Halloween came and went. It’s 2020 and COVID-19 took over. We made a few improvements to our homestead this year, including a new Frigidaire! We finally finished the bamboo flooring inside the house. We added more chickens to our flock, which had been attacked by coyotes, so we were left with only a few hens. Of course, there are ALWAYS projects to do on a homestead, even a tiny one like ours. Firewood to stack, chicken pen to build, decks to stain…. that TO DO list is endless. After a few years of struggle, I am thankful that we are able to get back to doing many of the homestead improvements we want.
Back to Halloween. While those improvements are setting into my planning for next spring and summer, we are rapidly approaching winter. Our favorite fall activities include visiting local farms, hay rides, going to our local agriculture fair, and Halloween trick-or-treating. Welp, none of THAT happened. Our daughter was able to go through our recreation department’s Spooky Walk in the woods with a friend, which is nice. Otherwise, the pandemic cancelled essentially everything else. Pumpkin carving was still on the agenda.
I bought four pumpkins this year, and only one of them ended up being carved. So, a few weeks after Halloween, I used one one of my mother’s favorite canning recipes: Punkin Jam. (This is literally how she wrote it on the label).
Wait… you used a carving pumpkin? But why not a pie pumpkin? I have never used a small pie pumpkin for this recipe; it has always been done with a full size carving pumpkin. In fact, I even munch on those big pumpkins raw! The white pumpkins, though even more difficult to find, are absolutely delectable, and my ideal choice when I make pumpkin curry. For the pumpkin jam, though… jack o’lantern pumpkin it is.
This is a recipe that has been made for… decades? by myself and my mother. But, here’s the catch: pumpkin is not really supposed to be canned in a boiling water bath. Risk of botulism and whatnot. (See note at end). “But that’s how we’ve always done it!” Yup. That is true. That doesn’t make it any less safe.
Granted, this recipe has a lot of sugar, and a decent amount of citric acid. I have never once had a “bad batch” or a jar that hinted of toxicity. That said, I’m sort of in the “better safe than sorry” mode with this pandemic business.
Enter Pressure Canner.
I’ve been relying on my Ball Blue Book guide to preserving for as long as I can remember. The thing is, I’ve never been able to make about half of the recipes because they require a Pressure Canner.
Now, I grew up a bit afraid of the idea of pressure canners. We never owned one, using only the boiling water canning method. Maybe there was the fear of the pressure canner exploding. (Did they actually do that?) Maybe it’s just less stressful to not have to manage a pressure gauge. Whatever the reason, pressure canning was just not in my experiences.
However, I’ve been doing A LOT of canning this year, and I wanted to do the pumpkin jam right. So I purchased a pressure canner. There aren’t too many choices when it comes to this device. There are two known brands: Presto and All American. Presto is the lower end brand, while All American is the higher end brand. I picked up a Presto 16 quart at my local Tractor Supply.
Basic Pressure Canner Steps
For canning jars, fill the canner to the first notch on the inside. Place the jars inside. Seal the lid. heat the water until the steam begins to come out.
When the pressure Top air vent pops up, place the pressure regulator weight on top of the steam vent. Once the weight is on the steam vent, the pressure will begin to raise. (This might take a few minutes). Increase heat to increase pressure, decrease heat to decrease or maintain pressure.
Once the desired pressure is reached, begin the processing timing. Watch the pressure gauge to make sure that is the maintained pressure, adjusting heat as needed.
Once the processing is done, remove the pressure canner from the heat. Don’t touch! Let it depressurize naturally, so don’t remove the weight, don’t try to open the lid. Just leave it be.
When the pressure is 0, the weight can be removed. Do NOT open the lid until the Top air vent is down. Even then, if the lid gives resistance, let the canner cool down more before opening. Safety first!
Pumpkin Jam Recipe
Yields 10 pints
- 5 pound pumpkin
- 2 1/2 pounds sugar
- 1/2 pound raisins
- 1/2 pound apricots
- 1 lemon, sliced thinly
- 1 tablespoon fresh diced ginger
- 1 teaspoon whole cloves
- 1 teaspoon whole allspice
- 2 sticks cinnamon
This is a long process! It takes awhile to prep the cubes, the pumpkin and sugar needs to soak overnight, it takes time to cook down, and pressure canning is an involved step. Be prepared to commit time to this recipe.
Pare pumpkin and remove seeds. Cut pulp into 1″ cubes and place into a large bowl. Add sugar, mixing well. Allow to stand overnight.
Cut apricots into thin strips. Combine pumpkin, apricots, and raisins in a large pot. Place spices into a cheese cloth bag and tie to secure, then add to pot.
Cook slowly, stirring frequently, until the pumpkin is tender and translucent. Add lemon and ginger halfway.
Ladle jam into sanitized jars, secure lids, and process in a pressure canner at 11 pounds of pressure for 10 minutes.
Once pressure canner is opened, remove jars and allow to cool. Label “Punkin Jam” if desired. Listen for the lids to “pop” and check each lid to make sure it is sealed, then store in a cool, dark place.
Note: In 1989, USDA withdrew pumpkin canning recommendations from the Complete Guide to Home Canning after expert review. “The USDA processing recommendation for pumpkin and winter squash should only be used with squashes cut into 1-inch cubes. Pumpkin and winter squash are low-acid foods (pH>4.6) capable of supporting the growth of Clostridium botulinum bacteria which can cause the very serious illness, botulism, under the right storage conditions.” Can at your own discretion… Refer to this page for more information: https://nchfp.uga.edu/questions/FAQ_canning.html#36