Preserve Now, Enjoy Later

Pumpkin Puree
Sugar pumpkins are plentiful right now. Buy a few to make a pie now and freeze pumpkin puree for use throughout the holidays.

1) Select pumpkins that are small and firm and labeled as “sugar,” “sweet” or “pie” pumpkins.

2) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Remove the stem end and scrape out seeds and strings.

3) Place whole pumpkins upside down on a rimmed baking sheet.

4) Bake uncovered for one hour. Carefully remove from oven (pumpkins will release water). When cool enough to handle, scrape the flesh from the rind, place in a bowl and mash with a potato masher. Place puree into a strainer lined with cheesecloth to drain for one hour.

5) Use in place of canned pumpkin or place into freezer containers and freeze for up to six months. A nine-inch pie recipe requires about two cups of puree.

Canning Primer
Need a refresher on home canning techniques? Even the most confident canners need to stay in touch with the latest standards.

Before starting, check jars for nicks along the rim that can prevent a tight seal. Also be sure to check for stress fractures along the bottom of the jar. These jars should be retired from your canning collection (but make great additions as drinking glasses).

Jars should be warm, or at least room temperature, when filling to prevent cracking. If the food will be processed less than 10 minutes, you must sterilize the jars before filling.

Follow the manufacturer’s suggestion for treating lids. Most call for lids to be placed in simmering water. Boiling lids prior to placing them on the jar can prevent a seal.

For processing in a water bath, water should cover the tops of the jars by at least one inch. Begin timing the process when water comes to a full rolling boil. If water ceases to boil during processing, stop counting, return to a boil and begin counting where you left off. Be aware, if a recipe calls for processing in a pressure canner, a water bath cannot be substituted.

After processing is completed, remove jars from the canner to a towel on a counter top, away from drafts. As jars begin to seal, you’ll hear a “pop” and notice a concave lid. Jars that don’t seal in 12 hours should be placed in the refrigerator and consumed within a couple of days.

To store sealed jars, cool completely, remove rings and wipe down jars. Rings can trap bits of food which can grow mold and break seals. Store jars in a cool, dark place.

Remember that all jars need to be processed in order to be safely preserved. Although hot food can create a seal without being placed in a canner and processed, it does not mean the contents are sterile and safe to eat. In order to be safe, food must be processed in a water bath or pressure canner according to USDA standards. A sealed jar indicates no outside bacteria can get into the jar, not that existing bacteria inside the jar has been killed.

Making Kraut
Take advantage of all the cabbage available at the market now to make homemade sauerkraut. With a little patience, you can easily enjoy this tangy treat throughout the winter.

1) Select large, tight heads of fresh green cabbage. If you don’t own a food scale, purchase about 30 pounds of cabbage. To prepare, remove the core and outer leaves. Slice the heads into thin slices using a knife, large slaw slicer or food processor. Measure out one cup canning salt and set aside.

2) Place several inches of sliced cabbage in the bottom of a clean nonreactive container, such as a lead-free stone crock or food-grade plastic tub. Sprinkle cabbage with a couple tablespoons of salt from measured salt, and combine thoroughly with hands. When cabbage begins to sweat, pack firmly. Continue alternating layers of salt and cabbage, ending with salt.

3) As the container is filled, press to force cabbage under the liquid. Cover cabbage with cheesecloth, tucking the extra cloth between cabbage and the side of the container. Place a dinner plate just slightly smaller than the container opening over cabbage. Press until liquid covers plate. Weight the plate with quart jar full of water. Cover container with a towel and store in a cool, dark place.

4) Formation of gas bubbles indicates fermentation is taking place. Each day, remove any scum and bubbles that form. Fermentation is complete (and bubbling will end) in 4 to 6 weeks.

5) To preserve, bring kraut to a simmer. Pack into clean quart jars and cover kraut with brine, leaving ½ inch headspace. Adjust caps, and process in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes (see canning information on previous page). Makes 8 to 9 quarts.