Sunday, September 14, 2008

Summer in a Jar

Until this year, I hadn’t canned in too many years to count. It felt really good to get back to it. My Mom canned or froze most of our food when I was growing up, and I canned in my early years of adulthood and again briefly in our early years of home ownership.

Even though I helped my Mom with the preparations for canning (snapping beans, shelling peas, peeling carrots, shucking corn), I actually learned how to can from my Dad’s mother. At the time I live in an apartment, so I stored everything I canned on the shelves in my grandmother’s basement and we both shared it freely. Even writing this brings back such wonderful memories. Canning has done the same.

I love the feeling of tomato juice running down my arm and dripping off my elbow as I peel big juicy tomatoes. And the smell of fresh tomatoes just makes me happy. But I haven’t had access to enough tomatoes to can for many years. This year would have been the same despite my garden, if my Uncle Foster (gardener extraordinaire) hadn’t given me a big box of tomatoes from his two gardens. Thanks, Uncle Foster!

Between his tomatoes and mine, I had enough to can 13 quarts of tomatoes and 7 pints. It was much more than I expected and I plan to use every single quart to make the homemade “farm pizza” I grew up with. It is a recipe that you can only make with home canned tomatoes and my Mom still makes it as a special treat when any of us kids visits her in Vermont. Look for the recipe in a future blog entry…

The Recipe:

Canned Tomatoes

Wash jars and closures in hot soapy water. Fill jars with hot water until needed. Put lids in a bowl with boiling water until needed. Wash tomatoes and put in a wire basket and lower into boiling water in a large saucepan. Remove after 30 seconds or as soon as skin begins to crack.

Dip in cold water, cut out core, remove skins and cut out any green spots. Leave whole or cut in half and place in jars. Fill jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space at top. Add 1 teaspoon non-iodized salt to each quart, 1/2 teaspoon to each pint. Run a non-metal spatula between tomatoes and jar to remove trapped air bubbles. Wipe top and threads of jars with a clean, damp cloth. Put lid on top and screw band down firmly.

Put jars in rack of a water bath canner filled with hot (not boiling) water. Water should cover jars by 1 to 2 inches. Put cover on canner and bring water to boil. Process quarts 45 minutes (pints 40 minutes). Remove jars from canner and set on counter. Cover with clean dish towel to keep out of draft. Allow jars to cool about 12 hours. Test seal by pressing down on top. If it is solid, the seal took. If it is bouncy, put jar in fridge and use immediately. Store jars in dry, dark, cool place.

(For extra safety the FDA recommends adding 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice to each quart or 1 tablespoon to each pint to raise the acid level. My mother never did this and laughed at me for my worries. A reader comment on Martha Stewart’s website said that the FDA have revised this caution, but I have not confirmed this. I added the lemon juice.)

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