Canning pumpkin (or squash) isn’t so much about saving money, but about doing something because you can. Canning foods at home adds to your toolbox of skills. It is also a very rewarding experience for many, like myself. Growing foods from seed, harvesting it with pride, and processing it into something you previously only bought at a store is very satisfying. The food has a purity and integrity not found in store-bought goods. One benefit of growing your own foods is a drastic reduction of your carbon footprint.

The process of canning pumpkin may seem labour intensive, but once canned, you have a good supply of it in your pantry and using your home-preserved pumpkin is as easy as the store-bought version – minus the packaging and with a plus of using a better quality product.

Canned pumpkin is used in home-made cat food to prepare a Veggie Mix which can be added to an otherwise meat based diet to remedy constipation or reduce dietary protein intake. It can also be used to create treats for your cat or for yourself, like a truly from scratch pumpkin pie.

TCfeline canning pumpkin_image

Pumpkin and squash are “low acid” foods that must be heat processed in a Pressure Canner that heats foods to temperature of 240 F (116 C). This temperature is required to prevent growth of spoilage organisms that can lead to botulism, a deadly form of food poisoning.

Pumpkin and squash must be preserved as cubes. Do not mash or puree the pumpkin or squash before processing. Keeping the pumpkin or squash as cubes will assure the vegetables are heated to the correct temperature throughout. The cubed pumpkin or squash can be mashed or pureed as needed just before use in a recipe.

To can pumpkin or squash you need:

  • Pressure Canner
  • Canning jars, 500 ml or 1 L size
  • Screw bands and snap lids for canning jars
  • I large pumpkin or several smaller squash
  • Addition of salt is not required or recommended

Step by Step Instructions:

For this demo batch I am using 12 x 500ml canning jars with screw bands and snap lids to preserve a mixture of homegrown pumpkins and acorn squash. I was able to fit a medium sized pumpkin and three squashes into the jars I had.

Begin by washing and sterilizing your jars either with a hot cycle in a dishwasher or by hand. Place snap lids in hot water to soften the rubber rim, but do not boil them.

Quarter your pumpkin and/or squashes with a big kitchen chef’s knife; remove seeds and cut into slices. Keep slices narrow, which will make it easier to peal off the rind. Set the seeds aside; wash and dry them for roasting or for planting the next generation of pumpkins or squashes.

Peal the rind with a paring knife. If the pumpkin is ripe and has been stored for some weeks, this will be easy. Removing the rind of some squashes can be more difficult. In that case, it might be easier and safer to lay the slices on a cutting surface and cop the rind off in sections using a large kitchen chef’s knife. Then cut your pealed pumpkin or squash slices into cubes.

Blanch the pumpkin or squash cubes in boiling water for about three minutes.

Fill your sterilized canning jars loosely with the blanched pumpkin or squash cubes leaving 3 cm or 1 inch headspace. Wipe the rim of every jar with a clean, damp cloth to remove residue which could interfere with the lid forming an airtight seal.

Add fresh boiling water to the pumpkin or squash cubes, maintaining the 3 cm or 1 inch head space.

Remove trapped air bubbles from in between the cubes by squeezing the cubes gently from the sides with a flat utensil until air bubbles are freed and rise to the top.

A pressure canner of this sort is required to safely preserve low acid foods like vegetables, including pumpkin and squashes, and meats. A pressure canner is not the same as a pressure cooker or a hot water canner.

Place warm snap lids onto clean rims and fit the screw band finger tight. Do not over tighten the screw bands. Do not tip the jars. Place jars into your pressure canner and add water according to manufacturers instructions.

Heat process 500 ml jars for 55 minutes at 10 lb (68 kPA) in a weighted gauge pressure canner or at 11 lb (75 kPA) in a dail gauge pressure canner. Begin timing processing time when the pressure has been reached. Check the gauge frequently to adjust the heat, if necessary, to maintain this pressure.

For 1 Liter jars, heat process for 90 minutes at 10 lb (68 kPa) in a weighted gauge pressure canner or at 11 lb (75 kPa) in a dail gauge pressure canner.

If you are at an altitude above 1,000 feet (305 meters), heat process at 15 lb (102 kPA) in a weighted gauge pressure canner for the same duration. For a dial gauge pressure canner, required pressure is as follows for the various altitudes:

0-2,000 feet (0-609 m): 11 lb (75 kPa)
2,001-4,000 feet (610-1,219 m): 12 lb (82 kPa)
4,001-6,000 feet (1,220-1,828 m): 13 lb (89 kPa)
6,001-8,000 feet (1,829-2,438 m): 14 lb (95 kPa)
8,001-10,000 feet (2,439-3,048 m): 14 lb (102 kPa)

When processing time us up, turn stove off and allow the pressure in the pressure canner to drop naturally without venting the canner. If you must remove the canner from the stove top do so carefully to avoid tipping the jars inside. The jars will seal as the pressure and temperature drop inside the canner. Ideally, allow the pressure canner to sit over night or for several hours before removing the jars. Check each jar for a sealed lid. Refrigerate any jars without proper seal and use soon.