Preserving Pumpkins and Winter Squash

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pile of deep orange pumpkinsWith the start of October, our thoughts go to everything pumpkin. Pumpkins are just one of the varieties of winter squash. No matter your choice, the recommendations are the same for preserving those hardy winter squashes. So if you don’t want to store whole, try these recommendations from the National Center For Home Food Preservation at the University of Georgia.

Remember there is a risk for botulism if you try to can pureed winter squash so only use cubed squash when preserving that way.

Pressure Canning Pumpkins and Winter Squash – Cubed

Choose one of these varieties:  pumpkin (sugar or pie pumpkins) or one of these other winter squashes (acorn, banana, buttercup, butternut, golden delicious or hubbard).

 Quantity: An average of 16 pounds is needed per canner load of 7 quarts; an average of 10 pounds is needed per canner load of 9 pints – an average of 2¼ pounds per quart.

 Quality: Pumpkins and squash should have a hard rind and stringless, mature pulp of ideal quality for cooking fresh. Small size pumpkins (sugar or pie varieties) make better products.

Please read Using Pressure Canners before beginning. If this is your first time canning, it is recommended that you read Principles of Home Canning.

For more information on why they say not to mash or puree the squash, read more about the caution.

 Procedure: 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 headspace.

Adjust lids and process following the recommendations

The recommended process time for pumpkin and winter squash is in a dial-gauge pressure canner.
Style of Pack Jar Size Process Time Canner Pressure (PSI) at altitudes of:
0 –      2,000 ft 2,001 – 4,000 ft 4,001 – 6,000 ft 6,001 – 8,000 ft
Hot Pints 55 min 11 lb 12 lb 13 lb 14 lb
Quarts 90 11 12 13 14

Recommended process time for Pumpkin and Winter Squash in a weighted-gauge pressure canner.
Style of Pack Jar Size Process Time Canner Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of:
0 – 1,000 ft Above 1,000 ft
Hot Pints 55 min 10 lb 15 lb
Quarts 90 10 15

Freezing Winter Squash

If you prefer to save it in a pureed form, you can freeze it. Penn State has these tips for freezing it for higher quality and safety.

Select mature pumpkins with a firm rind. Wash and remove the pulp and seeds and cut the pumpkin into cooking-sized slices or chunks. Cook the pumpkin until soft by boiling in just enough water to prevent sticking, steaming, covering and baking in the oven, or cooking in a pressure cooker. When the pumpkin is soft, cool slightly and scrape from the peel; drain, then mash or puree. Place the container of mashed pumpkin in cold water to cool, stirring the pumpkin periodically. Package the pumpkin in rigid freezer containers, leaving ½ inch (13 mm) of headspace. Seal the container and freeze. Squash puree may also be put into zip-type freezer bags, excess air squeezed out, flattened and frozen on trays until solid. Bags can be stacked when frozen solid.

To freeze cubed squash, water blanch cubes of squash for 3 minutes (just until heated through), drain, and chill in cold water. Keep blanched cubes in a colander while chilling to prevent the cubes from breaking apart. Pat dry with a paper towel. Spread the cubes on a cookie sheet in a single layer, place the cookie sheet in the freezer for at least 4 hours, and then transfer the cubes to a freezer bag, pressing to remove air before freezing.