Wednesday, March 14, 2012

The Great Pumpkin Canning Extraveganza

Here is the BEAST!

My mom and I tackled the great beast that is Pressure Canning! A few years ago, we heard a guy talking about caring for aging pets on the radio... and he mentioned that animals who experience incontinence issues could benefit from eating some cooked pumpkin each day. My mom and I each have a dog with such concerns, and my aunt Laura has a cat with it too... so it seemed like a great tip. However, it didn't take us long to see that cooked pumpkin is pretty pricey!

My mom is sort of a genius, and figured out that sometime after Thanksgiving, everyone is taking the huge array of festive squash off their porches and replacing them with Christmas wreaths and such. So, she put a message on Freecycle asking for people's squash, and - long story short- ended up with an epic backyard of assorted pumpkins and winter squashes.

Last year we cooked it down and froze it, but we've all got other stuff in our freezers, and the pumpkin really filled up the whole freezer. So, this year, we borrowed our friend Toni's new Pressure Canner and bit the bullet. The pressure canner comes with a thick and intimidating instruction booklet full of dire warnings... but we were ready to take it on:

Before we could really get busy though, we needed all our supplies to be on-the-ready. We combined our various jar stashes and had a pretty good supply. My mom picks up canning jars at yard sales sometimes, and usually gives them to me, but now it was my turn to bring them all back over to her house. Plus, a canning funnel is really so good to have.

So many lid rings! All washed and sterilized.

And the most important canning supply of all - the goods!! My mom and I pre-cooked our various squashes and had it all ready to go. I think we both mostly used the method of roasting big chunks in a baking dish with a little water - it's good because it leaves the squash not too watery, and because you can fill the whole oven and do big batches. Seriously folks, my mom wasn't messing around. Just look at all that orangey goodness. That's just PART of her squash.

We re-heated our pre-cooked squash so that it would be hot for the canning process...

... and also so that we could get out some of the excess moisture. After our first batch we noticed that the pressure canning process REALLY sucks the moisture out the canned squash, so it was good that we got rid of as much of the extra water as possible ahead of time. Even with the roasting process, there was still a lot of extra pumpkiny-liquid to squeeze out.

The next step was to fill up our canning jars with the cooked down squash...

... and put them in the pressure canner! Ta Da! We were a bit nervous about the pressure canner, but we'd read all the instructions very carefully and were ready to embark on our maiden voyage! We put the lid on, clamped down the industrial-sized bolts, brought the pressure up (which took a while), and then set the timer, crossed our fingers, and went off to the living room to hang out...

And voila! Just about an hour later, the house was still intact, we hadn't blown up the pressure canner, AND we had a whole ton of canned pumpkin!! Huzzah!

We had so many wonderful types of squashes: red kiris, kabocha, pumpkins, and on and on. So, we labeled each batch with what type of squash is inside. Some just say "pet" on them, which means the contents are probably just regular-grade pumpkin that wouldn't be super yummy in muffins or whatever... but you can bet that our little doggies aren't going to get to eat all of this by themselves! They'll have to share!

Here's the aftermath! Canning pumpkin is a messy endeavor, my friends.

And here's Sir Horton himself - my parents' dog - keeping an eye on us in the kitchen and awaiting his dollop of cooked pumpkin!

It was a great adventure, and actually I think my mom's done about 5 or 6 more batches... Thank goodness winter squashes last a while on their own, so we didn't have to do it all in one weekend. It's a pretty big project, but thanks to all her hard work, there is definitely enough canned squash for all our furry friends and many, many delicious human treats too!


  1. That looks like such a fun thing to do!

  2. Kaylen8:44 AM

    Glad to know it's not just my dogs that love pumpkin. (They get pumpkin or squash with their food most of the time. We roast it whole, peel it, and mash it seeds and all for them.)

  3. What a great idea! I had never heard that about pumpkin and incontinence... I'll have to keep it in mind as my critters get older.

  4. you girls did such a fine job. I love the handle jar holder you used to take the jars out of the canner...where did you find that one. I always get my finger burnt every time I use the one I have. I love yours...please let me know where you got it...thank you.

  5. awesome! those are some lucky pets!

  6. That looks tasty! I'd be cautious with canning pumpkin, though, just because it's incredibly low-acid. It really surprises me that they're not available year-round... I get so used to having them all the time that I'm always saddened when I hear that pumpkin season is ending for other people! I couldn't live without pumpkin, haha. :)

  7. Cool! Great photos :). Trader Joe's stopped selling canned pumpkin and I'm quite sad, it's my favorite. Guess I should have canned my own too! I just started my own veg blog--it's not much yet but I would love it if you checked it out sometime!



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