Pumpkin butter


I don’t know what made me think of pumpkin butter, nor can I think of when I first (or last) had it. Although like most fruit butters its roots are almost certainly Southern, I’m pretty sure I had it growing up in the Northeast. All I know is that I love all things pumpkin-y and squash-y, and the idea of having a jar or two of pumpkin butter around just sounded like a very nice thing indeed.

I cruised the intertent, and ultimately settled on a pumpkin buttter recipe on Many recipes out there called for canned pumpkin, which struck me as being really beside the point. I prefer to start with whole, unprocessed foods, and wanted to make this from actual pumpkin. This recipe also was relatively simple, and had few ingredients. It did call for pumpkin pie spice, which I don’t stock, so I used a modified version of another recipe for pumpkin pie spice, which used spices I had on hand. We doubled the recipes to make 12 half-pint jars.

We used sugar pumpkins, which in my mind are the only true cooking pumpkins. They have a pronounced pumpkin flavor and are not too fibrous. Carving pumpkins are best left for that purpose only. I suppose this recipe would translate well with butternut, Hokkaido or kabocha squash, as they too have an innate sweetness.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this process was watching the transformation of the pumpkin from chunks of soft, yellow flesh, to a thick paste, to a smooth purée and finally a glossy, rich, orange butter. And hooboy, does it smell good.

I will not go into detail on how to can. It’s more information than I can post here. I recommend two books: The Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving, by the USDA, and Canning & Preserving for Dummies by Karen Ward. They break it down for you, and provide a wealth of recipes as well. All I will say is that the dishwasher is your best friend. We used it to sanitize the jars, and when you’re dealing with several dozen, it makes short work of it.

(Photo: DPaul Brown)

Pumpkin butter
4 c. cooked and mashed pumpkin (see below)
1 (2-ounce) package powdered pectin
4-1/2 c. sugar
1 Tbsp pumpkin pie spice (see below)
1/2 tsp unsalted butter

Prepare the pumpkin:
Two medium size sugar pumpkins (about 4.5-5 lbs total) should generate enough meat for this recipe. Cut the pumpkins in half from pole to pole with a sharp, heavy knife. With a large spoon, scoop out the seeds and goo in the middle and discard (or save the seeds if you wish to roast them). Lay the pumpkin halves cut-side-down on two half sheet pans that have been lightly oiled or are lined with a non-stick surface like Silpat or Reynolds Release. Bake at 350ºF until the flesh is soft and a paring knife pierces through it easily, 30-45 minutes depending on the thickness of the flesh. Remove and allow to cool. When cool enough to touch, scoop the flesh into a large bowl and discard the skins. At the least, mash the pumpkin meat with a masher, or better yet pass through a sieve or a food mill for a smoother, more even texture. Set aside until ready to prepare the butter.

Prepare the pumpkin pie spice:
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice or cloves
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cardamom

Stir to combine.

Prepare the pumpkin butter:
Place pumpkin meat in a heavy kettle. Stir in pectin. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Stir in sugar, pumpkin pie spice and butter. Continue stirring and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil hard exactly 4 minutes. Remove from heat. Stir 5 minutes.

Ladle into hot, sterilized half-pint jars, leaving 1/4″ head space. Adjust caps according to manufacture’s directions. Process 12 minutes in boiling water bath. Remove and allow to cool. After cooling, check seals. (Since making this, I’ve learned that the USDA does not recommend home canning of pumpkin puree by any method. Pumpkin is a low-acid food, and the puree is very dense, so even pressure canning can potentially not heat the product sufficiently to kill botulism spores. This can be frozen, to great effect, however.)

Makes 6 (1/2-pint) jars

Related: Ariel  at Inside Voice got inspired and whipped up a batch of her own. SFist finds the recipe “drool-worthy.” Elise picks up this recipe in her hyper-comprehensive roundup of pumpkin pleasures. Erin would make pumpkin butter of her own, if only she were going to cook.

  • I need to learn to can. Ugh.

  • It’s easy in concept, but hard in the sense that it’s a lot of work and many steps. But it is a lot of fun, and very rewarding!

  • Sounds completely decadent. My question is… What does one do with pumpkin butter, besides spread it on bread?

  • You need more than that? 😉 I saw someone recommend incorporating it into whipped cream, which sounds just lovely. I might bake some into little tartlets.

  • Use it as a dip for apple or pear slices, shortbread or sugar cookies. Drizzle it over ice cream, pound cake or cheesecake. Serve it with a cheese course (I bet this would delicious with goat cheese on a cracker). Mix it in with yogurt or cottage cheese. Yum!

  • Yes! What she said! 🙂

  • Jeff

    I tried this once and loved it. I wasn’t sure the consistancy was right, but the taste was perfect! Now I want to make some for Holiday gifts but, I don’t know if I have the pectin measurements right. I have bulk powdered pectin. How many teaspoons is a 2 oz. package of powdered pectin?

  • Hm, I’m not sure how to convert weight to volume measurements, though I do think an ounce by weight and a fluid ounce are nearly equivalent, and one fluid ounce is six teaspoons. Good luck!

  • valerie

    I heard that canning squash is not safe due to the lack of acidity? of squash? Have you heard anything of this sort?

  • Valerie, thanks for bringing this up. I forgot to update the post. Yes, it turns out that this is not suitable for canning according to the USDA. So, folks, please freeze your pumpkin butter!

  • Christine Brown

    how long will it keep in the fridge/frozen? Thanks!

  • Should keep the same as any preserves — probably a couple months in the fridge, and nearly indefinitely in the freezer.

  • Andrea

    This would keep for 6 months in the refrigerator, not sure about freezer.

  • Andrea

    This would keep for 6 months in the refrigerator, not sure about freezer.

  • It’s a little late…but I think the sugar acts as a preservative. Pumpkin alone would not be able to be W/B canned. However, think of things like strawberry jam which have no acid, but are perfectly fine because of the sugar and the canning process.

  • Actually, I have since learned that the USDA does not condone canning of high-viscosity substances like pumpkin butter. Apparently there is too great a risk of air pockets being captured in the butter that can harbor botulism or other pathogens. Still, we didn’t die.

  • vicki

    Despite the USDA’s warning, pumpkin butter and apple butter have been made for decades and decades with few fatalities!!! In the south, the farmers grow the ugliest pumpkins for cooking – not Halloween type – but a squash-like pumpkin that can be up to two feet long. They are fantastic! I’ll never use canned pumpkin again.

  • FWIW, apple butter can be safely home-canned, due to the fact that apples are much more acidic than pumpkins. Viscosity of mashed pumpkin is one problem, but acidity is another. While sugar will protect against various types of mold and fungus, it will not affect the growth of botulism toxin, which is purely related to the pH and the lack of oxygen.
    I love pumpkin butter and use it in lots of baking; pumpkin bread, cranberry nut bread, muffins and scones. I find it keeps in the fridge virtually forever (much like jam), or at least, I’ve never had any go bad before I’ve used it all up!