Last week I decided that it was time to try canning some veggies. My parents always put up tomatoes and tomato sauces, so in the perfect world residing in my head, I pictured me and dad (mom is out of town) in his kitchen, preparing tomatoes together while trading memories of us kids growing up, preserving nature's bounty, and maybe sharing a laugh or two.
In reality, dad had tickets to see Cirque du Soleil and I was left with his ancient copy of Stocking Up, some old Ball jars and rings, a jar-grabber-thingie, and assurance that I would have no problems. Oh, and did I mention that it's like, 90 degrees with 80 percent humidity here? And we have no air conditioning? Yeah. Good times.
I wanted to jar some tomatoes this weekend, not because we had a bounty of them, but because I've never preserved vegetables or fruits. I thought it'd be a good idea to experience the learning curve before I had 20 pounds of tomatoes taking over the kitchen. Turns out, this was a good idea. My learning curve was an hour of researching and a steaming hot two hours of jarring.
In addition to Stocking Up, my resources were Homecanning.com, an Ohio State University Extension fact sheet, and a blurb in the back of From Asparagus to Zucchini. Once I thought I had my head around the process, I gathered my supplies and hit the (already hot) kitchen.
Gather the gear, start water boiling, and hope to goodness that you don't mess up. Oh, and notice how hot it is already in the kitchen.
Prepare the tomatoes by boiling them for a minute or two, then dropping into ice water to split skins. Peel and core tomatoes. And save skin for the compost pile :)
I used a combination of Blooming Glen tomatoes which were a variety of yellow, orange, and red colors, and some early roma tomatoes from our home garden.
Place mixture into a jar, clean the rim, put on the lid, screw on the ring. Put jar into pot of boiling water, making sure that two inches of water cover the jar. Cover pot and boil for ten minutes. Note the elevating temperature of the kitchen, and fear that you might melt.
Remove jar, and wait for lid to pop, insuring that it's sealed. Upon hearing the popping sound, jump up and down and clap hands. Call boyfriend into kitchen to look at sealed jar. Call dad to tell him that, it worked! It really, really worked! And that you heard it pop!
Overall, the experience was... hot. Very, very, very hot. But, totally worth it :) At one point, I actually started to heat the tomatoes in the jar in a pot of boiling water. I thought I read that one should heat the jar and its contents to 170 degrees, then lid and boil it. Turns out, I was reading canning directions. So, I lost about 30 minutes there, but hey, that's why I put up the tomatoes this weekend - to learn what to do and not to do.
I definitely want to make some sauces and salsas to jar. Any favorite recipes? More importantly, any jarring advice? Please, do tell :)