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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This Really Stinks.

Our last Momma Muscovy final hatched her eggs a couple of days ago during the storms.  She is now officially known as “Super Mom” because she hatched 23 ducklings.  I think our official count is now standing at 13 adult Pekins, 3 baby Pekins, a Khaki Campbell drake, 4 adult Toulouse geese, 2 goslings, an African goose, a Toulouse-Canadian(?) goose mix, 7 adult Muscovy ducks, 40 Muscovy ducklings, 22 laying hens, 1 rooster, and Lexie’s 8 Pekin ducklings for 4-H.  That’s around 103 feathered friends in our pasture.  Let’s not forget the 20 broiler chicks that will be arriving in 2 days.  Some of the chicks will be sold, some will be bred, and some will be dinner this winter.  This is for the birds. I won’t even talk about the zoo inside!

We spent all day Saturday weeding the garden.  I’m not even posting a picture.  I’m mortified.  We just got it all planted three weeks ago and soo many weeds.  Nik reminds me that they are edible weeds so technically we’re still growing food.  Whatever.  I want my cucumbers and lettuce and snap peas.  Needless to say, we were all sore and tired by the end of the day.  Sad thing is, we didn’t even get it finished.  OOooh, the shame!

We’ve got a couple of houseguests this week.  Jaxson and Jaylee, my parent’s slightly spoiled dogs (with slightly being used very loosely).  dogs Poor little puppies won’t eat unless you hand feed them.  And they totally hog the bed.   Poor Todd is moving to the guest room to try and get some sleep tonight!  Only 6 more days.  Love you dearly guys but these pups are a handful!!!    And do you want to know how to get your parents to call and chat with you on a daily basis – take their dogs!!! *wink*  We’re dog watching while they’re on a family vacation with my aunt at a beach house in Florida.  Wait a minute.  Family vacation.  Aren’t we family??!  Well.  I see where I rank.  It’s totally beside the point that I would have had to graciously decline the invitation due to all the commotion around here.  Never even crossed their minds to ask us.  This really stinks.  Just kidding guys!  Take it all lightly, we love both you and your dogs!  I’m feeling all that love from the deep south!  But really, does Jaylee have to sleep on my desk while I do my work?  Tsk, tsk.

puppy

Father’s Day here was rainy, cloudy, and cool.  Not at all like that sunshine and 90 degree temps in Florida.  Sorry, couldn’t help myself!  We had a “lazy day” and I roasted a chicken with rice stuffing for dinner.  I tried out a new recipe from Simply Living Healthy for some carrot cake bars.  I loved this recipe because it’s one of the few baked goods I can actually enjoy these days.  No corn, soy, canola, eggs, white flour, gluten, sugar… yep, I know, sad, isn’t it?  We all thought it tasted good and I’ll definitely be making it again.

Carrot Cake Bars

  • 1 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 Tbsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 3 eggs (I used flax meal)
  • 2 Tbsp butter (I used coconut oil), melted
  • 1/4 cup real maple syrup
  • 1 1/2 cups grated carrots
  • 1/2 cups chopped nuts
  • 1/2 cup raisins

Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.  Grease and 8×8 baking pan for bars or a 9×13 pan for cake and line with parchment paper.

In large bowl, combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  In separate bowl, mix together eggs, oil, and maple syrup.

carrot cake bars batter

Stir wet ingredients into the dry.

carrot cake bars batter

Spread batter into prepared pan.  Bake for 22 to 25 minutes.  Cool to room temperature.  You can top with frosting and sprinkle on more nuts, but they were yummy as is.  I forgot to take a picture of the end result.  In too much of a hurry to eat a slice!  One of these days I’ll figure out how to make these recipes printable for you.  That would be nice, huh?!

Oh, to  put the cherry on top of our stinky weekend, I’d like for you to meet Daisy.  Our little stinker!  She just finished eating some yogurt so she has a little white nose.

baby skunk

At least Todd got to kick back and catch a little nap on Father’s Day.

napping  baby skunk

Awww.  So cute!  I think I’m liking these stinky days!

Turkey Day Preparations

I must admit that country life agrees with me.  Usually by now I’m getting into a frenzy over all the things I need to get done for the holidays.  Not this year.  Simplify, remember?  I’m off to a pretty good start.

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After feeding and releasing the animals, I came in and baked up some Blueberry Cream Biscuits with Blueberry Sauce.  Yummy!  I was even nice enough to save Nik a big piece since he was out deer hunting.  Such a good mom! *cough*  I found the recipe in Better Homes and Gardens and threw it in a file where it sat for months (possibly years) before I finally tried it.  I just replaced all-purpose flour with a gluten free flour mix and “Tadaa”!  Definitely a keeper.

I finished the Jewel Fudge that I started last night.  Todd loves fudge.  Especially this fudge.  Me, not so much.  Never been a fudge junkie.  But this particular fudge he has to have every year around the holidays.   Thank goodness you can only find the fake cherries when the fruit cakes come out for the year.  Ok, thatJewel Fudge 001 doesn’t sound good… Otherwise I’d be making this stuff all year long.  He’s getting pretty smart though, since the cherries are all dried and preserved he said we could buy a bunch and save them for the rest of the year.  Yay!!  Thanks for the recipe Sandi!!

We had to stop and watch the guineas.  They were flying to the top of the barn.  Such big birds!!!  They still won’t wander away from the pasture though.  Once or twice a couple of them found their way over the fence but they just stood at the fence and screamed until somebody herded them back in.  They definitely don’t like to be separated!032 The boys are out in the pasture working.  We got a huge load of sand so that the ducks don’t make so much yuck when we get wet weather.  The ducks love the mud, the chickens not really.  The girls are going to start baking some pumpkin cookies and maybe a spiced pumpkin cheesecake if we get around to it.  I’m going to mix up an eggnog coffee cake to put in the refrigerator tonight so that I can just pop it in the oven for morning.  One less thing to do tomorrow.

We also get to use our homemade vanilla!  We started this project in the beginning of October so it should be good.  Get yourself a bottle of rum or brandy (any hard alcohol will work) and about a dozen vanilla beans.  Slice the beans and drop them in the bottle.  Allow to sit for 6 weeks or so, shaking the bottle every so often.  Not exactly a science, is it?!  Once we’ve actually used it, I’ll let you know what I think.  I’m definitely going to filter it, the beans have left little floaters that I’ not too sure about!

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Other than that, I am going to relax this evening and watch a movie.  The kids want it to be zombie night, we’ll see…