Preserving pumpkin and squash

Enjoy tastes of fall throughout the winter months.

Farmers markets may be closing in some areas, but pumpkins and winter squash are still readily available at roadside stands, grocery stores and some of our gardens. This delicious produce can be stored from now well into the new year if kept in a mild location (50-55 degrees Fahrenheit). Keep in mind, the storage life will depend on the variety of the produce. The harder the shell, the longer the shelf-life, generally most squash and pumpkins will last 2-4 months if their skins are unblemished and they do not have soft spots on them.

Squash and pumpkin are rich in Vitamin A as well as fiber. Other nutrients that come from pumpkin include potassium, folic acid, copper, iron and riboflavin. One cup of cooked solidly packed pumpkin or squash has only 80 calories.

Tips for cooking and preserving your pumpkin and squash
  • Select pumpkin or squash that have bright colored skin are firm and heavy for its size and have no visible damage that can be seen.
  • To use, cut in half and scoop out the seeds. A smaller squash or pumpkin may be easier to cut; the larger ones might make for a difficult task. Wash thoroughly, poke a few holes using a knife or fork and bake in a baking dish at 350 F until “fork tender” (about 30-45 minutes). This will make the task of cutting in half much easier. Let cool slightly, cut, remove the seeds, and set aside. Then scoop the flesh out of the shell. You may choose to puree it or simply put it in a freezer bag and “mash it” with your hands. You have made puree, this can be portioned and frozen for pies or your favorite baked products.
  • You may also wash the squash or pumpkin, cut it in half and steam, or boil it to soften the pulp. Then again do the same, scoop the pulp out and portion it into freezer bags.
  • When removing your frozen product from the freezer, always thaw in the fridge, never on the counter at room temperature.
  • Pumpkin or winter squash can be canned, but it must be processed in a pressure canner. Cut the product into 1-inch cubes. Add the cubes into a pan of boiling water and boil for 2 minutes. Do not mash or puree, the product must stay intact as a cube. Pack into hot jars, leaving 1-inch of headspace. Fill jars with boiling hot liquid, leaving 1-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles, wipe the jar rims, adjust the lids and process in a pressure canner at 10 pounds of pressure – 55 minutes for pints and 90 minutes for quarts. The pumpkin cubes can be mashed or pureed when you are ready to open your canned jars and use them. (make sure to drain off the liquid)
  • Remember there is no safe canning recipe for pumpkin butter, if this is something you would like to make, make a fresh batch or a freezer batch. It cannot be safely canned; botulism can be an issue if it is canned.

Michigan State University Extension offers many fact sheets about preserving Michigan Fresh produce, explore the many delicious products that can be made safely. 

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