If the thought of blanching, shocking, peeling, coring, and chopping 25 pounds of the summer’s finest tomatoes isn’t your idea of a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon … you might want to go back to reading your friends’ facebook updates. However, if staring down piles of one of summer’s finest fruits (?) wielding a pot of boiling water and a paring knife sounds like your idea of a good time, read on.
My mom and I embarked on a tomato canning adventure this unseasonably cool Saturday. We made our maiden voyage to a tomato stand in town that food legends are made from … Dave’s Tomatoes. I managed to score about 25 pounds of tomatoes that weren’t quite ‘purdy’ enough to be their star sellers, but they were great for canning none the less, at a reasonable price.
Once we carried the tomatoes inside, we set up camp for the day with all the canning supplies we thought we’d need along with some snacks to help us through. We decided to tackle a third of the tomatoes, not quite knowing which recipe would be the best (crushed tomatoes or tomato sauce) and thinking baby steps through the first iteration would be best as we followed the canning bible from Ball for our first time. Just a few steps in, we sure could have used help from Grandma Mabel. Now I sure wish I’d helped her can while I was growing up … should we seed the tomatoes by hand or pass them through the food mill? Aye, for some more experienced hands right now, but it turns out the first real boo boo of the first batch was forgetting to put citric acid in the tomato bath. Apparently this helps keep the food safe from bacteria while sitting around, so OK, I decide tonight we eat MARINARA to use up those first couple jars (more later). And tomorrow, chili something for dinner. Those jars would wait their turn in the fridge instead of the cabinet.
So, about 90 minutes later, we were ready to tackle the final two mounds of tomatoes (still more than 16 pounds left). We implement some lessons learned from our first batch. I take more of the juice and seeds out so it’s a lil less liquidy, and we coarsely chop instead of quarter the tomatoes to help them break down faster while they boil. Next, I filled jars while mom cleaned up lots of tomato-y goop from cutting boards, garbage bowls, and other utensils. We set the final four jars in for their 45 minute steam bath. Just 7 quarts and some change total from working through all those ‘maters.
In the meantime, I find a marinara recipe to use up the questionably canned first batch. I prepare a sofrito along with herbs and garlic to marry with the fresh tomatoes for a marianara sauce I throw over pasta. Seven short hours later, we enjoy the fruits of our labor … it was sweet, it was fresh, it was yummy, but phew!
For sure, this is a big labor of love. All in all I am pleasantly tired, with shiny forehead compliments of my tomato facial. My foodie adventure has ended for the day and has brought me a whole new appreciation for the canned fruits and veggie aisle Thankfully, I’ve got a few jars left before I need to decide again … canned tomatoes … store-bought or homemade?