Having a well-stocked pantry of home-canned goodness is on my master plan, and right now, we’re in the heart of canning season. It’s some ridiculously good times here in my little town and, having my favorite farm stand less than two miles from my house — filled with good things grown right up the road — I have plenty of opportunities for such projects.
I haven’t been writing about all of them, just because there’s only so many posts you need about jam or fruit, but when I tackled a box of gorgeous tomatoes last week, I knew I’d need to share this one.
Tomatoes used to scare the heck out of me. You really need to pay attention to what you’re doing. But after reading “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver (and admittedly letting that percolate for a few years until I felt like I could do it), tomatoes just seemed like a really good thing to master on the canning front.
Because I buy a lot of tomatoes, mostly in canned form. My fall and winter days are full of sauces.
And you can’t read a passage like this and not want to go all in:
” … All those gorgeous, red-filled jars lining the pantry shelf in September make me happy. They look like early valentines, and they are, for a working mom. I rely on their convenience. I’m not the world’s only mother, I’m sure, who frequently plans dinner in the half-hour between work and dinnertime. Thawing takes time. If I think ahead, I can dump bags of frozen or dried vegetables into the Crock-Pot with a frozen block of our chicken or turkey stock, and have a great soup by evening. But if I didn’t think ahead, a jar of spaghetti sauce, a box of pasta, and a grate of cheese will save us … I think of my canning as fast food, paid for in time up front.” — Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, page 201
Sing it, Barbara Kingsolver! Let’s do this thing!
(This is actually my third year of canning tomatoes. It gets easier every time.)
I even remembered to take pictures! And I should add I did this on a weeknight, after dinner. As long as you have your jars already sanitized in your dishwasher, that’s half the battle.
I definitely recommend a canning book if you’re going to tackle tomatoes — the steps are laid out in colored drawings, which is helpful — or go to your extension office’s website for up-to-date instructions. (HERE is what Oregon’s extension office has to say.)
So far I’ve managed to can blueberry, raspberry, cherry and peach jams/butters (and my mom just gave me four half-pints of blackberry, bless her), peaches and applesauce in addition to these tomatoes. I’d actually like to do another batch of tomatoes … and pears. I had hopes of making pickles, too, but Eric is going to have to rely on the jars he still has from last year — we were having some stove and dishwasher issues smack in the midst of prime pickle time, and I fear the season has passed.
The thing with canning is that I love that I know exactly what is in these jars, where the produce was grown, and that I’m not only eating locally, but supporting my neighboring farmers too. It’s just full of win. Not to mention I feel like a complete badass.
P.S. If canning tomatoes seems like too much work, you can also freeze them — core and make that X in the bottom, then toss them into bags (whoops, plastic, well, try to reuse what you have) and into the freezer. When it’s time to use them, take out what you need and run under hot water, and the skins will magically loosen and practically peel themselves. They’re not good to use in, like, salads or for fresh eating, but they make a great sauce or soup or whatever needs to be cooked. HERE is a tutorial I found on the subject.
What are you canning these days?
Next up: I’ve finally got my coffee making situation sorted. Yesssssssss.