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Preserving Pumpkin

Don’t throw away that pumpkin!

Fall pumpkinsPlan ahead this year. Rather than carving your pumpkin for Halloween, leave it intact so they can be stored, whole for later use or cut and preserved by freezing or canning. Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin A and fiber. One-half cup contains 40 calories. Along with pie for the holidays, the flesh can be cubed, mashed or pureed and served as a side dish, added to soups, stews, quick bread, muffins and cookies.


Look for pumpkins true to type in size, shape, and color, with thick flesh and heavy for size. Rind should be clean and hard. Avoid pumpkins that are misshapen, have scars or blemishes and are light weight for their size.


Pumpkins should be harvested before the first frost. Wipe and polish them with a soft cloth. Leave 1” of stem attached. Cure for 10 days in an area that is 80-85 degrees F. This hardens the rinds and heals the surface cuts. Pumpkins can be stored at 50-60 degrees F for 10 weeks on more on shelves in a single layer so air can circulate around them. Such areas might include a dry basement, heated garage, or closets that adjoin an outside wall.

Drying and Roasting Seeds

To dry, carefully wash pumpkin seeds to remove the clinging fibrous pumpkin tissue. Pumpkin seeds can be dried in a dehydrator at 115 -120 degrees F for 1 to 2 hours, or in an oven on warm for 3 to 4 hours. Stir them frequently to avoid scorching. After drying, to roast, toss with oil and/or salt, place on a baking sheet and place in a preheated oven at 250 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.


Select full colored mature pumpkin. Cut or break into fairly uniform pieces. Remove seeds. Steam until tender or bake at 350 degrees F. Cool, then scoop pulp from rind and mash. Pack in moisture vapor proof container leaving a 1/2 inch headspace for pints with wide openings, and 1 inch for quarts allowing for expansion. Label, date containers and freeze. This should maintain high quality for 8-12 months.

Pressure Can

Home canning is NOT recommended for pumpkin butter or any mashed or pureed pumpkin.

Produce needed per quart jar: 1-1/2 to 3 pounds of pumpkin or 15 pounds per 7 quart canner. Select full colored mature pumpkin. Wash, remove seeds and peel. Cut into 1” cubes. Add just enough water to cover, boil for 2 minutes. Caution: Do not mash or puree. Fill jars with cubes and cooking liquids leaving 1” headspace. Adjust lids and process in pressure canner, pints 55 minutes at 10 pounds (weighted gauge) or 11 pounds (dial gauge) and quarts for 90 minutes at 10 pounds (weighted gauge) or 11 pounds (dial gauge).

Note: For making pies, drain jars and strain or sieve cubes.

For recipes and more tips on preserving pumpkin, visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

Adapted from So Easy to Preserve (2014) Cooperative Extension, University of Georgia, and “Pumpkins” (2007) by Joanne Austin, retired WSU Extension Faculty, Skagit County.

It’s Time to Can Tuna

Get ready now to can tuna!


Canning Tuna

Home canned tunaTuna may be canned either pre-cooked (bake/steam) or raw. If you pre-cook it, you will need to add water or oil to jars, leaving 1-inch headspace. You do not add any liquid to the jars if you process raw tuna. You may add ½ teaspoon of salt per half-pint or 1 teaspoon of salt per pint, if desired. In place of the salt you may choose to use powdered chicken bouillon, or add garlic or jalapenos; it depends on your personal taste. Consider using vinegar in place of water on a paper towel when cleaning the jar rims, then wipe with a dry paper towel. This helps to remove any fish oil prior to placing the jar lids to ensure a good seal. Process tuna in a Dial Gauge Pressure Canner at 11 pounds of pressure OR in a Weighted Gauge Canner at 10 pounds of pressure. Both half-pint and pint jars are processed for 100 minutes.

WSU has a great publication titled, PNW 194 Canning Seafood. If you don’t have the manual for your pressure canner, you may want to read/print, PNW421 Using and Caring for Your Pressure Canner. Both publications can be downloaded or purchased directly from WSU Extension Publications at:

Canning Tip

Newer jar lids no longer need to be simmered. Manufacturers are using a new compound so washing the lids in warm soapy water will suffice. Rinse and dry the lids before placing on the jars.

Preserve Strawberries

Fresh strawberries are ripe now!
Fresh strawberries are ripe now!

The first crop of strawberries are available. You’ll find June-bearing, and everbearing or day neutral berries now. When selecting berries, choose those that are full, dry, glossy, and have their green caps. Spread on a plate, then sort out those that are damaged or decayed, and cover loosely with wax paper before refrigerating. Handle berries as little as possible. Wash under cold water quickly and carefully, right before using.

Freeze berries soon after picking. To freeze whole berries, after washing, remove green tops, then place whole strawberries on a tray and freeze. When solid, pack into freezer bags or containers. Berries can also be sliced before packing and freezing. Strawberries retain their texture better when frozen in a pectin syrup than if frozen in water or juice.
Strawberries also make great freezer jam or cooked jam.

Adapted from: Strawberries, by Joanne Austin, former WSU Extension Faculty, WSU Extension Skagit County and Garden Bites: The Straight Scoop on Strawberries by WSU Extension Clark County Master Gardeners.

Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds Parking Lot Paving

Sign at the front entrance to the Grays Harbor County FairgroundsThe main entrance to the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds will be closed Monday, June 10 through Thursday, June 13 for a paving project which will provide ADA access for the fairgrounds pavilion. During this time access to the WSU Extension Office, which is located at the rear of this parking lot can only be accessed from the gravel road to the east of the paved parking lot entrance.

There will still be parking available outside the Extension office, but accessed only from the gravel road.

Please take this into consideration if you intend to visit our office or plan to attend a meeting or class scheduled during this time. Thank you for your understanding.

Welcome Spring! Preserving Asparagus

Seasonal asparagus
Buy local Washington asparagus, available now.

You’ve probably seen fresh Washington asparagus on sale at the early Farmers’ Markets and local grocery stores. When buying asparagus you might see it sold as “field” or untrimmed stalks or trimmed and bound with rubber bands. Look for deep green, firm, but tender stalks with intact, closed tips.

Fresh asparagus can be stored in the refrigerator for several days before preparing, however try to eat or preserve it as soon after purchase as possible. Check these links for more information and recipes. Asparagus can be pickled, frozen or pressure canned.

Don’t forget to get your pressure gauge checked before you start your 2018 canning season. Call the Grays Harbor County Extension office at 360-482-2934 and make an appointment with Sue today!

Make Homemade Eggnog Safely for the Holidays

glass of eggnog next to holiday decorations
Homemade eggnog is a tradition in many families during the holiday season. But each year this creamy drink causes many cases of Salmonella. The ingredient responsible? Usually raw or undercooked eggs.

Eggs are a standard ingredient in most homemade eggnog recipes, giving the beverage its characteristic frothy texture. To prevent this ingredient from causing harmful infections, just follow this recipe and guidelines from Nancy Bufano, Food Technologist, FDA Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, for safe handling.

Don’t count on alcohol to kill bacteria. Some people think that adding rum, whiskey, or other alcohol to the recipe will make the eggnog safe. But if contaminated, unpasteurized eggs are used in eggnog, you can’t count on the alcohol in the drink to kill all of the bacteria – that’s not likely to happen.

Enjoy a safe and healthy holiday season!

Celebrate Dining-in Day

Dining-in for Healthy Families logo - families dining-in, enjoying each others companyNow in its fifth year, Dining-in Day calls attention to something simple families can do to be physically, mentally, and financially healthier—prepare and eat a nutritious meal together.

What are the benefits?

Research has shown that families who “dine in” together:

  • Eat more fruits and vegetables
  • Are less likely to be overweight or obese
  • Improve their relationships
  • Save money

Tips for “Dining In”

  • Make family meals a priority and agree upon a schedule.
  • Try to have regular family meals two or three times a week.
  • If dinnertime doesn’t work – have family breakfasts or snacks.
  • Keep meals simple. Slow cookers save time in the evening.
  • Double recipes and freeze food for a second meal.
  • Set aside time on the weekend for meal planning.
  • Discuss neutral and positive topics during the meal.
  • Make family meals fun and include children in food preparation.
  • Turn off the TV and collect and put away cell phones and tablets.
  • Eat slowly and enjoy your time together!

More Resources

  • Dinner Tonight
    Cooking demo videos hosted by Texas A&M University.
  • eXtension Families Food and Fitness Resource Area
    Food-related resources and webinars for families.
  • Choose MyPlate – Numerous resources related to healthy eating for families, children, adults, and professionals.
  • Fun with 4-H Foods
    Food-related resources for children.
  • Spend Smart Eat Smart
    Resources to help families plan, shop for, and prepare meals.
  • Small Steps to Health and Wealth
    Research-based behavior change strategies for to simultaneously improve health and finances

    Since 2014, more than 400,000 commitments have been made to “dining in” on Dining-in Day. In 2018, the goal is to add 200,000 “Dining In” commitments. The American Association of Family & Consumer Sciences (AAFCS) chose December 3rd for Family & Consumer Sciences Day to honor AAFCS Founder Ellen Swallow Richards, first female graduate of and instructor at MIT. We are proud to be part of this important event.


    Field of Family & Consumer Sciences

    Family and consumer sciences (FCS), founded as home economics, is the field of study focused on the science and art of living well in our complex world. Through research, experiential education, and technology, family and consumer sciences professionals help people develop the essential knowledge and skills to lead better lives, be work and career ready, build strong families, and make meaningful contributions to our communities. Professionals in the field are uniquely qualified to speak on many critical issues affecting individuals and families, such as maintaining a healthy lifestyle, wisely managing personal and family finances, and creating supportive relationships with family members, friends, and co-workers. They are located nationwide in a variety of practice settings, including academic education, community education, business and industry, government, and health and human services.

    Some WSU Extension web sites provide links to external sites for the convenience of users. These external sites are not managed by the WSU Extension. Furthermore, WSU Extension does not review, control or take responsibility for the content of these sites, nor do these sites implicitly or explicitly represent official positions and policies of WSU Extension.

    Extension programs and employment are available to all without discrimination. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local Extension office.

Fresh Holiday Trees

Noble Fir branch

Keeping Your Christmas Tree Fresh and Safe Throughout the Season

Grays Harbor has a number of Christmas tree growers who provide fresh-cut trees for the picking. This is a link to the Farm Fresh Guide which includes local growers.

Whether you cut your tree fresh or buy it from a lot, what’s the secret to keeping a Christmas tree fresh through the holiday season? Be sure to provide it with plenty of water advises Washington State University plant pathologist and internationally recognized Christmas tree expert, Gary Chastagner.

“Most people don’t realize how much water a tree can take up once it’s indoors,” Chastagner says. “As a general rule, for each inch of stem diameter the tree will need a quart of water per day. So the average four-inch diameter tree needs at least a gallon of water a day.”

Keeping your holiday tree well hydrated is about more than aesthetics, it’s important to keeping the tree from drying out and becoming a potential fire hazard. You can skip the additives that supposedly help the cut tree take up water. Research has found that adding commercial additives, sugar, 7-Up, bleach or other home remedies to the water provides no benefit whatsoever, according to Chastagner.

Water alone is the single most important thing. All that’s needed is a fresh cut that removes about a quarter inch of the base before putting it in the stand, and keeping the stand filled so that the water level never gets below the base of the tree.

Additional tips from Chastagner for selecting and caring for your Christmas tree include:

  • When selecting a cut tree, tap the butt on the ground a couple of times to see if it loses any of the fresh green needles. Expect some dead brown needles to fall from the inside of the tree, but if a tree is losing more than a few green needles it’s already drying out and should be avoided. Chastagner suggests that if you test a few trees and they are all dropping green needles, move on to another tree lot.
  • Once you get the tree home, trim a quarter-inch thick disk off the butt (unless that was done for you when you bought the tree) and put the tree in water immediately. Unless you mount the tree in its stand right away, trim another quarter inch before placing it in the stand. That ensures that the tree will be able to take up water.
  • Always trim the butt with a cut perpendicular to the tree trunk. Cutting it at an angle or “whittling” the base of the tree to fit the stand seriously decreases the tree’s ability to take up water.
  • Try to find a tree stand with adequate water-holding capacity for your tree. The stand should provide one quart of water for each inch of trunk diameter, or a gallon of water per day for a 4-inch diameter tree trunk. Chastagner says that the water capacity listed on a stand’s label or box can be misleading. “That’s the capacity of the reservoir when the stand is empty, and you need to allow for the amount of water that will be displaced when the tree trunk is put in the stand.”
  • Check the water level in the stand a couple of times a day, especially in the first week the tree is displayed, and keep the reservoir topped off with fresh cold water.
  • Place your tree away from heat sources such as heat vents, fireplaces and direct sunlight because they will speed up drying. Lowering the room temperature will slow the drying process and reduce water use.

About one-third of the nearly 36 million Christmas trees harvested in the nation yearly are grown in western Washington and Oregon

Adapted from Keeping Your Christmas Tree Fresh and Safe Throughout the Season by Denny Fleenor, WSU Communications.

Some WSU Extension web sites provide links to external sites for the convenience of users. These external sites are not managed by the WSU Extension. Furthermore, WSU Extension does not review, control or take responsibility for the content of these sites, nor do these sites implicitly or explicitly represent official positions and policies of WSU Extension.

Extension programs and employment are available to all without discrimination. Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local Extension office.

Holiday Food Safety


Let’s Talk Turkey

Start with safely thawing your frozen turkey from

Is it safe to wash your turkey? USDA recommends that you don’t wash raw poultry before cooking.

Tips for handling turkey safely from USDA

The link above includes information about thawing and roasting turkey safely. US Department of Agriculture is available with information about food safety (in English and Spanish). Call the USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline at 1-888-MPHotline (1-888-674-6854), 10 AM – 6 PM Eastern time, Monday through Friday, or E-mail:

Ask Karen ( | )
FSIS’ automated response system can provide food safety information 24/7 and a live chat during Hotline hours. Mobile phone users can access

Turkey Talk-Line information:

The Butterball Turkey Talk-Line is open annually in November and December. Available hours vary by date, so check the web site before calling. Phone number: 1-800-BUTTERBALL (800-288-8372) or connect online at: .

Pressure Canner Gauge Testing

Pressure canner gauges are tested at the WSU Extension Office in Elma, Monday-Friday by appointment.

canned food
Only “dial” type gauges need to be tested and should be checked annually before use. There is a $2.00 fee per gauge and the owner of the pressure canner is required to sign a release form.

The Extension Office is located on the Grays Harbor County Fairgrounds at the east end of the Pavilion parking lot (32 Elma-McCleary Road). Please phone 360.482.2934 or email to schedule an appointment.

Extension programs are available to all without discrimination.
Evidence of noncompliance may be reported through your local Extension office.