Friday, November 9, 2012

Putting Up Squash

I canned my squash harvest this year against FDA recommendations.   Here's the FDA page if you want to look at it.  They don't even want you to can it with a pressure canner.

Note:  The FDA has recommendations for canning meat here.  

So, just to be clear, the FDA does think it's safe to pressure can meat, but not pumpkin.

[Eyebrow raised.]

I pressure canned my squash anyway.    I roasted it, did not puree it, packed it in quart jars, and filled it up with water leaving an inch headspace.   Then I processed it at 10 pounds of pressure for 80 minutes - just what the book for my canner recommended.  It's an old book that came with my canner, lo those many years ago when my mom bought it.

Note:   The processing called for on the FDA meat page link above, for raw chicken with bones is 10 pounds of pressure for 75 minutes.   Raw.  Chicken

I think I'm safe.

If I had an extra freezer, I'd freeze it but freezer space is at a premium.

Also,  things get lost in the freezer.  They go in and are never seen again, like agents going into the Escher Vault in Warehouse 13.    Mysterious dark forces are at work in there.   I just know it.  

Also, freezers are vulnerable to power outages.  It's a bad feeling knowing that the contents of your freezer are slowly thawing out and that every time you open it to try to use some up before it goes bad you're just hastening the inevitable.

So,  I'm trying to can more and freeze less.   Or at least freeze only things that I can easily and safely bottle up in a water bath canner over an open fire if I had to --- like fruit.  

UPDATE:  All of that pumpkin was delicious.   A current search [3/25/14] shows that the USDA now says it's perfectly fine to pressure can pumpkin in cubes now:
After you process them, they often fall apart and look just like puree.


  1. I think that's why we've not canned pumpkin yet. Hubby worries that if the FDA says it's not safe, then there might be a big enough risk he's not willing to take. But, we are totally with you on wanting to can more and freeze less. That or break down and get a generator to at least cover our butts for outages that last only a few days.

  2. The FDA guidelines prohibit canning summer squash or pumpkin puree, but you can do pumpkin chunks. 10# for 90 minutes.

  3. Hi Robin!
    Having gone to Thermal Process Professional School--Here's my 2 cents.

    FDA and USDA do not recommend canning squash and pumpkin puree because there are too many seasonal factors that affect the modeling of the thermal process. This isn't true for meat chunks (and likewise for pumpkin chunks).

    Info on how canning processes are developed: Since we can't be inside the can or the jar these processes are modeled using a set of conservative assumptions about what is going on inside the containers. Process Authorities test these assumptions until they are sure that they are true.

    Basically in the puree pumpkin case: due the harvest and variety variations of pumpkins and squash they aren't able to develop a set of assumptions for processing that are true all of the time therefore they cannot recommend a safe process.

    I realize that it seems counter-intuitive that meat should be OK when pumpkin isn't, but that's a comparison of apples and oranges. Meat chunks behave predictably in a way that pumpkin and squash puree don't. When they make this product in the industry they use specific varieties only and they make adjustments based on product quality. They also test the snot out of it.

    One other reason for not giving processes for pureed squash and pumpkin is that you might be exceeding the functional capacity of your canner. Think of it this way: you fill up your pressure canner with water to the line. You are able to steam cans based on the amount of water in the bottom of the canner so if you are processing something that has a SUPER LONG process time, you may evaporate so much of that water that you no longer have sufficient steam to heat your product. Your pressure gauge can tell you pressure but it cannot tell you if you have sufficient steam that you aren't getting cold spots in the canner. The retorts they use in the industry have a continuous supply of fresh steam. I've seen processes go upwards of 2 hours for purees in 15 oz. cans.

    I strongly recommend that you discard that product. You have no way of assuring yourself it is safe. Botulism toxin can be inactivated with 10 minutes of rapid boiling, but I don't think this is a risk you want to take. Whatever you do, do not let anyone taste his product before it is heated.

    Unfortunately, botulism doesn't tell us when it's in food. The toxin is odorless and colorless, and it is so toxic that there could be more than enough to kill someone in a container before you notice any bacterial spoilage. The lethal dose of botulinum toxin is 0.001 micrograms/kilogram of body weight. Since botulism bacteria is native to soils everywhere you must assume that it is on any and all agricultural products.

    Stay safe!


    1. Hi Liz - Thanks for your feedback. I appreciate it.

      We have eaten all of that squash. It was delicious.

      The USDA is TRYING to grow botulism and none of the rest of us are. That's a huge difference in intent. What I see happening is that more and more people are afraid to even try because of the USDA.

      A current search [3/25/14] shows that the USDA now says it's perfectly fine to pressure can pumpkin in cubes now:
      After you process them, they often fall apart and look just like puree.

  4. I am glad to hear it just turned into mush! I wasn't trying to be mean or anything, but you and your family are so great. I want you all to stay safe.


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