Thursday, September 10, 2009

How to Have a Happy Harvest

It requires at least one (but preferably five) sleepy kittens--
--some very busy little girls-- --and a finished total of 16 pints of diced tomatoes with basil:On the whole, now that my very first experience in canning is over, I'd say that the process is way easier than I'd thought it would be--if I can do it the first time with no major mishaps, then it's DEFINITELY easier than I thought it would be--but it did require a major fight with my spouse (who agreed before we started that he would not try to tell me how to do anything while we were canning, on account of I have read and watched probably a dozen tutorials on canning and he has read/watched none, and who did not last half an hour before breaking that promise and being asked to go spend some time reading comics at the bookstore), an unplanned trip to Wal-mart on a weekend night to grab more wide-mouth mason jars, and waaaaaaaay more hours than I thought it would. I mean way more, like midnight more.

I've been researching canning and getting advice from real-live people who know how to preserve their own food (thanks, Cake!) for months, now, but this tutorial on canning diced tomatoes and this canning tutorial video were especially super-helpful, and both short enough to look over several times on the day itself. I also was able to follow the instructions that came with my brand-new pressure canner for how to can tomatoes, and thus I was pretty much all set.

I had sort of hoped that the girls would be uninterested in the canning, and would prefer to entertain themselves independently all day while I worked--this was naive. And thus I am now also the expert on how to let a three-year-old and a five-year-old "help" one preserve food. The trick? Have them hand you stuff. They handed me tomatoes from the cold-water bath so that I could peel them, and then they put each skinned tomato into a bowl (and then, sometimes, from that bowl into another bowl...). Or give them scissors and a bowl and let them go mangle your basil plants. And then they can wash the basil, and the tomatoes. And then they can use the scissors to cut the basil. They can stir the pot in which the diced tomatoes with basil needs to boil for five minutes. They can hold the ruler and measure the half-inch headspace in each mason jar as you pour in the hot tomatoes. They can wipe up the ridiculous amount of tomato juice that you spilled. They can carry all the tomato peels out to the compost bin, and help you fill the dishwasher. See? Helpful! And it probably only adds an extra hour or two to the total time you'll spend canning!

So that's one winter's worth of vegetarian chili taken care of:

Now, anybody have a good recipe for a nice, versatile tomato sauce? Cause I bet the farmer's market will have canning tomatoes again this Saturday...


cake said...

i am so proud of you! and, i see you wisely used a pressure canner. one of my books says it is a bit risky to only use a boiling-water bath for canning tomatoes, but that is all i have, and what we used last year, with no problems. if anything is high-acid, it's tomatoes, right?

i am also impressed with your ability to let the girls help. i will follow your suggestions next time.

chihuahuasrock3 said...

I always use a water bath for canned tomatoes and never have had a problem. The pressure canning makes me nervous, but I did it last year with green beans. They were the best. I can hardly eat a store bought canned green bean now. I have a really good recipe for bread and butter pickles if you get a bunch of cucumbers. Or, if you like relish for your hot dogs I have an excellent recipe that uses oversized zucchini that you can't tell that it is not cucumbers.

Anna said...

Well done! I'm pretty sure Molly has made the relish/sauce/chutney from Animal Vegetable Miracle. ( And here's the plain old sauce recipe:

julie said...

I have to see what else sells at bulk prices at the farmer's market this year, since I certainly didn't get any bumper crops of cucumber, beans, or zucchini on my own. I was so busy on the craft fair side yesterday that I didn't visit the farmer's market at all (although I did send Matt over to get another box of tomatoes!), but my friend told me later that she'd seen a stand with boxes of "ugly peaches"--I figure they'll be there next week, too, and then I can can me some peaches!

The pressure canner worked perfectly, but I was terrified the first time--you should have seen me and the girls peeping around the doorjamb to watch it, wondering if it was supposed to be making all that noise. I actually remember my Mama doing something with a pressure cooker sometimes, but I don't think she canned ever, so I don't know what she was using it for. Beans?

chihuahuasrock3 said...

Pot roast. Mamma used it to cook roast and potatoes for Sunday lunch. Cooks it really quick and makes it really tender. She did a lot of freezing of vegetables and fruits. Nana was the canner of the family. Maybe that is where we get it.

julie said...

I remember that pot roast now! I was delicious the next day on Wonder Bread with Miracle Whip.

I also remember that Mama did strawberry freezer jam (unless that was Nana?) in little margarine tubs, and pimiento cheese, also in the little margarine tubs. So yummy.

chihuahuasrock3 said...

Mamma did the strawberry jam. Daddy still makes the pimento cheese. The best.


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