Tag Archives: canning

Tomato Fever

IMG_20140913_162610Canning season is in full flush. I have 12 quarts and 33 pints of peaches in the cupboard. I have 12 pints of salsa (14 total including the two that we’re just eating) and 7 quarts of plain tomato sauce done. (Plus about 4 quarts in the freezer)

IMG_20140919_141920I still have 2.5 boxes of tomatoes left and there are so many things I want to do with them it’s a little bit paralyzing. Having so much choice is a lucky situation to be in. After a week of being so broke I woke up in a money panic every morning I find myself mentally knocking on wood every few hours that payday came and I was able to pay my phone bill, buy 150lbs of tomatoes, and beer. Those two boxes of tomatoes are only 50lbs of the total. I had to make three trips to the farm to get my tomatoes home.

IMG_20140915_174253Side note: please don’t buy meat in big disrespectful bags like this. It looks like trash and that was once an animal, a living breathing being. I understand eating meat is the norm for many people including my own son and husband – but do it respectfully or don’t do it at all.  It’s much better to eat no meat than to buy it like this.

IMG_20140920_205501I dislike most salsa recipes in the canning books so I’m working on my own recipe now. It’s going to take a couple of years to perfect, I’m sure, but this first batch is pretty damn good. No bell peppers or cucumbers or carrots in my salsa, please! This batch is made with: tomatoes, onions, pickled jalapenos (because I need to use mine up, otherwise it would just be fresh ones), Mexican oregano, garlic, a ton of fresh cilantro, and some lime juice and salt.

IMG_20140920_213924Night canning results in me staying up several hours afterwards to wind back down. Last night I was up way too late and ended up falling asleep at my desk. I need to knock this off. I feel like a wreck today as a result. I have two and a half boxes of tomatoes left and here are the things I’m thinking of doing with them:

Summer vegetable soup to freeze (with corn, green beans, new potatoes, zucchini, and basil)

Ratatouille to freeze – I only have a few jars of it and it’s such a great thing to pull out of the freezer in cold(ish)* weather and serve over polenta.

Bruschetta topping – I’ve never canned this but I’m definitely going to try a recipe I have for this.

Black bean soup to freeze – with corn, lots of tomato, summer squash, cilantro, pickled jalapenos, and lime juice.

I think I better get my ass dressed if I hope to get anything at all done with those toms today. Which should I do first? Bruschetta topping, probably. Followed by the ratatouille.

I miss writing and I need to get more things listed in my Etsy shop but tomato canning season is something I look forward to all year and I don’t feel right if I haven’t put a lot of good stuff in the pantry and freezer. I’m such a damn squirrel.

16 Batches of Pesto is Squirrel Behavior

pesto productionIt has begun.

The point in the summer when my squirrel instincts kick in and I start stuffing and storing food in my cheeks and no one notices because I’m really fat.

Wait – no – I mean, the point in the season where I become a squirrel but no one notices because I’m already impressively hirsute.

Gah! What I really mean is —


I can feel it in my bones. The need to sock food away in the pantry and freezer. I look at all produce and wonder what I can do with it to save it. I don’t do it in a small way, either. Food preserving in a small way is great and I encourage everyone to do it on any scale that suits them.

I only do it on a large scale. I’m an inherently lazy person. I really am. I think in some way my spazzy excitement about the things I love has to be balanced out by my dark chronic depression and a damning inertia in order to prevent the world and people around me from being irradiated by my overwhelming excitement over the little things, like when I find basil for $1.25 per bunch from my local farm.

I can’t muster up the energy to make one or two batches of pesto. That would require that I drag out my food processor and all the ingredients for food that will be gone by tomorrow. WASTED USE OF ENERGY. But it’s totally worth getting it out to make 16 batches of pesto.

That’s what I made yesterday. One batch to eat last night and 15 to put in the freezer.

Need a pesto recipe? I have a great one my friend Chelsea and I developed together:

Pesto Recipe

Philip wants me to make at least 10 more batches. It’s hard to refuse when I can get locally grown basil for such a great price. I can’t afford to buy pine nuts so this pesto is made with walnuts.

Walnuts I foraged from the neighborhood for free last fall. I have plenty to use up. Tons. That cost me nothing but the labor of gathering and then cracking them and then freezing them. This makes this pesto the cheapest I’ve ever made. In Oregon one summer I froze 21 batches of pesto but each basil bunch was $2.40 and I used pine nuts which cost $16 per pound (I think we got ours from Trader Joe’s which might have been less but some pine nuts cost up to $32 per pound and eventually I just couldn’t pay it). Anyway, it was much more expensive to make that pesto but it was worth it for how much better home made pesto is than store bought.

This year the pesto is costing about $2 per batch which is just for the oil and Parmesan and garlic. A bargain.

There’s something about food preserving that makes me so excited and energized and deeply satisfied. I look forward to canning season all year just as much as I look forward to eating tomatoes and cucumbers all year. I hope I’ll get a ton of diced tomatoes and tomato sauce in the freezer this year too. Last year I didn’t process many tomatoes in the canner because I have a lot of space to use up in my freezer and if I don’t fill it then it’s wasted energy.

Today is a pickling day. Yesterday was going to be for pickling but then that basil happened and I had to go with it. Today I’m pickling (ripe) cherry tomatoes (new to me – not sure if I’ll like the results) and dilled beans which I love and haven’t made for several years. I’ll do one or two jars with a hot pepper in them for my sister and others who like a spicy pickle.

It’s already almost 1pm and I’m still in my pyjamas so it’s time to get dressed and bicycle to the farm for some dill heads and I may have to go get more vinegar. I’ll be using the burner on the BBQ for the canning today as I’ll be making batches too big for the kitchen stove.


A Great Year for Tomatoes!

tomatoes and VespaThe tomatoes this year are phenomenal! The winner for most prolific is tied between my Sungold cherry tomato plant and the Ananas Noire plant which produces these small green tomatoes. They’re pretty good but not nearly as good as Aunt Ruby’s German Green which I couldn’t find in the nursery. I have a seed packet of them to start next year.

tomato soup and croutons 2This tomato soup with garlic croutons is the best tomato soup I’ve ever made – but I added too much salt so next batch I will be more cautious with the salt.  I made this just as the tomatoes were starting to ripen so it’s half homegrown tomatoes and half canned store bought tomato sauce. I will be making this again and probably actually put the recipe on the blog.

makings for ugly tomato sauceI took color theory at FIDM so I knew this sauce was going to be brownish but it is less pretty than I predicted. In future I will not combine my green tomatoes with my red ones for sauce. Also note how full the pot it. This batch of sauce cooked down to just 2 quarts of sauce.

ugly sauceOrangey brownish sauce.

fancyass chickenPhilip, Max, and Max’s friend Sam made chicken Kiev this past weekend though Sam had to leave before tasting it because it takes FOREVER to make this. Huge success with the kid. He liked the parsley garlic butter sauce. Even ate the big chunks of garlic though it was supposed to be smooth. The kid likes garlic! As it’s turning out, Max is a gourmand. He likes really fancy food. Only freshly made. He loves sushi but only from the restaurant they go to, not from the supermarket. He is still intensely picky about texture so if the salt roasted chicken he usually likes is a tiny bit rubbery or different – he won’t eat it. No leftovers.

I’m having a lot of trouble feeding him from day to day still. Back to Nature seems to have changed their cracker recipes and now they’re all sub-par and Max won’t eat them. So peanut butter and round crackers is suddenly not happening. It’s super frustrating. So everyday eating is still hugely frustrating but meanwhile he’s trying lots of things. Like, I say “hey, try this out, kid” and if what I hand him doesn’t offend him visually he’ll try it. This was not how things used to be. He used to be so suspicious of trying anything new that huge negotiations would have to be undertaken, probably with plenty of warning days in advance, in order to convince him to try things.

So for those people with extreme picky eaters like mine – even once they start trying things – this food thing can be a major uphill climb. Hang in there, (I tell you and remind myself), your kid might actually be a gourmand instead of just a problem eater but it will take a lot of patience and experimentation and time to uncover the food lover.

Today I’m going to make a big pot of experimental salsa to can. The one thing I have to figure out is how much acidity to add to it to make it safe for canning. I’m using a Ball recipe for guidance but changing some flavoring things. For one thing, I will be using my pickled jalapenos in it (which obviously means my salsa will already have higher acidity than if using fresh peppers). Also – way more cilantro. Their recipes always call for a couple of tablespoons but cilantro loses a lot of its flavor when cooked and that small amount adds almost nothing to salsa. I have found a couple of other recipes that use a lot more of it. Anyway, I’m using my green tomatoes for this and I’m pretty excited. I haven’t canned salsa for many years. It will be good to have some jars stashed away.

I spent a couple of hours looking through my extensive collection of preserving books and it got me so excited to do some new preserving projects. The one author I’m missing from my collection is Marisa McClellans two books. I can’t afford to buy them right now but I really want both of her titles: Food in Jars and Preserving by the Pint and when I have money for a couple more books I’m getting them. But my collection is pretty fantastic and it’s just about time to rev up for the canning season.

Canning projects I want to try this year:

pickled red onions

pickled cocktail onions

develop new salsa recipe (today!)

bruschetta topping

pickled ripe cherry tomatoes

Old favorites I plan to make:

tomato sauce

dilly beans

marinated summer vegetables

garlic dill pickles

canned peaches

canned vanilla pears

and more pickled jalapenos*

*Those black little dots I’ve seen in the batches this year and last year are weird but apparently not dangerous (Philip and I have been eating the jalapenos anyway with no ill effects) . Needless to say, I can’t give them to friends just to be safe. I’m going to be using a bunch of last year’s in my salsa so they will be cooked again and 100% safe at that point. But I will hold back a jar and take it to the extension office for answers. I meant to do that last year but will do it this time. I need that mystery solved.


Preserving Notes: 9/7/2012

I didn’t think I was going to get to do much preserving this year.  Time being one issue and availability of affordable produce being the other.  Imwalle Gardens supplied me with produce I could afford to preserve and as for time?  I always make time for preserving.  I admit that I stay up late coring and scoring and blanching and peeling tomatoes.  I just squeeze these projects in because I don’t feel right if I’m not putting food up for the winter at the end of summer.

I’m feeling right in my bones this week.  Except that my hip actually hurts really bad (probably from all the standing up while canning) so my actual bones aren’t all feeling super – but taking part in food preservation along with thousands (maybe millions?) of other Americans is giving me a feeling of self empowerment and unity.  I’m enjoying the knowledge that the food preservers working hard across the country come from all walks of life, all spiritual beliefs, every kind of sexual orientation, every kind of racial combination, and every kind of political affiliation.  While we may have different motivations for canning and drying and freezing food – what we have in common is that we think it’s work worth doing.  No matter how our religious beliefs might clash (or lack of religious beliefs, as is the case with me) and no matter how much we might argue over the direction this country should go – we agree that there is value in putting food up for later.  I like to think that most of us also think it’s FUN.  Because I love it.  When I considered not putting anything up this year my husband asked me how I could consider not doing one of my favorite things in the world?

He also made a tiny selfish plea for pickles!

So while I’m canning I’m thinking about what brings us all together, not what might tear us apart.  Oh – and us food preservers?  We’re the people everyone else will want to know during a zombie apocalypse.  That’s a good position to be in.

So what have I been preserving?  I’m going to list what I’ve done so far:

5 pints of Thai red curry paste (freezer)

13 pints of elderberry syrup made with raw honey (freezer)

9 pints of corn (freezer)

2 quarts of thick tomato sauce (freezer)

5 quarts of bastardized ratatouille (freezer)

5 quarts of summer vegetable soup (freezer)

21 quarts of diced tomatoes (freezer)

2 quarts pinto bean chili (freezer)

23 half pints of peach jam (canned)

7 quarts garlic dill pickles (canned)

2 big jars of pickles fermenting in brine (lactic acid fermentation)

Most of that has been done in an 8 day period.  I still have 40 ears’ worth of corn kernels to process (planning to make corn chowder and also saute some with zucchini, onion, and peppers) and on my counter this morning is 40lbs of peeled de-seeded tomatoes waiting to be processed.  As soon as I’m done writing this post I’ll have to make a decision about what to do with them.  I think I’ll make a couple of pots of sauce and if there’s any left over I’ll dice them and can them in their own juice.

Money and time allowing I would still like to do more:

80 lbs more tomatoes – canned

dilled beans – canned

40 more ears of corn for sautes and corn chowder – for freezer

peach chutney – canned

5 more quarts of summer vegetable soup – freezer

Random notes and observations:

  • 14 jars of my peach jam were made using pectin – this accounted for 8 lbs of peaches.  The jam did NOT set.  The flavor is very good the color is bright.  The other 9 jars of peach jam were made without pectin and were thickened by cooking it down for a long period (over an hour) and accounted for 8 lbs of peaches.  It set but the color is much darker and the flavor is, I think, not quite as good.
  • I was lucky to find any pickling cucumbers that were worth buying this year.  I’d seen some at the farm stands and in the supermarkets that looked old.  It’s really important to can freshly picked cucumbers.  Not only that – most of them were $2 per/lb or more.  !!  I got around 6lbs of them and it turns out that only half of them were small enough to fit a few in a quart jar.  So after canning 7 quarts of the smaller sized ones I had the problem of the big ones.  I couldn’t fit 2 in a quart jar but one per quart jar was ridiculous.  Such an awkward size!  I decided to ferment them instead of can them.
  • I followed an old Russian recipe I found in my Culinaria Russia book.  However, I didn’t have any marigolds and it didn’t specify which kind of oak leaves to use.  Yep, oak leaves.  I need to know more about oak before putting it in my pickle.  I did have access to my friend Sharon’s sour cherry tree, though.  I shared my pickle adventure on fb and I’m going to put it here because it amused me:

“In a pickle related emergency I sped through the night to my friend Sharon’s house and begged for an ounce of sour cherry leaves from her tree, explained to her laughing husband and kidlets what constitutes a pickle emergency and then, like a pickle-bandito, stole back into the night with a fistful of leaves and some dark plans for a bunch of cucumbers.”

  • So my pickles (pictured in this post) are fermenting in my office window.  Tomorrow they go into quiet darkness to experience the wild and strange transformation from cucumber to nasty smelling rotting things, to a gorgeous crisp garlic dill pickle.  I keep thinking it’s magic, but really it’s cool science.
  • Freezing tomatoes and other things in jars instead of in vacuum sealed plastic bags: out of a total of 39 jars put in the freezer I’ve had only one jar break.  This was my experience last year as well.  Out of about the same number of jars I had one casualty.  I’m freezing in jars because glass is inert but plastic is not.  Glass is a safer and healthier vessel for storing your food.  No chemicals can be released into your food when it’s in glass.  Though vacuum sealed bags are BHP free (the ones I buy, anyway) they are still capable of leaching chemicals into your food.  Not only that – their quality after one use goes down so far that I don’t tend to reuse them at all.  The jars can be used over and over.  Much greener.  Much less going into the landfills.  There are some obvious disadvantages too – they take up more room in the freezer and can break.  I’d like to hear from anyone else who’s tried freezing in jars – a friend of mine had a ton of breakage and I’d like to know if others have had lots of breakage too?  Please share!
  • Incidentally – I do actually prefer more canning than freezing.  It’s more work but having shelf stable food that doesn’t require electricity to keep it good is very appealing to me.  However – I had to empty out my freezer to move and an empty freezer uses more energy than a full one.  I have a stand alone freezer for freezing the stuff I can’t safely can.  The frozen corn, for instance.  If I had had better results from pressure canning I’d probably just do that and get rid of the freezer.  Maybe.  Although the freezer is better for things like elderberry syrup – the freezer won’t destroy the enzymes in raw honey but the heat of canning will.

That’s all I have to report today.  I need to get in the kitchen and make sauce.  Please share with me what your canning projects are and thoughts or observations you’ve been making about your preserving this year.

This Week’s Garden Harvest

This is what I harvested from the garden this week: some cayenne peppers (many more are almost ripe, but not quite there yet), rose hips from my French wild rose, and a handful of snow peas.

I halved the hips and gutted them.  They are now drying.  I tried getting all the hairy bits off but with no success.  That stuff can, apparently, irritate your throat if ingested.  I guess I just have to make sure to use muslin bags for making tea with them.

I haven’t had a lot of time to play in the kitchen and I still have those same pesky preserving projects hanging over my head.  I would truly like to get them finished this weekend.  I need to move on with my writing.  I’m also going to have to clean my house pretty seriously because in a month there are going to be a lot of people in it.  I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed.

Preserving left to do:

sugar up the grape juice to make syrup, and can it

Apple sauce, can it

Quince in vanilla sugar syrup, canned

Shred all the giant zucchinis and freeze them

I have heard from some of my friends that they’re winding their own preserving projects up but are having trouble, like me, getting it all done between work and other responsibilities.  We do it because it’s important but there’s no question that doing a lot of preserving takes time.  What I’m tired of is having jars everywhere, on every surface, and all my equipment out.  I’m ready to put it all away.  But it would be silly to do it before I’m done.

I’m going to go get dressed, go to the Saturday farmer’s market, and then I’m going to get some of this done.  Plus cook a farewell dinner for really good friends who are moving back to Utah.  Boooooo!  We are devastated.  We must feed them so well they will immediately plan they’re first vacation to visit us.

What are you all working on this weekend?  Is your canner finally back on the shelf?  Are you wrapping things up or still in the thick of it?