In a Pickle: Pickled Sugar Pumpkin
Come October, the world goes a little pumpkin crazy. Between pumpkin lattes, pumpkin muffins, pumpkin doughnuts, pumpkin pie and the trusty old jack-o'-lantern, no one can be blamed if they start feeling a little pumpkin-ed out.
Before you reach your pumpkin saturation point, you must prevail and make these pumpkin pickles. As is the case with so many of the recipes featured in the In a Pickle column, you are not going to find these on most grocery store shelves. They are sweet, squashy, dense and tangy. If you are someone who likes a good pumpkin curry, these are most definitely up your alley.
I like to use small sugar pumpkins, the ones grown for sweetness and taste instead of sheer bulk, but any small pumpkin or orange winter squash that's designed to be eaten instead of carved will do. Do not try to make these with the scraps from Halloween. Those pumpkins have very little flavor and you'll end up disappointed.
Now, you may be thinking, "Marisa, I have heard that it is unsafe to can pumpkin. How is it possible that you're posting a recipe that does just that?" Well, it's partially true that it's not safe to can pumpkin (or any winter squash). It's unsafe to can pumpkin puree or pumpkin butter because those products are both low in acid (necessary for safe canning) and very dense (the heat of canning can't get to the center of the jar effectively).
However, when you can a pumpkin pickle, it is suspended in vinegar brine (acid!) and the pumpkin is left in chunks (no worries about density!). Safe as pie (or pickles!).
These pickles make a really fun addition to a Thanksgiving cheese plate or dessert spread. They also work really well mashed with a fork and spread into a turkey sandwich.
Before You Get Started
Clean your pumpkin. Make sure to scrape all the seeds and strings out of the pumpkin's cavity, the same way you would if you were preparing to carve it.
Peel your pumpkin. This is done easily enough with a vegetable peeler. Just watch your fingers, peeling those curves can be a little tricky.
Cut your pumpkin into chunks. Make sure that your slices are no more than 1/2 inch thick, so that the brine is able to fully penetrate. That's what will make these pickles both flavorful and safe for canning.
Let them cure. Most of the pickles I post here can be eaten within a day or two of making. These need at least two weeks (and three is better) to achieve peak goodness.
About the author: Marisa McClellan is a food writer, canning teacher, and dedicated pickler who lives in Center City Philadelphia. Find more of her jams, pickles and preserves (all cooked up in her 80-square-foot kitchen) at her blog, Food in Jars.