How to Can Winter Squashes and Pumpkins: An Illustrated Guide
Glorious Winter Squashes
Pressure Canning Is A Good Answer To Hoards Of Squash!
Winter squashes are one of my favorite parts of fall. I am anxious over their growth periods each spring and summer, doing my best to deter the hordes of hungry grasshoppers, and the occasional pecking chicken in my garden. I invest many prayers asking that they mature before the first hard freeze. Then, when at last their golden and orange and buff and spotted and streaked rinds adorn my table and cellar, I breathe many prayers of thanksgiving, and begin to work out my plans for them.
There are pumpkin pies to make, and butternut squash custards with nuts on top to bake, and halved acorn squashes, with their insides running with butter and dotted with black pepper, to set before my appreciative husband. There are cookies and muffins and pancakes and, yes, even pumpkin ice cream to look forward to.
I often have a cellarful of squashes when the first heavy snows fly. But around February, the squashes begin to lose their keeping qualities. Nobody wants to be served a spaghetti squash that looks like it has the measles. So what is the answer?
You're not supposed to dry winter squash, nor pumpkins. Why? I don't know yet, but I suppose it has something to do with bacteria which may spoil the squash and hurt you. Freezing is an alright answer, but bags of puree take up so much space. So my answer is canning.
Which Kinds of Squashes Are Eligible For Canning?
Almost any squash can be canned. However, all squashes are low-acid foods, so must be processed using a pressure canner or pressure cooker. Even summer squash varieties can be canned, and very large or overly mature summer squashes should be processed just like winter squashes.
A Note On Preparing Squashes For Baking
Large squashes must be cut apart before stewing or roasting, due to their size. Smaller ones may be roasted whole. Place only a small amount of water in the bottom of the roaster or pot, as the squashes will give off their own liquid.
If you have many squashes to bake, change the water every batch or two, especially with pumpkins, which seem to do a good job of cleaning water lime and other residues from the bottoms of pans. I had a batch of pumpkin nearly ruined when they helped bake some hard-water residue off the bottom of an ancient roaster which was not coated with enamel. The murky water infiltrated the pumpkin flesh, giving it a metallic tang and making it almost inedible. I labeled this batch for the German Shepherd dog, who seems to enjoy pumpkin, and ate it mixed with meats and other veggies.
Equipment Needed for Canning Winter Squashes
- Pressure canner (not a regular pressure cooker designed for cooking only small amounts of food, without putting it in jars)
- Large roaster (enamel preferred), or large pot - for cooking squashes
- Wooden spoon, for filling jars
- Knives, for cutting squashes - one regular, and one serrated
- Ladle - optional, but good for "wet" squash types
- Canning funnel (has a wide mouth)
- Jar lifter
- Tongs, for lifting lids
- Saucepan or small cake pan, for scalding lids
- Canning jars, quarts or pints (do not use regular "recycled" jars, which are of a lower quality)
- Canning lids of an appropriate size(s)
- Vinegar (optional), for adding to canner water to avoid hard-water stains
- Towel or large board on which to set cooling jars
Quick Reference For Canning Pumpkins/Squashes
Processing/Cooking time: 80 minutes (after 10 lbs. pressure is built)
Pressure Setting: 10 lbs. (may be 12 lbs. at high elevations)
Overall time per full canner load: 3-4 hours (from filling jars to emptying cooled canner)
Jar Size: Quarts, either wide or regular mouth; Pints, either wide or regular mouth (wide mouth jars are easier to pack)
Storage term: 1+ years normally (depends on storage conditions, such as humidity)
Step One - Wash And Cut Apart Pumpkins Or Large Winter Squashes
Step Two - Cook Squashes And Pumpkins
Step Three - Prepare Jars And Canning Equipment
Step Four - Pack Squash Pulp Into Jars
Step Five - Process Squash In A Pressure Canner
Step Six - Cool Pressure Canner And Jars; Store Jars
Pureed Vs. Cubed Squash - Safety Concerns
In the comments at the end of this article, there is a discussion on the merits of cubing squash for canning, instead of puréeing it. The reasons are simple and scientifically sound: puréed squash does not heat up as well as cubed squash, nor as evenly. This means that while being canned, each jar of squash (especially in quarts) may not heat up sufficiently to the very center, to kill all unlovely bacteria. This will, of course, invite spoilage of your product, and possibly illness for you and your loved ones.
I, personally, have never had a bad experience with puréed squash...but if the risks are ones you will not take, then by all means, cube your raw squash, pack it in jars, and fill to within a 1/2" of the rim with boiling water.
Your squash will be soggy, but safe.
Winter Squash Varieties
Winter Squash Cooking Tips and a Recipe
- How to Cook Fresh Pumpkin
An easy guide to cook pumpkin puree at home. Once you go fresh, you'll never go back.
- Health Benefits of Butternut Squash Soup With Cucumber Chutney
This is a good-tasting soup for winter that will make you feel warm and satisfied with good food. This recipe can be made with other forms of delicious squash as well. Video recipes included.
Questions & Answers
When cooking spaghetti squash with butter and brown sugar, is it okay to can?
Spaghetti squash should be great to pressure can like that! That sounds tasty. (There are no safety concerns that I can think of.)
© 2009 Joilene Rasmussen