12 September 2011

In The Land of Tomatoes

I wonder if I will ever grow enough tomatoes to satisfy my canning urges this time of year? Probably not.

The last couple of weekends were spent canning tomatoes in various forms. Last year I made a successful, if watery, batch of ketchup, and I knew that this year I wanted more. So, I was able to get hold of a canning flat (these are tomatoes that the farm will not sell as individuals having marks, bruises, etc.) and launched into ketchup mode.

This time I decided to skin the tomatoes by dunking in boiling water, then in ice water. This was pretty successful. It was also pretty time-consuming. Next came the slicing. I took out some of the juice and seeds so that it would not be quite as watery, but I knew that I would be cooking it for a lot longer than the directions say. Once the tomatoes cooked down some, I added the vinegar and spice bag, and kept it cooking until it reached a stage I considered acceptable. Then into jars and a water bath. I made a few small one-cup jars to hand out to friends, and another four half-pints to keep at home. It is good, although I think the cloves make a stronger statement than last year. There is almost a "holiday" taste to the ketchup. Some people may get turned off by the seeds, however you really do not even notice them.

Labor Day weekend was tomato sauce. My girlfriend was nice enough to get tomatoes from her locale. I was also introduced to using a pressure canner for the first time.

One of two batches of tomatoes washed for processing.

First was a hunt for accessories. I have a KitchenAid mixer, which I adore. I also have several attachments for it, including the meat/vegetable grinder. The one thing I do not have is the strainer, which is necessary to get the seeds out completely. A run to different stores came up empty, so we decided to do a two step approach: chop the tomatoes and run it through the grinder, then put that through my food mill (which I used for my sauce last year).
This was my job most of the evening. 

The mill got the seeds out.

I totally approve of this process, since we already had the equipment and it really went faster with the food grinder doing a lot of the work. However, I was really glad to have two bodies in the kitchen, because processing 30 lbs. of tomatoes this way still takes up a large chunk of time. Besides cooking, of course.

Reduced after about eight hours. 

Our 30 lbs. of tomatoes garnered us 8 half-pint and 9 pint jars of sauce. Sadly, one jar did not fit in the canner during our two sessions, so I ended up freezing that jar.

My new pressure canner

A lot more sauce than we were expecting.

Cooling - you could hear the pops as the seals took.
The next big job will be applesauce, which I will try both canning and freezing this year.