Monday, September 3, 2012

Holy Tomato!

We can never have enough tomato products in our house. I cook with them whenever I can. Pizza, pasta, burritos, tacos, rice and beans, curry- we eat them all, and I slather on the tomatoes. We ran out of last years canning supply months ago, and it has been so hard to buy canned tomatoes since then. This year we decided to "Go Big, or Go Home.".

We started with 4 boxes from the farmers market- 112 pounds. You may that's insane, so brace yourself when I tell you that the next week we got two more boxes, for a total of 168 pounds of tomatoes.

We started with Brian's favorite recipe, Tomato Jam, from Food in Jars. I thought the recipe sounded strange when Brian wanted to make it last year. Tomato jam? What could we use if for? Once I tasted how yummy it was, I found uses for it. We use it on burgers, meatloaf, sandwiches, and with crackers and cream cheese. It's a great alternative to ketchup, in fact, we don't even buy ketchup anymore.

Brian wanted to make it less spicy this time, but forgot. I'm glad he did because I love how spicy it is, and sweet it is. It's perfect. This year we got 13 half pints from the recipe.

After that we started in on the salsa, tomato sauce, and canned tomatoes. My step-mom Karen came up for a visit on our second day of canning tomatoes and things went a lot faster with another set of hands. I still got to chop all 168 pounds of tomatoes, but she helped blanch and peel the tomatoes and chop up all the other peppers, onion, garlic etc that went into the salsa and sauce. It was a big help. She even brought up a huge bag of fresh basil from her garden to go into the sauce. Yummy!

Most tomato recipes are the same. They all come from the USDA Tomato Canning Guide because there really is a specific way that tomatoes need to be canned to preserve them properly. We used their guide for all of our products, only varying slightly in spice and seasonings.

We made 2 batches of salsa. For the first batch we used the "Tomato Salsa using Slicing Tomatoes" recipe on page 3-24. We added in some super hot peppers for spice. It turned out OK. It was a big watery, but the flavor was good and fresh. We made a larger batch and got 12 pints.

For the second batch we wanted a thicker salsa so we tried the "Tomato/Tomato Paste Salsa" recipe on page 3-25. It wasn't nearly spicy enough so we added some chiles in adobo sauce and red pepper flakes for a smokey/spicy flavor. It didn't have the fresh taste of batch 1, but it was much thicker. I actually think mixing the two salsas together would be perfect, and that's what I do if I have 2 jars open. We got 10 pints of the second batch

Here you can see Batch 1 and 2 of Salsa next to each other:

For the tomato sauce we used the "Spaghetti Sauce without Meat" recipe on page 3-13. We made 2 batches of sauce; one with large slicing tomatoes and we forgot to add in the basil, the second batch we used roma tomatoes and remembered the basil. For both we added in extra red pepper flakes and italian seasonings.

I'm not really sure why the recipe said it would yield 9 pints. We followed the recipe to a T for the amount of tomatoes and other large ingredients. We simmered it for hours, reduced it almost by half (until it was the thickness we liked), and we got 20 pints with the first batch!

We haven't tasted batch 2, but batch 1 was definitely a success:

There isn't much to say about canning plain tomatoes- chop them up, put in 2 tablespoons of lemon juice per quart, pack it up, can it. Done. We used the "Tomatoes-Whole or Halved (packed raw without added liquid) recipe on page 3-11, and we made a lot of them, enough to use 1 jar per week. Don't they look pretty?

So that's tomatoes. Next up: chicken stock made after roasting a yummy chicken we got from the Pondera Hutterite Colony. It's cooling in the kitchen right now and smells amazing.

No comments: