Canned pumpkin now, awesome Turkey Day later

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Pumpkin pie is kind of a divisive topic in my household.

Some of us really need that annual hearty scoop of sticky sweet, endearingly mushy, nostalgically spiced goop.

The less adventurous among us aren’t tempted by flaky crusts, homemade whipped cream, or even sugary glazed pecans that help turn this humble ingredient into Thanksgiving Cinderella.

If you fall into the first category, you’ve probably also had the misfortune to taste a pumpkin pie that’s fallen flat. You know the kind: a soggy-crusted beast, laden with supermarket filling that tastes like the inside of a can.

The great news is that this is the perfect time to set yourself up for pumpkin triumph by canning your own. Follow this simple process from So Easy to Preserve, and you’ll be set to make delicious pumpkin pies, breads, cookies, pancakes, and even macaroni and cheese!

Canned Pumpkin

Select small, ripe pumpkins with a hard rind and stringless, mature pulp. Sugar and pie pumpkins work best.

Hot Pack – Wash pumpkin and remove seeds. Peel and cut into one-inch cubes (click here for a quick demo video). Add to boiling water and cool for two minutes.

Note: DO NOT MASH OR PUREE. There are no properly researched directions to recommend for canning mashed or pureed pumpkin or winter squash, or pumpkin butter. (This has to do with the products’ viscosity, which varies greatly and can inhibit proper heat circulation).

Pack hot cubes in jars, leaving 1 inch headspace. Fill jar to 1 inch from top with boiling hot cooking liquid. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace. Wipe jar rims! Adjust lids!

Process in a dial gauge pressure canner at 11 pounds pressure or in a weighted gauge pressure canner at 10 pounds pressure.

For pints: 55 minutes

For quarts: 90 minutes

Some fun with fermentation at CCE!

Saving Summer in Strawberries

Fresh Strawberries in a Ceramic BowlCreative Commons LicenseMarco Verch via Compfight

Summertime in New York is like the biggest firework on the Fourth of July. An explosion of sun-soaked days, cold lemonade, fresh breezes on the water – eagerly awaited and gone too soon, only the memory of it burned on the insides of your eyelids.

One of my most vivid summer memories is of my father, sweating diligently over a pot of foaming strawberry goop that would soon be jam. Strawberries are a quintessential summer staple, and the challenge of preserving that bright, sweet flavor is, in my opinion, a noble one.  So before berry season is just a lingering taste on your tongue, freeze some strawberries for the winter months or make a batch of jam – you’ll be glad you did in December.

How to Freeze Berries Well

Be sure to select ripe but firm berries for freezing.  Freezing will preserve quality, but not improve it.  If you have slightly over-ripe berries, save them for jam or jelly-making. Before popping in the freezer, wash your berries in cold water, drain, and remove stems. Work quickly and in small batches – 2 or 3 quarts at a time – for the best quality.

Five Tips for Fantastic Jam and Jelly

Heating crushed strawberries for jam

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Don’t Double

Jams and jellies will not always gel when the recipe has been doubled.  A gel depends on many things, one being the amount of evaporation that takes place during the cooking time. A bigger recipe won’t undergo as much evaporation and will be too watery, even if you’ve used exactly twice the amount of every ingredient.

Cook It Quickly

Jams and jellies should be boiled rapidly.  Long, slow boiling will destroy the pectin in the fruit juice and prevent jelling. Then you’ll have strawberry syrup, which, all-in-all, isn’t a tragedy!

Follow the Right Recipe

If you choose to use a low-sugar pectin, which can be marked “Lite” or “Low Sugar Needed,” make sure you’re also using a low-sugar pectin recipe. Sometimes recipes are printed right on the package. Otherwise, look for tested recipes in reliable resources like So Easy to Preserve, 6th Edition, from University of Georgia Cooperative Extension; The Ball Blue Book – Guide to Home Canning, Freezing and Dehydration; and from the National Center for Home Food Preservation website,

Pack and Process Properly

To reduce and even eliminate sealing failures, make sure your jars are clean and filled with hot product to the correct level (“headspace”). Process jellied products correctly in a boiling water bath canner, which will destroy mold spores and bacteria that cause spoilage. Jams, jellies and preserves in sterilized jars must be processed in a boiling water bath canner for 5 minutes (once the water returns to a boil). Unsterilized jars should be processed for 10 minutes.

If it Grows, it Goes

If your jam or jelly molds, throw it out. Removing visible mold does not necessarily remove all the mold roots (metabolites) growing down into the product which cannot be seen with the naked eye.  Mold metabolites include mycotoxins, which may or may not be carcinogenic to humans. The safe (though sad) step is to toss your product.

Summer is finally here, in all its delicious bounty… use your knowledge to preserve it all year long!


Resources:  Cindy Shuster, Associate Professor, Extension Educator, Family & Consumer Sciences, Perry County, Ohio State University; revised by Judy Price and Katherine Humphrey, NYS Food Preservation Experts, Cornell Cooperative Extension, 5/2009.