Monday, August 15, 2011

Fresh Pumpkins: I'm canning them.

I spotted them through the early morning mists. A herd of lumbering giants bright against a drab scorched earth. These monsters won't hesitate to show you their defenses- tiny spines along their necks- and they drive fear into the heart of even seasoned foragers. What do I do with these things? Where did they come from? But most importantly: How does one go about killing one of these? a herd?

These particular pumpkins have assumed a defensive posture; encircling their youngster in protect it. Out of fear I take the biggest one, lop off its head and carve it up while the others watch. It makes the others still waiting better behaved and lets me get more pumpkin seeds for delicious dried pumpkin seeds. Next post? Delicious dried pumpkin seeds.

Search the internet and you will find that the USDA doesn't suggest canning puree as a good idea. They warn against it. I found post after post of people canning pumpkin and not dying or going to the hospital. Besides, a pressure canner is as close to an autoclave as I presently have so its got to do. If a microorganism can survive 1.5 hours in a canner at 15 pounds of pressure then it deserves to live and I deserve to get food poisoning for not listening to the USDA, the same organization that allows slaughter houses to use bleach on the food sold to citizens and banned soft cheeses because it could possibly hurt someone. Forgive me if I don't put all my eggs in the USDA's basket - oh yeah, USDA inspected eggs have caused salmonella and e coli outbreaks too. hmmm. okay, no more ranting.

My weapons are simple:
My iron will, a razor sharp Butchers Scimitar and a 400 degree oven.

Their weapons:
Painful spines, an 8 on the Mohs hardness scale, and I am starting to suspect from the way they are surrounding their young that they know I am a big giant softy.

 First place your pumpkin on a flat secure surface. They are hard and you have to use a bit of force to take the top off. Be careful here as the pumpkin can roll and that knife is sharp.
 Dissect the specimen from the top down.
 The two halves are full of goo and seeds, grab your favorite spoon and scoop them out. I always resort to using my hands

Below the others watch as the Alpha Male Pumpkin sits awaiting the scoop.

To minimize cleanup I used one big roaster pan

Place these in a 400 degree oven on the middle rack and wait. For me it took about an hour for the pumpkin to become soft enough to scrape the skin off.

That's what I planned on doing anyway, and I even peeled one piece - it was still hot and I singed my fingers a bit. That made me think: how can I do this in a lazier way?


We long ago learned that if you want something to work well and work for a long time you have to buy something well made and with a great reputation. The vita-mix blender is all of those things and more.( I promise I don't get kickbacks or anything). When we buy something we expect it to perform as it should, its the same reason we make most of our own food; if your going to spend your money or time you should get something good out of it. We paid a bit under full retail because we bought it during some kind of sale period and its become a highly used gadget in our kitchen.

So, I was going to skin the pumpkin but instead I didn't. Instead I crammed the blender full of baked pumpkin chunks and cranked the dial to 11( it really only goes to 10 but there is a super high powered turbo switch). The blender chews through anything, and it obliterated the pumpkin skin and made a lovely looking orange pumpkin colored puree, along with a nice four leafed clover shape. Slightly messy? yeah. much easier? yeah.

It's easy to clean as well, rinse out and add some water and some dish soap then turn on high for a minute and the inside is clean. Also, yes there is pumpkin puree on the wall outlet in the background
5 Quarts of puree. Yay!
I ended up with 6 quarts of puree, one of which I asked willow to use me to bake me a pumpkin pie because I love pumpkin pies. 

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