Looking for a way to store your fresh pumpkin longer while making it even easier to use in a dessert recipe? Canning pumpkin, when done a certain way, doesn't even require a canning machine. The trick is to can it with the sugar (and the spices, while you're at it) already added, because the sugar acts as a preservative. Basically what you end up with is what's known as 'pumpkin butter' - think of it as pie without the eggs and milk (or bread without the eggs, milk, and dry ingredients). You can add this to any pumpkiny recipe by omitting any sugar and spices called for in the recipe (and maybe adding a tad extra of the pumpkin butter). I love this method; I can butcher a few small sugar pumpkins one year and not need to deal with it again for a couple of years. Fortunately Wal*Mart usually seems to have a small canning section in the Housewares department where you can find the supplies (you can often get the jars in your local grocery store too). Please keep in mind, that everything inside the jar must be thoroughly sterilized. Boiling the jars prior to filling as shown below is not only to make the jars hot but also to sterilize them. Use a CLEAN towel or paper towel to dry them before filling. If you use something to break the bubbles make sure its been sterilized, and make sure your funnel and ladle are clean/sterlized as well.
Please note: Since I started canning pumpkin butter this way many years ago the USDA has revised their recomendations, and they now advise against this method. They say that a pumpkin puree (containing sugar or not) is too dense for the heat to reach the center while processing, rendering the product unsafe. I have NEVER had a problem doing this for all the years I have been canning pumpkin butter, but please BE AWARE that the USDA recommends against this method. I'm sorry, I don't mean to scare anyone, but I want to be honest. I sure wouldn't want to hear that the instructions on my website harmed anyone.
Anyways, if you want to go ahead, here's how you do it:
You will need:
A pot big enough for all the pumpkin you made
A big pot with a lid, probably the biggest stockpot you have lying around, think 'big enough to boil a turkey in'
Mason jars for canning - I like the pint ones because there's less chance of wasting the unused pumpkin butter later (also, some of the recipies on this page rely on you having the pint jars)
A round metal cooling rack that will fit in the bottom of the stockpot - it's best not to have the jars sittng right on the bottom
Pictured above is the stockpot and rack, a couple pint wide-mouth Mason jars with bands and lids, a canning funnel, and a jar lifter (you hold the black ends). Let's talk about pots here a minute. You can buy pots made just for hot-water canning that come with a rack with handles; these are meant to hold 7 pint jars. This is fine, if you want to store a pot that doesn't seem good for any other use. I myself don't have the space to do that. You see, the pot in question seems pretty low-grade, flimsy. If I'm going to buy a ginormous pot, I want a heavy-duty, high quality one I can use for lots of things. So you could use a good, large pot and for the rack find a round cooling rack that will fit (or, buy a canning rack on its own if you can find one). You DO need a rack of some kind. I used to use a cheapo smallish stockpot and a cheapo round cooling rack I inherited from my mom, but the rack has pulled a vanishing act. And I couldn't find another anywhere. So, I bought a pot which says it's a tamale steamer. It's a great, heavy-duty enameled pot with its own flat round rack. It's a TAD short, but I can barely cover the pint jars with water so it's all good.
For every 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree add:
1 cup white sugar
1 1/2 t ground cinnamon
3/8 t ground nutmeg
3/8 t ground ginger
1/4 t ground cloves
So since I had 9 cups of puree from my 3 pumpkins, pictured above is the 9 cups of pumpkin, 6 cups of white sugar, 3 tablespoons cinnamon, 2 1/4 teaspoons each nutmeg and ginger, and 1 1/2 teaspoon cloves. (This amount yielded precisely six pint jars.)
Heat the puree in a pot.
Then add the other ingredients. Simmer uncovered for 30 minutes. Meanwhile half-fill the stockpot with water and place the rack inside; bring to a boil.
Put your thoroughly washed-and-dried Mason jars in the hot water bath - they must be hot when you fill them. Pull them out (with the jar lifter! Yow!) and wipe dry with a towel. You only need to dry the inside. Meanwhile sterilise the lids (don't worry about the bands) in a little pot of simmering water - DO NOT boil them, as boiling will ruin the seals and you'll have a heck of a time getting the jars to seal properly. I think I did originally say on this site somewhere to chuck the lids in the boiling water with the jars but I can't find it - in any case, do not boil the lids.
Fill the jars to 1/4 inch from the top with the hot pumpkin mixture. Then tamp the jar on the countertop several times to try to work out the bubbles; I like to run a wooden skewer around the edge of the jar. They make a thin rod for this purpose, but wooden skewers are fine as long as you're sure they're clean.
It should look like this. Tightly twist on lids with bands and place them in the hot water bath (on the rack). Lid 'er up.
How long do you leave them in there? I've seen instructions that say as little as 15 minutes but to be honest I usually let them go about an hour. I've heard of folks who go about three hours, and perhaps the longer the better, really. There's no way to 'overcook' them, as far as I know. When you feel that they've been boiled enough, pull them out and set them on the counter to cool. Don't turn off the heat yet just in case you need to reboil any of the jars (see next paragraph).
The top of a Mason jar has a little 'button' in the center that should suck down in a vacuum if the jars were boiled enough. If after ten or fifteen minutes of cooling any of the buttons don't suck down, retighten the band and reboil it; then pull it out and wait again. If after a couple of tries it STILL won't form a proper vacuum, remove the lid and band and use another set. I don't know why, but apparently sometimes a lid and band doesn't create the proper seal. For this reason be sure you have more lids/bands on hand than you need. (Don't forget to simmer the new lid for a bit.)
That should do it! Store in a cool (not cold) place. When you're ready to use a jar, unscrew the band then gently pop off the lid with a bottle opener. (If the lid falls off as soon as you remove the band DO NOT EAT THE CONTENTS, it was not properly sealed.) Inspect the contents carefully; it should smell good, not ooze out of the jar, and be a reasonable spicy brown color. ;^) If you created the proper vacuum while canning all should be well.
This pumpkin butter is brown in color, so recipes you use it in will turn out darker and less...orange than if you use store-bought canned puree.
Site maintained by Cynthia "Sparky" Read.