Our pie pumpkin harvest last year numbered 21 absolute beauties in the 7-8 pound range. We traded some with friends and family, and made pumpkin pie, soup, and bread. We even tried a to-die-for pumpkin trifle. But by late-October we we were still looking at over 100 pounds of pumpkin to use up or process. I really wanted to can it, but canning pumpkin can be problematic due to its density and low acid levels. When I landed upon a recipe for canned pumpkin pickles, I knew I had to try it. (Pumpkin pickles are safe due to their acidic brine and cubed pieces.)
Although my mom says she doesn’t remember ever eating them, her mom had a pumpkin pickle recipe tucked into her 1931 Successful Farming Cookbook. Grandma’s recipe called for green pumpkin, reflective of the mentality of the era. In 1931 you found a use for everything on the farm, and I mean everything, including those pumpkins that didn’t quite make it before the frost.
However, not only did I want my pumpkin pickles to look beautiful and orange in the jar, I had already composted our unripe pumpkins (silly me!), so I used fully ripe pumpkins for my recipe. The recipe below is cut in half from what I made. I was very motivated to use up pumpkin, after all! I also used more cider vinegar than you will find below and less white vinegar, but wish I had done it differently, hence the changes.
Pumpkin pickles use the same spices as a pumpkin pie, so the flavor is not what you might expect from a more traditional pickle. I’ve seen it characterized as tasting like a “cold pumpkin pie” and a “sweet pumpkin curry”. I’m not sure I’d completely agree with either, but they are delicious and unusual and certainly worth making. They will look beautiful on your holiday table and spruce up your canning cellar as well!
If you decide to try your hand at pickling pumpkins, be sure to use small pumpkins grown for eating, no jack-o-lantern leftovers or pumpkin growing contest winners!
Ready to get started? Here’s what you’ll need:
- 8 cups pie pumpkin (about one pumpkin)
- 1-1/2 cups apple cider vinegar
- 1-1/2 cups white vinegar
- 2 cups water
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 3 cinnamon sticks, broken into pieces
- 1 tbsp whole cloves
- 2 tbsp whole allspice
- Prepare your water bath canner. Make sure your jars and lids are clean and put your lids in a small bowl of warm (not boiling) water. Your jars should be in simmering water to keep them hot.
- Clean, seed, and peel your pumpkin. Cut it into chunks between ½” and 1″ in size, it’s best if they are uniform.
- Heat sugar, vinegar, and water in a large pot over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Stir frequently. Place the spices in a spice bag or piece of cheesecloth and tie shut. Place in the liquid.
- Add the pumpkin to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 20 minutes.
- Remove the spice bag and ladle the pumpkin into your hot canning jars. Cover with the brine leaving 1/2-inch of headspace. Carefully wipe your jar rims clean.
- Place lids and rings on jars and place jars in your boiling water bath. Boil in the canner for 20 minutes. Turn off heat, remove cover and let canner sit for 5 minutes. Remove jars and place on a towel. Let sit for about 24 hours. These will taste best if you let them cure 1-2 weeks. Enjoy!