I tried canning winter squash for the first time this week. I’m pretty pleased with the results.
I followed the standard canned squash recipe, which explicitly calls for cubed, not pureed, squash. I’m not sure why this is safer; I assume squash or pumpkin puree is too thick to distribute the heat through the jar. And, of course, you need to pressure can it, since squash is a low-acid food.
The procedure was very simple: cut squash into 1″ cubes*. Bring some water to a boil (I filled an 8 quart pot about half full) and throw in the squash. Cook for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat. Pack into hot jars; cover with the cooking liquid; cap and process. I did pints, which took 55 minutes at 11 lb pressure.
The result was pretty good.I was making pumpkin waffles, so I drained the liquid out of the jar, then just stuck a fork in the jar and stirred vigorously. That effectively pureed it in the jar. What I had was roughly equivalent of a store-bought can of pureed pumpkin, so it made it a 1-to-1 substitution in my recipe. Easy.
I might add some sweetener to the water (maple syrup? honey?) next time, because the water drew off some of the sweetness of the squash. However, the recipe I was using had added sweetener, so I didn’t really notice. And honestly, I like the texture of baked squash better for eating as a side dish, so I will probably eat the canned stuff exclusively as puree in recipes.
This is a nice trick to have up my sleeve, because my squash this year are so huge. This lets me harvest a squash, bake some of it, and store the rest of it before it goes bad…without taking up any freezer space. I have frozen baked, mashed squash before, and it tastes a little better (more concentrated sweet pumpkin flavor), but I literally cannot put one more thing in the freezer right now! It’s also nice that I don’t have to thaw the squash before using it.
* Cutting the 27 lb pink banana squash into cubes was a monumental task. It took an hour and raised a blister on the joint at the base of my index finger. What I learned: cut the squash into shorter “logs” so no section is longer than your knife blade (in this case, 4 cylinders). Then stand a section up on the cut surface and cut from top to bottom so you have 2 half-cylinders. Take the seeds out by scraping with a sturdy spoon. Keep cutting sections in half until you have “sticks” about an inch wide on the skin edge. Then, peel, preferably with a peeler whose blade is perpendicular to the handle, like this. Peeling last makes the squash a little less slippery and easier to handle. Finally, cut the sticks into 1″ cubes. Of course, they won’t be 1″ all around, because the sticks are trapezoidal in cross-section, but close enough.