Working on pumpkin

Scooping out freshly-cooked pumpkin...

Somehow, this week has turned incredibly busy. It's all good, and I love the accomplished feeling at the end of a long day, but, it's still work. :)

I canned 8 quarts of pumpkin last week, but still hadn't taken the time to post the photos I took while working on it! :)

This morning at 9:15, my mom called, asking if I wanted to do more pumpkin today. I had a headache and felt like just laying on the couch. But when do I ever feel like saying, "Sure! I'd just love a 4-5 hour project for the day! I was so bored, anyway..."? Never. So I said, "Sure!" Smile

So, about 10:15am, one of my brothers (on his way to work) dropped off two huge canners full of halved pumpkins. Yes, I am spoiled -- I didn't even have to chop through them myself! ;)

The canners, which belong to my mom, each hold 22 quarts, and so we were able to do about 8 big pumpkins. I put 2 quarts of water in the bottom of each canner, put the lids on, and cooked them until the pumpkin was fork-tender. (The steam cooks the top pumpkins.)

Then, I scooped out the soft pumpkin inside. Yehoshua and Eliyahu played with the hard shells from some of the pumpkins while I worked. ;)

I piled my scooped-out pumpkin in a big bowl, and then drained off the excess liquid that separated. You could also put the pumpkin in a colander or strainer to strain off some of the liquid, if needed. You just don't want too much water in with your pumpkin! :)


Now, the USDA doesn't recommend canning pumpkin puree anymore, but I still do it. So... this is a post about "what I do" and I am NOT recommending that anyone follow "my" method. You can freeze your pumpkin puree; I don't have the freezer space for that, so I can mine. But anyway...

I pack the hot pumpkin into jars, about 1/2-inch from the top, and screw on the canning lids.

I don't mash or blend the pumpkin, but if you want super-smooth pumpkin puree, you can do that extra step. We've just found that in our baking and cooking, the little "strings" either disappear, or else we don't mind them. I never notice them, personally. :)

I process my jars of pumpkin in a boiling water bath for 3 hours. It usually takes at least 3-4 hours to come to a good rolling boil at medium-medium-high heat, and then I time it for 3 hours. Again, the boiling water bath is not recommended by the USDA for foods that aren't high-acid.

Jars of pumpkin!

Here are a few of my pints of pumpkin! Last week, I canned 8 quarts of pumpkin, and today, I got just over 9 quarts. We've also made two pies, and I have enough leftover pumpkin from today that I'll be able to bake something tomorrow. I love baking with pumpkin!! And once it's canned, it is so convenient to use. We've been out of home-canned pumpkin for a while, so I'll really enjoy having some to use again. :)

My mom grew lots of pumpkins this year, so I'm hoping to do at least one more day of canning pumpkin. The fresh, home-grown food is such a blessing! :)

For more reading, here is a post from last year about using/preserving pumpkins. There are alternate cooking suggestions (like baking!) in the comments, for those of you who don't have huge pans, or want an easier method for doing just a couple pumpkins! :)


yum and ???
Submitted by Anonymous
So on a day like your house a disaster or did you do your chores before you started on the pumkins? What does a typical day look like housework wise for you?
mama at

Canning Pumpkin Cubes
Submitted by Anonymous
The reason canning pureed pumpkin is not recommended is that it's low-acid, and it's a thick enough consistency that heat won't carry through the jar well to the center. You can, however, can cubed pumpkin, and then just drain and mash when you want it, which takes less than 30 seconds. One quart jar of cubed pumpkin gives me enough when pureed to make one deep-dish 9" pie. Here's a link to directions on canning cubed pumpkin.

Submitted by Anonymous
I've done a bit of canning here and there (had a almost-bad mishap with a pressure cooker ... i'm a water-bath gal now!) ... mostly just jams, but I'm wanting to do more, as we're able to. I was just wondering, how come you're not supposed to can pumpkin? I wonder what people who canned did before there was a pressure cooker?

How long?
Submitted by Martha Artyomenko
How long have you been doing this?
I guess I am wondering how many years it has been and no one has died, although I guess it just takes one jar. But the reason I read was that the time amount for canning was not long enough to get to the center of a dense puree. So, what if you pressure canned it for longer than normal?

I have not very much freezer space, but I found if I did them in qt bags, in 2 c. amounts and laid them very flat, I can fit alot in a small space. We will see. I still have 7 pumpins.

3 hours?
Submitted by Kathleen B.
You have to process it for THREE HOURS?! Oh my goodness! That's a long time. Mom and did apple butter and sauce yesterday (I did a tutorial on my blog) and we only had to process that for 10 minutes. It seems like the blink of an eye compared to that ;).


Canning pumpkin
Submitted by Tammy
Mamacelebrate -- I'll answer in a blog post. :) Good questions! ;)

Anonymous, yes -- I have read that the heat doesn't transfer well enough through the pumpkin puree. I have read that it makes a difference if you pack your jars cold vs. hot, and I would imagine that the amount of time you boil it would make a difference, as well. Sometime I should take a jar out of my canner and temp the inside after a few hours, for curiousity's sake. :)

But, even if the heat did transfer well enough, I was thinking that the USDA says to use a pressure canner (not a boiling water bath) for low-acid foods like green beans or pumpkin. So, if I remember right, no puree at all, only cubes, canned in a pressure canner.

Martha, well, I am using canning methods from my mom/her mom/her mom/etc. I would be interested in statistics about home canned foods, but I don't really know of any... realistically, there are risks of eating almost any foods -- remember the e coli from fresh spinach, or the contaminated peanut butter?!

Kathleen, yes! Apples are high-acid (at least I think they're considered that!) and have a shorter processing time. My pumpkin actually took a lot longer than 3 hours to cook... it took about 4 or 5 hours to come to a good boil (I purposely didn't turn the heat up all the way, so it would have time to get nice and hot all the way through) and then I timed it for 3 more hours!

Canning pumpkin
Submitted by Martha Artyomenko
Personally, I think they probably error on the side of caution because the cases of botulism are pretty bad. But, my MIL cans stuff all the time in ways i know is not safe at all and yet, they eat it and are fine, but I wonder if I would eat it.....I could get very sick! You know, how each family gets used to their own bacteria....

I would think with that long of cooking you have eliminated the risk! I may try canning some, but that is a long time to have a boiling pot on your stove!

Submitted by TaftMommy
I wish I had more freezer space! But I only did three pumpkins, so it wasn't *that* much to freeze. Plus I'm using it a lot. :D I have never canned with a pressure canner...they kind of scare me.

I keep mine in the freezer
Submitted by Anonymous
I only had two pie pumpkins to use. I did a photo-documentary on my side bar as to how I make pumpkin puree. I actually have more space in my freezer than I do on my shelves, so I freeze it. Plus, I never use more than 1 cup at a time. I am hoping to get more pumpkins because this was fun!!


Kinds of Pumpkins...
Submitted by cari
My mom has always done lots of canning, but we live a long ways away from her, so I have never been brave enough to try it myself. I decided next spring I am taking the plunge, putting in a much bigger garden, and taking up canning. One thing my mom has never canned is pumpkin. Is there a kind (or size) that you prefer for canning over another?

Pumpkin varieties
Submitted by Tammy
Hi, Cari! :) The best kind of pumpkin for baking/cooking is called "pie" or "sugar" pumpkins. Other than that, I don't know! :)

Thank you!
Submitted by cari
I just love reading all the different things you have here at your site!

Thanks for the tips
Submitted by Anonymous
We are heading into "suburban homesteading" in a small way with our first garden next spring. We grew pumpkins by accident last year from carving them on the deck and the seeds falling thru! Thanks for the tips!

canning pumpkin
Submitted by Anonymous
I read your canning pumpkin post and thought I'd try it - I didn't get to carve up ours this year (delivered baby #4 on Halloween, instead) - so I had a few to 'try' it on.

It didn't go well at all. We cut the pumpkin in half, put the halves in a pan in the oven with water in the tray, cooked it until 'soft'... and when we pulled it out, the halves collapsed in on themselves. After trying to pull them apart, I started to work on removing the 'meat' from the shell, but it was like a huge network of stringy shtuff.

I'm guessing I did something wrong?

how old were your pumpkins?
Submitted by Anonymous
I'm guessing, but I bet those were pumpkins grown for carving, more so than eating. They really are more stringy. Get yourself some more "pie" pumpkins or use winter squashes (like acorn, sweet mama, butternut or my favorite....the blue hubbard) and try it again. I bet you'll have much better luck. Also, if it was a carving pumpkin, it may have not been as fresh as you'd have liked for it to be. The rind is not as thick so you can carve it easier, but it doesn't have the keeping power of the others listed. If you can find a Blue Hubbard.....and your husband will help you get into it, it is just wonderful. Most canned pumpkin at the stores is really made from the winter squashes, so you don't have to worry about how they'll taste to you. ((If anything, they taste better than true pumpkins in my opinion.)) We grew some bannana squashes one year and they weighed between 75 - 100 pounds each. Each squash had a small seed cavity and the rest was all meat. I was so tired of canning that year.

Good luck!

On the poster above
Submitted by Martha Artyomenko
I do mine this way, it is sort of stringy, but blend it in the blender and it works great! I just did 2 pumpkins yesterday!

Stringy pumpkin
Submitted by Anonymous
I worked up three pumpkins on Saturday and made pumpkin butter. Two of mine were really stringy. I halved them, cleaned them then baked them in the oven for 2-3 hours until they were really soft. (Put them cut side down on a cookie sheet). After I peeled them, they fell apart while doing this and I drained them well then put in a bowl with a tiny bit of the liquid that cooked off. Then I used my stick blender (purchased at a thrift shop for $1) to blend it all, no strings!!

Pumpkin with strings
Submitted by Tammy
My pumpkin is usually a little bit stringy -- and like some other commenters suggested, you can put it in the blender, use a stick blender, or (for a quick fix) mash with a potato masher.

I used to do that, but then I stopped, and we didn't think it made any difference with our baked goods and such... it seemed like by the time the pumpkin was cooked into something (cookies, bread, pie, etc.) it was so soft that we didn't notice any strings.

But, if you want something exactly like what comes out of a can from the store, you should cook the pumpkin really well (i.e. not "just until tender", but maybe "until REALLY tender"!), drain it well (I do use a colander to drain my pumpkin if it seems watery, especially at the bottom of a big bowl when I'm working on it), and then puree it in the blender. :)

Tammy, I recycle our Fall pumpkins by baking them! I cut in 1/2, scoop out the seeds (clean and roast later), set the pumpkin halves flesh side up (sometimes need to cut a bit off of the skin side so that it'll stay flat) and bake @ 350 until tender. ALOT less water this way. I also make up puré and freeze in 2 cup amounts in qt baggies as my recipes use 2 cups. They take up little room.

The seeds you canalso keep if you have room and plant the following year.. I have a stove top oven which I have used for doing pumpkin in works great. considering I had so much pumpkin last year I had to use my oven and the stove top oven to cook it.. and its steams it so even better..


One of the things I like to do with stringy pumpkin is throw it in homemade vegetable soup. I tried it once when I had some that I didn't know what to do with and was surprised how yummy it was. I made a pumpkin pie with the stringy pumpkin once and it had a really funny texture, but maybe I should try baking with them again.

I'm also one for freezing. I'll water bath can anything acidic (apples, tomatoes, jam), but I freeze the rest (corn, green beans, pumpkin, etc). I've never tried a pressure canner, but find that freezing works great for us. We do have a not quite full size upright freezer in the basement, but I still did it when we had just the top freezer of an apartment fridge.

I've never canned pumpkins before but the ones that Tammy has canned in her pictures look like they've done good. I don't know much about all that FDA stuff it hasn't bothered Tammy yet. I might try tammys way of canning the pumpkins. I grew some this year and need to do something with them. The old timers canned pumpkin puree and it didn't bother them. My mother use to can but she isn't able now to can and I'm just getting into it. I didn't pay much attention when I was younger to her canning now I wish I would have.

First thing first, the price of canning over the years have been bad. If you are doing water bath for 5 hours, due the math with lids and gas/electric stove energy cost plus your time, it may make more sense to buy it! I do can pumpkin and a lot of other things too. But I use a pumpkin that I grow organic and may be hard to find at the local pumpkin patch. Order seeds online "Cinderella Pumpkin" or "Fairytale Pumpkin" they are two different pumpkins but have dense thick walls of flesh great for canning/cooking and strings are not so bad. This is a good year(2010) to can pumpkin here in Michigan because crops are only at 50% and rotting fast due too the warmer wet season.Prices at the stores will be high this year!

Yes cubed is the best way with pressure canner! Nothing less than that in my book. If you go out on the ocean 50 miles do you take a boat your not sure of? Same with canning don't mess around! Do not mash/puree it creates tiny air bubbles that acts like insulation for bacteria to hide, yes a boil bath for 5 hours may work but who wants to waste that much time and energy. I would rather read a book to my kids and buy a can at the store! 90 minutes in a pressure cooker. Don't be scared of the pressure cooker buy it brand new and a real name brand, and most brands have high pressure safety blow holes that will release so they don't explode, if you are not smart enough to follow directions. Happy Canning and teach a child of proper age how! They tend to eat veggies better when they know they canned them!

If you want chunks, you’ll have to cut into it raw (though I have wondered if “par-roasting” would work to make the skin easier to hack into). Or find a store where you can buy it already in chunks. Or beg the produce guy at your local market to do it. Explain that people (such as you) would gladly pay more if someone else had done the wrestling.

I'm very interested in growing and canning pumpkin this year and I just had a couple questions. I haven't been able to find a good answer to how one tells if the pumpkin is completely ripe. I live in southeastern Missouri, so if someone in that area has experience, I would appreciate their input. Also, Tammy, even though you haven't had any problems with bad jars of pumpkin, do you recommend only canning pumpkin in pint jars, so the heat can penetrate better?
I'm undecided whether I will leave the pumpkin whole or pureed but I appreciated everyone's answers, they cleared up some questions in my mind.

Something else I was considering: baking the pumpkin puree in the oven and then putting the lids on the jars. My sister made canned bread last year by baking the dough in the jars in the oven and then putting the lids on the hot jars. Does anyone think this would also work for pumpkin? Bread dough is probably just as dense as pumpkin, so I thought it might work.



Pumpkin is very dense and non-acidic, so it really needs to be pressure canned to avoid the risk of Botulism. It is not recommended to be canned pureed, so I mainly freeze mine as it is a hassle to cube pumpkin and can it.
There are many things that people do that their mother's have done forever, but it does not mean it is worth the risk. Botulism can make you really sick or even cause death, and it is not worth the risk to me!

@Anonymous - I understand your point of view. I was just curious how pumpkin filling really differed from bread dough in its density and therefore whether pumpkin could actually by baked.

The reason I wanted to can pumpkin filling was so I could give it to friends and family as Christmas gifts. Much nicer presentation than frozen zip-loc bags:).


when you make your pumpkin pie? Do you use a traditional recipe? Also, I have made lots of apple pie filling with success. It was a bit watery when I would use them, so I would pour those out.

I also add lemon juice when I can anything, it keeps fesh and the color doesn't get so dark.

Thamks you,


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