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Smith: Learn how to preserve pumpkin

Nutrition

The dietary guidelines represent the most current science-based advice on what and how to eat and drink for our best health. 

Each year in September, my husband and I take the kids to Morton to visit the annual Morton Pumpkin Festival. Morton is home to Nestle USA, which makes Libby’s canned pumpkin. With pumpkins surrounding the area, one might wonder if they can make their own canned pumpkin. However, there’s a few things you must know before grabbing your pumpkin and heading to the kitchen.

Not every pumpkin is a pumpkin perfect for cooking/baking. Many of the pumpkins we buy are better for decorative or carving purposes. While still edible, they may not be as sweet as the pumpkins grown specifically for eating. Sugar or pie pumpkins tend to be smaller, sweeter and a bit easier to handle, making them a great pumpkin for cooking, baking or canning.

Do not can mashed or pureed pumpkin, including pumpkin butter. USDA only recommends canning cubed pumpkin and winter squash. There is too much variation in the viscosity to safely recommend a processing time. As pumpkin and winter squash are low in acid, you must use a pressure canner to process cubed pumpkin, not a boiling water bath canner.

Freezing pumpkin yields a quality product. If you don’t want to mess with pressure canning your pumpkin, simply freeze it. Wash, cut into sections, remove the seeds and cook until soft, by way of boiling water, steam, pressure cooker or oven. Separate the pulp from the rind and mash. Cool by placing pumpkin in a pan sitting in ice water and stir. Place in freezer-safe containers or plastic bags, leaving 1/2-inch head-space, label and freeze.

If you can avoid it, don’t throw away your jack o’ lanterns or leftover pumpkin rinds in the trash, but rather compost them!

Canned Cubed Pumpkin

Wash, remove seeds, cut into 1-inch- wide slices, and peel. Cut flesh into 1-inch cubes. Boil 2 minutes in water. Caution: Do not mash or puree. Fill jars with cubes and cooking liquid, leaving 1-inch head-space. Adjust lids and process in a pressure canner.

If using a dial gauge canner, process pints for 55 minutes or quarts for 90 minutes with 11 lbs. of pressure. (Canner pressure, PSI, is based on altitudes of 0-2,000 ft.)

If using a weighted gauge canner, process pints for 55 minutes or quarts for 90 minutes with 10 lbs. of pressure (Canner pressure, PSI, is based on altitudes of 0-1,000 ft.)

Source: National Center for Home Food Preservation, www.nchfp.uga.edu

Smith is nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306. 

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