|My three little jars, cooling. |
Notice tomato sauce all over counter?
I will get that tomorrow...
Of course one must can to be a domestic goddess. Must.
Truth be told I don’t even care much for canned produce. Limp green beans? Pickled beets? I guess tomatoes for chili or a sauce mid-January is nice and all. But we all know you can buy cans of tomatoes for a buck.
So what is the point?
Well, here is a good run down…
Gardening and home canning can lower your grocery bill. Burpee Seed Company (www.burpee.com) estimates that for every $50 spent on seeds and fertilizer, a gardener can yield $1250 worth of produce. As it’s not feasible for a family to enjoy all of that fresh produce all at one time, home canning allows you to preserve that fresh, home grown flavor from your garden for use all year long, and saving on your grocery bill.Seeing as my garden produced crap this year (apparently gardens do in fact need sunshine, something our side of the yard lacks…) So, I guess my reasons would fall under numbers two and three. Although, I did go buy fresh local produce at the farmers market this week, totally cheap. (pounds and pounds of tomatoes for $6!! Green beans for $2!!)
Home canning supports sustainable lifestyles. Canning locally-grown produce reduces the carbon footprint created by transporting vegetables around the world in off-seasons. A study by Carnegie Mellon found that 11% of the average American’s household food-related greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation of foods. You can reduce that by growing your own produce or purchasing it locally, and then fresh preserving the harvest and re-using Ball® Jars year after year.
Fresh preserving allows you to manage your family’s nutrition. Many canning enthusiasts enjoy the versatility and control they have with fresh preserving recipes. When you fresh preserve foods, you can avoid additives and preservatives found in many commercial products, and you may even opt to use organic ingredients.
First of all, to preserve food you don’t have to can. To do the beans I simply snapped off the ends, washed, blanched (placed in boiling water for a minute or two) then cooled, stuffed in freezer ziplock bags (small size for our little family) and stuffed in the freezer.
Tomatoes can be done the same way. In desperation in past years I have chopped up fresh tomatoes, skins and all, tossed in ziplock bags, and thrown in the freezer. It totally works.
But, there is something about canning on a hot August day, rows of steaming jars filled with rosy tomatoes setting up on the counter, that just brings out the giddy June Cleaver in me. (Although, did June can? I think that era was all about store bought canned goods, nah, I am gonna chose to believe she canned. In pearls of course.)
I bought my very first case of glass canning jars this week (my mom is wiping a tear of pride away right now) and went to town.
Of course my first step to canning tomato sauce was to step into the living room where dear culinary-inclined husband was playing with the children.
“Um, honey? If you were to make tomato sauce to can, how would you do it?”
Ok, I did know the steps I just needed some reassurance.
First wash tomatoes.
Then, using slotted spoon, place in boiling water for a few minutes, until the skin starts to wrinkle and fall off.
Remove from water with slotted spoon.
Run cold water over tomatoes.
Peel off skin.
Now, two choices here, you can chop up tomatoes here and be low key about it (skip to canning section), or you can make sauce. I am doing sauce.
Pick out seeds. I chopped into slices and oozed out seeds/pulp to throw away keeping just the meat of the tomato. I am sure there is a more professional way to do this but, whatever, it worked.
Now, stew the tomatoes. For hours. Until the stink of tomato filling your house is enough to make you want to forget about canning and run out and buy Delmonte canned goods for the rest of your life. DON’T DO IT THOUGH!! Although you may, like me, choose to let the resulting sauce cool and finally put it in the fridge at midnight, to be dealt with tomorrow.
[Confession – it is now tomorrow. The sauce is still sitting in the fridge. I am drinking coffee and writing instead of canning while the kids watch Nick Jr. Just had to get that off my chest. A full confession would include the fact that I tried to make baked eggplant at the same time as tomato sauce last night. And the eggplant turned out terribly and I got into a pouty mood about it and told my husband to do the sauce. But, you don’t need to know all that.]
So, now to can.
[Confession – I typically do not can on my own. I can at my mom’s house where she has all the right tools and stuff and knows exactly what she is doing. Although she still looks everything up in her worn copy of the Ball Blue Canning Guide, which is so endearing of her. I also confess to being a partial participant in this yearly event. It is mainly a chance to sit and gab with my mom and sisters and maybe a neighbor or two and drink iced tea and send the kids outside to play. (“We are CANNING. GO FIND YOUR FATHER!”) My participation is usually minimal. Maybe I will wash or skin the tomatoes. The occasional dip of the ladle into the soupy tomatoes and dumping into a jar. Or, my favorite, the occasional eating of the juicy ripe peach. So, as I write this I am reading directions off of the Ball Jar canning website and other various places. I will include links to real canning guides at the bottom of the post. Don’t want to kill any readers out there.]
Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water. Or if you are lucky, load up in dishwasher and wash.
Keeping your canning supplies clean and sterile is KEY to safe canning. That part I paid attention to.
Next boil up some water in your big canning pot.
A word about canners. So, I don’t own a pressure canner. Luckily high acid things like tomatoes can be canned in just a big pot of water, as long as you have an inch of water covering your jars. A canner rack would be handy, like a to-go carrier from Starbucks, so you can just lower cans into boiling water. I really should get one. I just carefully lower into boiling water with tongs while wearing oven mitts. HA. What a ridiculous picture.
[OK. So I just ran upstairs to catch up to these instructions. Washed jars. Check. Went to put quart size jars in water to sterilize in pot and realized I only ever used the smaller size jars with this pot. Off to pack up the kids and husband and go buy a proper canning pot. Ooo. Maybe even one of the nifty canning holder things. Be back in a few!]
[Two hours later…why are Saturday errands so torturous?? I found a big ole pot at my favorite thrift store. YAY. Even got nifty canning tongs, though not a rack. Kids are napping! YIPPEE. Now to can.]
Place jars in hot water (not boiling) to sterilize and bring jars to same temperature as foods. Bring to simmering boil (as opposed to rolling boil? I guess.)
Boil rings in small saucepan for a few minutes. Use tongs to remove rings, place on clean towel to bring to room temperature (to handle without burning yourself). Throw lids in hot water until use, don’t boil. [Note: Never ever reuse canning lids. I did this once. Bad Sara.]
Pull hot jars out of pot.
Pour sauce into jars, leaving a ½ inch at the top or so.