Friday, August 28, 2009

canning season

I always want to share how easy and rewarding canning can be.
This is a 'down year' for us... we took time off the garden and markets for the family. Usually, we would put up 100 or more quarts and pints of tomato product. This year we basically ripped up the tomato patch. We were still surprised we did. However, it feels great supporting my friends and local farmers this way too. My food is local. By canning, I know what I am eating. It is suited to my family's taste as well.
We came home from market with our first bushel of tomatoes. During the process I go back and forth between: 'geez, this takes all day' and, 'wow! we are going to need at least three more bushels just for our specialty sauces'.
The thought of the prices of the Indian sauces, the lack of good salsas and Mexican sauces, and the thought of the additives and sneaky corn products.... canning wins.

So there are a few things I have learned in my experiences with canning tomatoes:

It is messy. Mostly because I am not the most organized kitchen person, but tomatoes are a juicy, pulpy fruit. Mess will be inevitable with 20 + pounds.

It is time consuming. This one always gets me. But really, it is worth it to know what we are eating.

So, with these things in mind....
Always gather knives, pots, colanders, etc before starting. I like to have ready
a cutting board
a knife to core the tomatoes and my chopping knife
a large sauce pot filled with water on to boil
a large sauce pot filled with cold water on the counter
two or three large colanders
a large bowl for the skins
and the compost bucket

What I am getting at here is this: it is easier, faster, cleaner, and better to skin the tomatoes.

To do this -
Boil the water in the one pot, keep it hot
Core your tomatoes and slice an 'x' in the bottom. Put in a few at a time. Keep them in the pot for up to a minute. Transfer them to the cold water using a slotted spoon, trying not to carry over to much hot water to the cold.
The skins slip right off.

At this point you could let the skinned tomatoes sit in the colander over the sink, to let the excess water and juice run a bit while you clear some space. On to the chopping and preparing the sauce!

The first recipe I want to share is a salsa. It is one that uses a good amount of garden bounty. It comes out thick and is a slightly sweet-hot salsa. I love to look at it on the shelf, just beautiful.

8 pints-
20lbs large, ripe tomatoes (peeled) and cut in 1/2 in dice
6 medium onions, chopped
12 tomatillos, husked, cored, rinsed and cut in 1/2 in dice
(I sub part cucumbers )
1 c seeded, chopped chili peppers (a good variation)
4 garlic cloves
4tbs pickling or kosher salt
1c cider vinegar
3/4 c olive oil
1/2 cup chopped basil
1/2 cup chopped cilantro
1/2 cup chopped parsley

Mix tomatoes, tomatillos, chilies, and garlic in a large colander. Toss with the salt and let drain for a few hours (2-3).
Stir the mixture well, then transfer to a large stainless steel or enamel pot. Stir in the vinegar, oil, basil, cilantro, and parsley. Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally. Bring just to a boil.
Boiling water bath for 20 minutes. If you can wait a few weeks for the flavor to meld before you enjoy it, it is worth it!

A boiling water bath:

A large canning kettle with a lid and canning rack (the thing in the bottom that keeps the jars off the heat of the bottom of the pot)
Sterilized canning jars, we usually just boil some water with the jars in it. This sterilizes and keeps the jars hot.
Lids and bands (the lids must be new, and the bands have no rust)
A canning funnel and plastic wand

To soften the seal on the lids, we put them in a bowl and top off with hot water.
Using a canning funnel, fill the hot jars with the hot (in this case) salsa. Leave 1/4 inch head space in the jar. Use a plastic wand or chop stick to poke around the sides and expel any air bubbles.
Using a clean towel with the corner dipped in hot water, clean off the rim of the jar. Place the lid on and screw on the band (not so tight).
The jar is ready to go in the canner. When all the jars are in, make sure there is at least an inch of water over the submerged jars.
Bring the canner to a boil and maintain a rolling boil for the entire processing period.
Remove the jars, setting them on a dry towel or cutting board to cool. Allow the jars to cool naturally before checking for a seal, 12-24 hours.

The next recipe, a marinara pizza sauce. This makes 5 pints.

5-6 pounds ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 purple or red sweet peppers, chopped
1 cayenne chile or 1 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c fresh oregano
3tbs salt
5 cloves garlic, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a large sauce pan over medium-low heat 35-45 minutes, or until bubbly. As the mixture thickens, stir it to prevent sticking.
When it has reached the desired thickness, pour into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space.
Process 20 minutes in the boiling water bath.

And then last, Indian tomato gravy. We eat this with peas and paneer or vegetable dumplings.
I always hope to can a lot of extra, but usually end up running out of spices. Sigh. One recipe is a quart, and I have found no problems with doubling for more.

2c finely chopped onions
1tsp garlic
2tbs finely chopped ginger
2tsp ground coriander
1tsp turmeric
1/4-1/2 tsp each black and red pepper
1 tsp paprika
2c pureed tomatoes with juice
2 tsp kosher salt
2tsp garam masala
4 tbs fresh cilantro
(i added a piece of cinnamon stick, and a dash of cumin)

Fry the onions for five or so minutes, till they turn light brown. Add the garlic and ginger and fry for two more minutes. Add the corriander, tumeric, paprika and peppers (and cumin and cinnamon stick ) ...stir rapidly then add the tomatoes.
cook until the mixture thickens and the fat begins to separate, stir often.
Add 2 and half c of water, bring to a boil and simmer, covered for 20 minutes.
Cool and then puree.
Add the salt (and peas and cheese if you are making panner)
Cook through about 15 minutes.
Rest the dish for at least an hour before serving.
Heat to serve, add the garam marsala and cilantro

When I make this to can, I process in the pressure canner for 20 minutes at 6 pounds- but I would highly recommend just having this for dinner tonight :)

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