want to mash it or put it into a food processor to blend it. 

In Summary: Preserving Pumpkin

Preserving pumpkin largely depends on three things: how you want to store it, how much time you have, and if you want a puree.

  • Do you have freezer space? If no, you’ll want to can it. If yes, you’re good turning it into a puree. 
  • Do you have a lot of time? If no, you’ll want to freeze it. If yes, then canning is a good option.
  • Do you want puree? If yes, you must freeze it. If no, you can do either option. 

Which method of preserving pumpkin do you prefer? HOw much pumpkin are you processing each year?

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