Annual Pumpkin Canning Fiasco

We finished canning our pumpkin harvest just in time for “everything has to be pumpkin flavored” season.  Actually, we eat pumpkin all year long.  Why should I only enjoy it during the fall and winter months?  I make sure to have plenty stocked up so that we can nosh on pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cookies, pumpkin bars… you get the idea!.. all year long!

Last year we bought all of our pie pumpkins from a local market.  This year we grew all but 10 of the pie pumpkins.  We canned 42 pumpkins and only spent $15.00.  Woohoo!  We’ll be eating extra pumpkin coffee cake, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin lattes.. I can go on but I’ll spare you this time!  By growing our own, we know that we’re using heirloom seeds and growing these babies without any pesticides, insecticides, or any other “cides” that aren’t good for us.

Washed Sugar Pie Pumpkins

The first thing you do is wash your pumpkins really well.  You don’t want any dirt or grubbies getting into your hot liquid or pumpkin.

Clean out seeds from pie pumpkin

Cut your pumpkins in half with a sharp knife (cleaver, axe, whatever works – just be careful!) and clean out the seeds.  Save the seeds in a bowl to roast for later.

Cut Sugar Pie Pumpkin PiecesChop the pumpkin into manageable pieces. 

Boil Sugar Pie Pumpkin PiecesBoil the cut pieces in water for about 20 minutes until pumpkin is tender but not mushy.  It will be easier to peel the pumpkin rind.

Pumpkin LiquidRemove the pumpkin pieces and allow to cool a bit.  Save the water that you boiled your pumpkin in, you will use this as your “juice” for the canning.  I figure that it’s better than plain water, any of your vitamins and minerals that get cooked out from the pumpkin will be in this water.

Cooked Pumpkin PiecesWhen pieces are cool to the touch, remove the rind, and cut into cubes.  There’s all kinds of warnings about how you should never can pureed pumpkin, it should always be canned in cubes.  You can read what the National Center for Home Food Preservation has to say about it here.  They are funded by the USDA.  I feel much safer now.  (Can you feel the sarcasm?)  Wonder how anybody survived years ago?  I follow their advice for the most part.  Sometimes my pumpkin is a little “mushy” and the cubes fall apart and I really like to stuff that pumpkin in those jars.  Sort of like puree but I’ve never had a problem with any of my pumpkin.  Except for that one time that…. Just kidding!  The pumpkin turns out all good even if it is a little pureed.  Libby’s purees their pumpkin and expects everybody to eat it.  Maybe they don’t like the competition.  Just saying.

Pumpkin in Canning Jars

Fill hot, clean jars with your pumpkin cubes.

Hot liquid in Pumpkin JarsTake your hot pumpkin liquid and fill the jar almost to the top.

Air Bubbles in pumpkin canning jars

Slide a knife or plastic spatula along the sides of the jar to remove any air bubbles that may be hiding out in there.  Bubbles not good.

Headspace for pumpkin canningCheck to make sure that you leave 1 inch of headspace in your jars.  You need to leave this room due to expansion of the pumpkin while it is being pressure cooked.  Trust me, I’ve made this mistake before.  All your pumpkin juice from inside the jar makes its way out into the pressure cooker and you’ll get a little bit of dry pumpkin.  Leave the headspace.

Clean Jar rim before pressure cooking Wipe off the rim of the jar to remove any sticky liquid or pumpkin chunks that could interfere with getting a good seal on the lid.

Tighten lid on canning jarTighten the lid onto the canning jar (careful – it will be hot!)

Jars in Pressure CookerPlace a maximum of 7 quarts into your pressure cooker.  You have to use a pressure cooker, not a hot water bath canner.  The pumpkin doesn’t have enough acid in it to kill any little critters that might be in there.  Follow your directions for your pressure cooker.  Make sure that you check the vents to make sure they are clear (tee hee!  Chicken humor – check your vent!  I know, my joke was wearing thin on Lexie too.  She had to hear it every time I started a new batch.  Can’t take me anywhere.)

Process quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure and pints for 55 minutes at 10 pounds of pressure.  You can fit 10 pints into the canner.  This is the long part.  Waiting for the canner to achieve correct pressure and then waiting and hoping nothing goes wrong.  I’ve heard pressure cookers can be quite dangerous.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds Since you have to stay close to your pressure cooker to keep an eye on it, might as well roast all those pumpkin seeds!  I just mix a little sunflower oil and sea salt and pop them into the oven at 250 degrees for about half an hour.  I think we got 2 gallon size bags of pumpkin seeds this year.  Pretty sure they won’t last too long.

Canned Pumpkin Quarts Now you have pumpkin to use for all those yummy treats all year long.  When you open a jar, drain out the water and mush the pumpkin up with a spoon.  Pumpkin puree!  We did pretty good this year.  There are 50 quarts and 27 pints in the pantry.  And it only cost us $15.00!  Hmm.  That would be about 19 cents a jar.  Plus I had a bowl of pumpkin that I just didn’t feel like canning anymore so we ate pumpkin muffins, pumpkin bread, … yeah, yeah, you get the idea!

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A Gaggle of Geese and One Lonely Rooster

I’m starting to think that I might have a problem with hoarding.  Not your typical too many shoes, clothes, toys for the kids type stuff (although I suspect I may have tendencies toward this too) but animal hoarding.  Yikes!!  Okay.  It’s really not that bad.  I also have a tendency to be dramatic.  The drama queen in high school?  Yep.  That was me.  Is me…. whatever!  We went on a wee bit of a spree and added 10 (TEN!) new geese to our gaggle of six.  It started out all innocent and actually for a good cause.  But I start to wonder if I can justify everything with my reasoning.  We don’t really need ten more geese.

I’m leaning toward blaming my daughter for this one.  Ever since the county fair and birth of our Toulouse goslings, she has been on this “Saving the Heritage Geese” kick.  I support her all the way.  This girl has set up a website/blog (www.weheartpoultry.wordpress.com) dedicated to saving the geese, passed out flyers, given speeches, made presentations, done an interview with a big magazine (Ducks by Hobby Farms coming out in February), and sent her work in to the local newspaper.  She is passionate about it.  All she wants for her birthday is a Buff Pomeranian Saddleback gosling female that she can name Pumpkin.  Anyway, Todd spotted an ad on Craigslist for heritage geese for sale.  Two days later we were taking a two hour drive to go get them.  Lexie came along, but we didn’t tell her what we were up to.  She thought we were going to pick up duck and chicken feed so she grabbed some of her flyers and joined us for the ride.  She spotted the goose farm right away and off she went!

American Buff, Embden, and Sebastopol geese

New geese on ride home

We put 10 geese in the back of our Ford Expedition.  Todd hung bird netting across the back in case any of the geese had any ideas about trying to escape.  That was a lovely ride home!  Okay, it wasn’t that bad.  A tad smelly but the geese were quiet. They weren’t quite sure what to think.  At all times there was one goose standing watch.           Just in case.

Embden Goose

Embden goose on ride home

  We had to go over a lot of hills and winding roads.  It was cute to hear the pitter patter of goose feet trying to keep their balance in the back!  Occasionally you’d get a single Honk! just to let us know they were still there.

Toulouse, Embden, Sebastopol, African, and American Buff Geese

Toulouse, Embden, Sebastopol, African, and American Buff geese

We released the geese into the pasture and introduced them to the group.  The first thing they did was jump into the baby pool and clean themselves up.  We had one goose that was so excited to have a pool that he didn’t even wait for the water – he saw the other geese splashing around and he copied them – in the dirt!  It was one of those moments when you wish you had a video camera because it was just that funny.  I’m getting the giggles just remembering it!!!  Hhmmm… guess you had to have been there.

Anyway… we now have two Sebastopol geese. A male and female pair that we named Ivan and Olga.  They originate from Russia and are considered rare, which means there are less than 1,000 breeding pairs surviving.  They are still fairly young (born this past summer) and are suffering from angel wing.  Angel wing is pretty common in Sebastopol geese from what I have read.  It can result from a diet that is too high in protein when the feathers are developing and coming in.  It will pull or twist the wings out from their natural placement under the weight of the new feathers.  I’m sure it’s more involved than how I stated it, but you get the gist of the problem.  It looks gnarly.  Hopefully we can correct it so that it doesn’t cause any lasting problems.

Todd and Olga the Sebastopol goose

Todd and Olga the Sebastopol goose

We tried to wrap the wings in the correct position.  We watched videos and read articles to figure out the best way to wrap them.  This is Todd with Olga.  Her wings are worse than Ivan’s.  She wasn’t too happy with the tape on her wings and it wasn’t long before they were out of place again.  So, back to the drawing board (or internet).  We also changed their diet to a lower protein diet with pastures for foraging.

Amy and Ivan the Sebastopol gander

Amy and Ivan the Sebastopol gander

Hopefully they will grow up to be the beautiful birds that they should be.  Adults look like they are wearing feather skirts or suits.  Long twisty feathers that flutter in the breeze.  Like they belong in a Russian ballet doing a swan dance.  I’m holding Ivan – he is actually the smaller of the two.  We vent-sexed them to be sure.  Not quite as gross as it sounds, but unpleasant none the less.  See, the vent is used for multiple purposes – including where they dispose of the unused food products.  Yep.  It’s also the poop hole.  (shudder)

We have 3 American Buff geese (one male and two females).  American Buffs are on the critically endangered list with less than 500 breeding pairs.

Lexie and the American Buff goose

Lexie and the American Buff goose

And a Buff/Sebastopol mix.  Lexie is excited because she wanted a Buff Sebastopol.  Not sure how that works, but I’ll leave the breeding up to her.  She knows her goose business.

American Buff Sebastopol mix goose

American Buff Sebastopol mix goose

And… four Embden geese.  Two of them are younger.  We are pretty sure that we have 3 females and one male.

Embden Geese

Embden Geese

Embden geese are a large heavy breed and they lay the largest eggs of all the goose breeds.

So, now we have a gaggle of 16 heritage breed geese.  Hope you’re happy Lexie!  Such good parents, supporting their daughter’s endeavors! *cough*  Next we need to get Nik his turkeys.  He wants to raise rare breed heritage turkeys.  You should see his heirloom seed collection.  We’ve got totally awesome kids.

Gaggle of Toulouse, Embden, American Buff, Sebastopol, and African Geese

Gaggle of Geese

Just try to come into our poultry yard!  We have a gargantuan gaggle of gawking geese (check out my use of alliteration – my kids will be impressed) that will run after you in the hopes that you will feed them some scratch!!

We met a lady this weekend who came to buy our chicken plucker that informed us about Lucy.  She is our mix breed goose that we rescued and we weren’t really sure what she was a mix of.  Now we know!  She is a Touloose/African mix.  We got her at the same time that we got Desi and we thought they might be a breeding pair since they always stuck close to each other.  Hence, Lucy and Desi (we were on an I love Lucy kick).  Now we also know that Desi is a she.  Yep, checked the vent.  So maybe they are sisters.  All I know is Desi is the peacemaker of the group.  She tries to get everybody to get along.  She’ll be the first to go up and introduce herself and will stand in the middle of the group making peace.  She is really true to the breed – very talkative and calm.  Maybe we’ll have to add a few Africans to our group for her.  See – I’m telling you, I’ve got that hoarder thing going on!

Desi and Lucy the African Geese

Desi, the African goose with Lucy, the African Toulouse mix goose

In other surprising news – it turns out our sweet little Peep is a rooster!!!  Say it isn’t so!  Sigh.  Oh well.  We were going to thin down our flock for the winter and start with a fresh flock of Australorps next year.  We hand-raised Peep so he’s part of the family now.  Unless he attacks the geese again!  He doesn’t seem to like Ivan.  Not sure if it’s because Ivan is a smaller male or new to the group (that stupid pecking order business) or what.  But he put up his hackles and scared the doo-doo out of us when we were trying to wrap angel wings!  He sat right next to Todd and turned into that little dinosaur on Jurassic Park (the one that spits in your face before eating you!).  Creepy chicken!  We try to keep him on his toes and let him know that we are the bosses of the barnyard.  He is a confused chicken.  He was raised mainly by Lexie and sleeps with the ducks.  He tried mating Lexie’s hand and seems to think he’s a duck.  Last chicken in at night, first one out, playing in mud puddles and in the rain.  I might have to get him in to chicken counseling.  Hopefully sooner or later he’ll show an interest in the hens and not hands!

Barred Rock and Black Copper Maran mix rooster

Peep, our Barred Rock and Black Copper Maran mix rooster