I've always wanted to do this, so here goes. I went and bought 100 pounds of tomatoes this week for canning. Today, I told my wife to punch me in the face the next time I say "Let's go buy 100 lbs of tomatoes and can them" because that is far too many damn tomatoes to deal with. Next year, it'll be 50 lbs at the most. I have to make sure I don't overdo it again. Bad thing to do. Well, not really a bad thing, just a lot of work (which I don't mind) and it takes up a whole lot of space.
Canning is a good way to eat what you grow all year round. Unfortunately, this years tomato crop sucked in a very big way, so the only way for us to be able to do this was to go to Gull Valley Greenhouses at the Calgary Farmers Market and buy what we couldn't grow ourselves.
Seeing as I have very limited experience in the canning department and absolutely none in the tomato canning area, I had to talk with the mother-in-law to find out if I had everything under control. After talking with her, I also googled it to make sure I didn't ruin anything as I seem to be very skilled at that. Turns out you have to make sure your tomatoes are acidic enough, and if they aren't you have to bring the level of acidity up to make sure you don't die from botulism. That would make me feel very bad if I died from my own mistake. Read this page from North Dakota State University about how this works. We didn't add any sugar, just sea salt, so I hope it works. Fingers crossed...
- Tomatoes. Use as many as you like, but if you buy a shitpile of them like I did, make sure you can handle the amount you get.
- Basil. I put 1 large leaf in every jar, or 2 smaller leaves.
- Fresh lemons or lemon juice in a jar. Juice from 1/2 a lemon will work for 1 or 2 jars depending how much juice the lemon yields. It should come to about 1 tablespoon per jar.
- Sea salt, 1 tablespoon per jar.
1) Wash all the tomatoes. Make a small X on the bottom of the tomato to help the skin come off easier.
Make sure you are prepared, like an assembly line.
Be prepared away from the stove as well.
2) Drop them in boiling water until the skin starts to peel off, around 30-60 seconds. You don't want them to stay in there very long as they will start to cook. Peel them and put them in a bowl off to the side until it's full or when your batch is finished.
3) Peel the skins off and either place the tomatoes in a jar or cut them in half if they are too big, as mine were. Add your basil in when the jar is half full. Make sure you use a canning funnel so you don't compromise the sealing surface. Jam the tomatoes in as tight as you can.
4) Add the salt and lemon juice. Make sure you don't allow any pips from the lemon to fall in the jar. You don't want any air space in the jar, so we added boiling water to the jar
to ensure there were no air pockets. You could also use hot
tomato juice. This also helps the lemon juice and salt spread out
through all of the tomatoes. If you see any air pockets, take a long knife and run it down the side of the jar so the pocket fills up with liquid.
5) Wipe off the top of the jars on the sealing surface and place the lids on. If there is anything on the jar or the lid on the sealing surface, it won't seal. You're screwed. Only tighten the jars finger tight. If they are too tight, you will never get the lids off.
Lined up and ready to go.
6) Place your jars on the canning rack and place them in the canner. Fill with water until the water covers the jars. Make sure you do this for the first batch. This way you don't overfill the canner.
7) Bring to a boil with the lid on. Boiling times for hot packing are as follows:
If you're at sea level up to 1,000 ft, boil 35 minutes for pints, and 45 minutes for quarts.
1,001 - 3,000 ft = 40 for pints, 45 for quarts
3,001 - 6,000 ft = 45 for pints, 55 for quarts
Above 6,000 ft = 50 for pints, 60 for quarts
We are at around 3,500 ft here, so we went with 55 minutes.
8) When done, carefully lift them out and place them in a draft-free area without touching or bumping them to cool. Usually takes overnight. When done cooling off, check the lids. If you can press them down and they click and bounce back up, they aren't sealed. You can place the jar in the fridge right away and use it. Some people take off the lid and try to can it again. Be careful when doing this. Use a new lid if you do.
All of our jars sealed. Success! Sometimes you can hear them clicking as you walk by or when you are in the other room. This means the lid is getting sucked down after being pulled out of the boiling water. A good rule of thumb is to check your lids to see if they are sucked down. If they are, you need not worry. If they aren't, you better get that fixed.
Busy day. I even made time to tackle a load of meatballs as well.
There you have it. 2 Days of my life I will never get back. Haha, no really, it wasn't that bad. I was able to spend time with Bonnie and little O and it was fun, and I'm not kidding. We'll definitely be doing it again next year.
Little O's Menu
While at daycare, she has been learning to broaden her horizons on the food thing quite a bit as it seems there is peer pressure even at that age. Her daycare providers tell us she is a really good little eater but can be a little picky at times. I can see that as she has been this way now for about a year, so her eating whatever we can get her to is good to see. At her daycare (Kids and Company), they feed them healthy food and often. A snack in the morning which usually consists of cereal (a bowl or two), milk and some fruit. For lunch they get a little pasta with some type of sauce, mixed vegetables, milk, bread and some fruit again. They may also feed them fish sticks. At first I was not a big fan of this as you can get some pretty bad quality product with these. I asked one of the ladies about them and she explained to us they weren't the regular supermarket frozen section ones and they take extra special care to ensure they are the best they can find for the kids. Good enough for me as everything else they serve the kids is the same way we have found. Afternoon snacks are cheese and crackers, fruit (she likes a banana in the afternoon) and some water or juice.
Other Foodie Happenings
On Sunday night, Bonnie and I went to a presentation from Cuisine et Chateau about their upcoming 2012 agenda. We both found it very interesting and is something we are definitely considering. The idea is you pay for the airfare to get to France and they take care of the rest. You will stay at a 17th century chateau in the Perigord region, just east of the Bordeaux region of France. While there, you can attend cooking classes, go to the local 600-ish year old market, ride you bike across the countryside or just do nothing at all. It's not cheap, but in our minds it would be well worth the time. We are going to wait until 2013, we believe. This may change as we were quite taken by the whole thing. Take a look at their website. Marnie, Dorota and Thierry came across as very friendly and helpful. I think they would make the experience all the more better. If you think you want to participate in a cooking holiday, look into these people hosting you. I don't know about you, but I would be doing the cooking and baking classes for sure.
Quote Of The Day:
"A cooked tomato is like a cooked oyster: ruined."
~ Andre`Simon (1877-1970) French wine merchant and writer, author of The Concise Encyclopedia of Gastronomy.
Hmmm, I'm not sure if agree with him about the tomatoes, but he's more famous than me so who cares what I think.
Until next time, good eating everyone.