How To Can Winter Squashes and Pumpkins: An Illustrated Guide
Glorious Winter Squashes
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. 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 a low-acid food, 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, but this is just due to their size. Smaller ones may be roasted whole. Place only a small amount of water in the bottom of the roaster, 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. The murky water then infiltrated the pumpkin flesh, giving it a metallic tang, and making it almost inedible. I labeled this batch for the dog, who seems to enjoy pumpkin.
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
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
Winter Squash Varieties
Winter Squash Growing Tips, Storage Tips, and Recipes
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