Canned Pumpkin Shortage

Teresa C. Hunsaker, USU Extension, Weber County, Family and Consumer Science Education tells why you can’t find Canned Pumpkin at your local grocery store.

Why? What has happened? Will we have some canned pumpkin in time for the biggest pumpkin season of the year?

Last year (2009) was the culmination of almost three bad years of too much rain and not enough sun in central Illinois and other mid-western states, where 95% of the pumpkin producing fields are, according to a recent article in the Washington Post. Tthis kind of weather condition is devastating to crop production and access by farmers to the fields, and so, they have run out. In fact, with warehouse supplies being down from 2008 and a bad crop back then, they barely had enough to get through the Thanksgiving season last year, so this year there is none, yet.

This same article in the Washington Post also points out an interesting concern. When one area of the country, and even primarily one producer, is our main source of canned pumpkin, we really are in a unique position to have this happen again.

The good news is the production possibilities look a little brighter this year as the weather has been more cooperative and the main producer of canned pumpkin, Libby’s, has also increased acreage for pumpkin production. According to one major supermarket chain here in Utah we should be seeing canned pumpkin back on the shelves by the end of September. Be ready for higher prices, and it being snatched up as fast as it is out on the shelf.

Some folks may think this is just a marketing ploy by some of the major canned pumpkin producers, but according to a couple of agriculture agents with the Extension services, this is not. The agriculture agent, James Barnhill, in the USU Extension Office in Weber County sees this year being a better year for producers in the mid-west.

Canned Pumpkin Alternatives

Lastly, let’s address a possible solution for us locally. We have a number of farmers around this state that grow the “sugar” or “sweet” varieties of pumpkins. Ones that can be used to steam, boil, or bake for mashing and pureeing to make your own pumpkin pie. You may have to adjust other liquids or add more flour in a couple of your favorite pumpkin recipes, but, making your own works well.

You can also steam, boil, or bake a butternut squash, they are the closest relative to the sugar pumpkins, and in a pie (or even other pumpkin based recipes) most people wouldn’t be able to tell the difference—so give that a try too. Right now Farmer’s Markets and fruit stands around the state will be bringing in their sweeter baking pumpkins—so with a little extra work— we will have pumpkin.

All you have to do is top the pumpkin of squash, take out the center pulp and seeds (save the seeds for drying), and peel. Cut in nice big pieces. Next, place the pieces in a microwave safe baking dish with a little bit of water, cover with plastic wrap, and cook on HIGH for about 8-10 minutes> Voila! Drain and mash or puree, and you are good to go. Some folks like to cook it down a bit—that works too. This also freezes great.

One note of caution, for those who are thinking they can produce their own canned pureed pumpkin, USDA and the National Center for Home Food Production say “no”, this is not a safe option for home production. If you want to can/bottle it cubed, there are guidelines for that, but not pureed.

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