Thursday, October 6, 2011

Don't Let the Pigeon Can Tomatoes

I forgot this until this very moment, but my nickname for a scant few years of childhood (a scant few years itself, childhood) was Pidge. Short for Pigeon. It was on account of my propensity for chasing pigeons. Silliness is so underrated.

Last week, the lovely Catherine and I embarked on an inaugural canning event. It's always good to undertake a project like this with a friend. They will provide moral support and sound advice. And in Catherine's case, the wisdom of experience as well. I had not canned anything in about 15 years but she regularly puts up glossy jars of summer berries. Her blueberry jam is wonderful. Makes me think of the wonderful Blueberries for Sal book. Ku-plink, ku-plank, ku-plunk.

Tomato canning was not difficult, and it didn't take that long. We wrapped up the work part in, oh, two hours?? The rest was just watching the pot boil. This is the order of operations:

1. Get some tomatoes. We're city girls so we didn't have choice but to rely on the good farmers who come to the Green City Market. We bought 25 pounds from Kinnikinnick Farm. We did this pretty late in the season so we got what Kinnikinnick had. Next time we'll do it earlier and get all Romas. Romas are the best for canning because of their lower water content.

2. Get wide-mouthed quart-sizes mason jars. Run them thru the dishwasher.

3. Size up your stockpots. You need to submerge the mason jars. We were able to put 4 jars in each stockpot. I only have one stockpot so it was great that Catherine brought two of her own.

3. Boil water like like a couple of midwives. As in, get a pot on every burner.

4. Roll up your sleeves. You need to core and score all those tomatoes: cut out the core and mark the bottoms with an X.

5. Boil the tomatoes - not too many at once - for about 2 minutes to release the skins. We boiled them as we cored and scored.

6. Ice, ice, baby. Have an ice bath ready, probably in your sink. You will need to transfer the tomatoes to the ice bath to stop them from cooking.

7. Peel away.

8. Load them into the jars. Twenty-five pounds will fill around 12 quart-sized mason jars. Our yield was 10 jars.

9. Mash down the tomatoes with the handle of a wooden spoon. Add a few more tomatoes if necessary. You want to fill the jars with no air bubbles, up the the lowest part of the rim.

10. Boil the lids to sterilize the lids and soften the wax.

Steps 1-10 are easy enough. Here's what the Pigeon can mess up:

1. Not having enough lemons on hand. You need to add about 2 T of lemon juice to each jar. I barely had enough.

2. Not having the magnet stick to help you retrieve lids out of the boiling water.

3. Not sufficiently wiping the glass rims before placing the lids. There won't be a good enough seal and you won't know it until you've boiled the jars for 85 minutes. The solution is simple: do it over. Remove the lid, wipe the rim, boil the lid, replace it, and boil the jar for another 85 minutes.

4. Getting #3 wrong twice.

Only one jar failed to seal and I'm not positive that it failed the second time. To be sure, I saved that jar in my fridge and need to cook them soon.

Honestly, I'm sort of terrified to try them. If I love them I'll want to hoard them and if they're no good it will be disappointing. I'll make Tomato Basil Soup tonight along with our Lamb Kabobs and Quinoa and let you know.

Want to know more or can stuff yourself? Check out Food in Jars.


Katie Fairbank said...

They're great! Just a wee bit tart. I added a teaspoon of Sugar in the Raw to my soup and that balanced it out well.

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