With mountains of ripe tomatoes lining our kitchen along with the fridge full of cucumbers Liz and I prepared to do more canning on Labor Day after our friends departed. Developing our canning skills and repertoire we decided that another round of pickles should be canned as well as pizza sauce and more tomato sauce to alleviate us of a majority of our ripe tomatoes. Pickles were the first on the list, these went smoothly and since we last canned we bought a proper canning pot with the removable rack to easily place jars into the water bath. Positioning this over two burners on the stove got things rolling quickly. Jars were sterilized and cooled then packed with garlic and fresh dill as before but this time we added a Pickling Spice we purchased to three of the six quarts we canned and dry dill to all six quarts in addition to the fresh dill. The other change with the pickles this go around was the idea of removing a quarter inch from the flower end of each cucumber. This has something to do with the crispness of the end product and we are hoping to notice a difference between these and the pickles we canned two weeks ago.
Pickles are pretty easy and we were quickly onto blanching ~10lbs of tomatoes, removing the skins and using the food processor to turn them into a puree. We then added a packet of Mrs. Wages pizza sauce mix and the recommended amount of sugar. This concoction was then brought to a boil and simmered for twenty-five minutes after which it was placed into sterilized pint jars, sealed and put in the water bath for a whopping forty minutes. While all that was going down we were already moving on the tomato sauce. Our BRB recipe tomato sauce is pretty simple, some traditional italian seasonings, a ton of onion (chopped finely), minced garlic, and close to 15lbs of garden fresh tomatoes. We started the onion and garlic in first cooking the onion until almost translucent at which point the rest of the ingredients were added and then stirred together and brought to a boil. We did add the recommended amount of citric acid based on the number of quarts we planned to can. After this was brought to a boil we allowed it to simmer for ~20minutes before filling the quart jars. Once full we were careful to remove any air pockets and top off to the recommended amount of head space. These were sealed and placed in the water bath for 35minutes. Twenty-four hours later we checked and again all of our jars sealed properly. So to review, six quarts of Pickles, four pints of Pizza Sauce and five quarts of BRB Tomato Sauce. Not a bad haul.
There is something to be said about this process and this day, I can only imagine what housewives years ago went through dealing with this all on their own. Liz and I were working in tandem checking each others progress and maintaining all the things going on at once. This took us a couple hours and was exhausting, if you know a serious canner and you benefit from their hard work, thank them the next time you crack one of those seals open. I wish grandma was around to teach me a few things, I bet we would have had a blast in the kitchen these days.
We’ve been collecting tomatoes on the island in our kitchen for a couple of weeks now and the desire to see no waste prompted Liz and I to deal with a bit of the red bounty. Canning salsa, a bit different from pickles, more prep work, longer water bath time, more tasting/eating during prep. It was an enjoyable experience and we were proud of the nine pints we were able to get out of ~10lbs of random varieties of tomatoes. Due to lack of experience and some time constraints we choose to use two kinds of pre-prepped salsa mix for this round of canning. One from Ball and another from Mrs Wages, with that said we don’t always like following rules. The packets of seasoning mix called for 4 and 6lbs of tomatoes but no green peppers, lemon, garlic or onion. I know there are some of these in the packets but we felt it was going to need more. We cut and diced four green peppers and two large yellow onions, threw in an extra kick of garlic and just a couple hot peppers. We tested the two kinds as we prepped jars and lids (being careful to keep things sanitary, no double dipping) and both were quite good. I was kind of hoping they would be just “ok” which would force me to look up and try other recipes in the future but for now these salsa mix packets will work.
With tomatoes flying, water boiling and jars cooling the canning process began. It took longer than the pickles but was maybe a good primer for going at tomato sauce, pizza sauce and other items we will be canning in the not to distant future. One thing we know, we need more supplies…lids, rings, and jars…oh my. This is awesome, the majority of fruit is still on the vine in the garden and we are approaching capacity with the supplies we started with. Motivation to see more jars filled to the brim for use over the cold months. We bathed the sanitized and filled jars for 35min in our boiling water and within a couple of minutes of being removed from the bath the signature “ping” was heard which in turn prompted a couple smiles and a good swig of beer. This being the 1st time we’ve canned salsa and only the third time we’ve tried canning, the process perhaps took us longer than it should have but with some continued practice we ought to be able to get this down to a smooth science. Basically exhausted and really full, I mean I normally eat a good-sized dinner and last night Liz out ate me. I’ve got to remember that making the salsa for canning is to preserve it for later and not to eat it all now. We’ll let you know how it tastes come football season!
p.s. The picture of the dog (Lily), taken because she looked so pitifully bored while we worked hard in the kitchen. She’s awesome.
Having a garden means alot of work, working the dirt, tending the plants and the harvest. What one does after the harvest can extend the reach of your garden far into the winter months. Liz and I have decided that much of what we grow will be canned for use over the colder months. Tending a garden, composting and now canning? The skill set out here is ever increasing. Canning, sweet. We watched a handful of video’s on youtube.com and discussed ideas with other canners we know and settled on the cold pack method for our first attempt at canning pickles. Timing here is clearly an important element, something we hope to improve on over the next few weeks as we work on more ambitious canning projects. For now these five quarts of pickles gave us a good idea of what canning is all about and the confidence to continue. One of these jars will end up with my sister as I’ve never met anyone else who enjoys a good pickle more than her.