Posts Tagged ‘canning’

Canning tomatoes, the old fashioned way…

canning tomatoes

I got to spend a few days in Kentucky with my mom and dad last week and we canned some tomatoes…  five bushels to be exact.  It was a lot of work, but great fun.  I’m ready to do it again. 

I decided to document the event so you could see the process we used in canning.  I will tell you right off the bat – this method is not a method recognized as safe or correct by the “professionals”  (whoever that is), but I can promise you millions of American families have been canning tomatoes this way for generations.  My family has canned tomatoes this way for as long as anyone can remember.  So far… we’ve not killed anyone.  Well, not from canning tomatoes anyway.   *ahem* Anyway… on to the tomatoes!

The tomatoes

We didn’t grow any tomatoes this year.  Not me.  Not my parents.  That even feels weird just typing it but for various inexcusable reasons, we just didn’t.  Next year though…

My dad did manage to snag our five bushels from a kindly Mexican farmer with three boys for $20 a bushel.  I know, right?  $20 isn’t bad!  We’ve been waiting all summer for tomatoes and last week the call finally came.  They are ready now.  They’ve got to be picked tomorrow.  We can’t wait for the weekend.   And boom! just like that, we were in the Yukon with our yummy bento snacks on our way to Kentucky. 

You should have seen the sight we walked in to… 

canning tomatoes

Five bushels is a lot of tomatoes. 

We didn’t do any canning the day we arrived.  We decided we would start in the morning.  I was thinking we would get two or three bushels done the first day of canning then do the last two the next.   Yeah, no.  We did them all in one day. 

 

The Setup

We used basic equipment for this process.  Most everything can be found easily at a local store, I’m sure. 

  • large bowls, several for washing and cooling tomatoes
  • a large heave stock pot
  • a wide pot for sterilizing jars
  • a smaller pot for sterilizing lids and bands
  • cookie sheets for work surfaces
  • towels to protect the table tops
  • ice cream buckets for holding tomatoes waiting to be cooked
  • a sharp knife
  • a 5 gallon bucket for dumping skins and cores
  • jars with spotless rims
  • new lids
  • new or used but clean bands
  • a jar lifter
  • a canning funnel
  • a magnetic lid lifter
  • a teaspoon (for quarts)
  • a 1/2 teaspoon (for pints)
  • canning salt
  • slotted spoon

canning tomatoes setupThe counter near the sink, we cleared for bowls of tomatoes ready to be blanched.  The stove was prepped with a  pot of boiling water for blanching and a large stock pot for boiling quartered tomatoes.  At the table we placed cookie sheets on top of towels to catch the mess of juice, skins, and cores.  We placed bowls of cold water at the center of the table for the cooling tomatoes and an ice cream bucket at the side of each work station for catching all the quartered tomatoes. 

Near the table on the floor stood a 5 gallon bucket for dumping the scraps. 

 

The process

Like I said earlier, this is not the “proper” way to can tomatoes, though I would argue it’s one of the more traditional ways.  

*Can at your own risk* 

If you choose to use the same method I use as described here in this blog, you assume all responsibility for the outcome.   This is NOT an instructional post.  For precise instructions on canning tomatoes, try this book.

 The basic process for canning tomatoes we use goes like this:

  • wash tomatoes
  • blanch tomatoes
  • remove skins, cores, and bad spots
  • quarter tomatoes
  • boil tomatoes
  • sterilize jars, lids, bands
  • fill jars
  • add salt
  • clean rim
  • apply lid and band
  • let sit for 24 hours and listen for the “pops”

washed tomatoesWashing tomatoes

The very first thing we did was get the tomatoes clean.  We filled a sink with water, added a bunch of tomatoes, and got all the dirt off.  A quick rinse and transfer to a clean bowl, the first batch is ready for blanching. 

 

 

 

 

 

blanching tomatoes

 

Blanching the tomatoes

Blanching the tomatoes makes it much easier to remove the peels.  We set a good sized pan of water to boil and add a few tomatoes at a time.  In just a few seconds the peels loosen from the fruit and they are ready to be removed.  Using a slotted spoon we transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of cold water and let them cool down a bit.

 

 

 

 

Removing the skins, cores, and bad spots

 

peeling tomatoes

 

After the tomatoes cool a little, it’s time to remove the skins.  I like to cut a small slice in the bottom of the tomato and peel them towards the core.  At this point, I cut any bad spots off that are on the tomato.  My family laughed at me all day because I tend to smell any tomato that I’m unsure about.  It I feel an extra soft area or after I cut out a bad spot, I will almost always smell the fruit to make sure all the bad is gone.  After smelling a ton of tomatoes, you catch on to what’s normal and what’s not.  Next, I cut the core out, removing all the tough, white areas. 

Quarter the tomato and add it to the pot. 

 

Cooking the tomatoes

After a bushel of tomatoes have been prepared, we cooked them in a large heavy pot.  You want them to boil up for twenty minutes or so.  The tomatoes will break down as they cook and make lots of juice.  The tomatoes will scorch and stick to the bottom if left to boil, so we kept them stirred every few minutes.  While the tomatoes cooked, we prepared the jars for filling.

 

Preparing the jars, lids, and bands

It’s very important to have clean, sterilized jars.  One technique I like to use is keeping the jars in the oven at 215 degrees after they’ve been washed.  This time we just boiled the jars, lids, and bands a few at a time as we filled them.  Another very important item – being certain all the jars have clean, solid rims with NO chips.  In order to get a tight seal, a perfect rim is a must.  We checked all our jars before we started the process.   We put two pans of boiling water on the stove – one for the jars, one for the bands and lids. 

 

 

Filling the jars

 

filling jars

This step is made a little easier by a few small tools. 

#1 – a canning funnel

#2 – a jar lifter

#3 – a magnetic lid lifter

#4 – a large Tupperware 8-cup measuring cup

We take a jar out of the water, place the funnel in the mouth of the jar, and fill it with tomatoes using the large measuring cup.  It’s good to leave some room in the top of the jar to give it room to seal.  We remove the funnel, pour in a teaspoon of salt, and wipe the rim.

 

  canned tomatoes

After the rim is cleaned off, we used the magnetic lid lifter to grab a lid and place it on the jar.  Then we grabbed a band with the magnet and screwed it on the jar tight enough to hold the seal in place, but not too tightly.  Finally, we set the jars on a towel-covered table to sit for 24 hours.  Usually, within a matter of 10, 15 minutes the popping starts.  As the jars cool down, the pressure decreases inside causing the center of the lid to become concave with a “pop”.  This creates a tight seal and if the jars do not “pop” or the lid does not sink in the center, it most likely did not seal properly.  If this happens, it doesn’t mean the tomatoes are bad, just that they need to be kept in the refrigerator and eaten soon.  All of our jars sealed well.   

 

Take a look at all those tomatoes put up for the winter!

93 quarts

We got a decent yield out of this batch.  We had one large bowl full of tomatoes that we didn’t can.  Generally, you get about 18 – 20 quarts per bushel so I think we did fairly well. 

I could eat canned tomatoes each and every day so we’ll see how long my 40+ jars last.  I’m not positive I’ll make it through the winter!

 

How about you?  Do you put up any veggies for the winter months?  If so, leave me a comment below and tell me what you put up and the methods you use. 

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Pickles, pickles, and more pickles…

Cucumbers.  Lots and lots… and lots of cucumbers.  That’s what we have and most of them are ginormous.  Something had to give with the cukes.  It’s nothing for us to go out, pick 5 and the next evening pick 10 more. 

As they piled up on the counter, I managed to sort out some smaller ones for canning pickles.  Having no clue how to can anything besides strawberry jam, I had to do a little research.  Like most every other subject, there’s plenty of information on the internet about canning pickles.  So many different recipes and methods it’ll make your head spin!  In the end, I went with a mixture of online instructions and the recipe on the back of a pickling mix I got at the store. : P  I’m going for easy on my first pickling adventure, you know. 

Pickling adventure #1

canned pickles Basically, I speared the cukes (because they were way too big for whole pickles) and soaked them in a vinegar/pickling mix solution.  Next, the spears were stuffed into jars by myself and my son.  At this point, all the other kids abandoned the operation out of boredom or some shiny thing caught their eye.  We filled the jars with the hot pickling solution, lidded and ringed the jars and placed them in the water bath.  Voila – we have pickles!  Okay, almost have pickles.  Now they get to sit for a month and a half to cure.

 

Pickling adventure #2

sun pickles So, yay!  We have nine jars of pickles!…  and still more cucumbers that even I can eat.  Now what?  And this is where my good friend Betty saves the day.  Mickey and Betty are vendors at the farmer’s market across the street from my house.  (I know, right?  You’re so jealous that I have a farmer’s market right across the street.  Every week.)  Anyhoo, I share with Mickey and Betty my cucumber dilemma and guess what sweet Betty brings me.  A gallon jar and TWO of her pickle recipes!  Sweet pickles and Sun pickles.  Well right away I’m enchanted.  Sun pickles?  Really?  I can make pickles harvesting energy and heat from the sun?  It’s almost mad scientist territory and I’m holding back my evil mad scientist laugh.  This is gonna be too fun. 

After, looking over the recipe I realize I have no fresh dill. : (  Everything else, I’m good on – garlic, vinegar, CUCUMBERS haha.  I’ll have to improvise. 

Instructions:  Wash cukes – use any size (even ginormous).  Cut 1/4 off each end.  If cukes are large, make deep slashes 1/4 inch from one end to the other.  This allows vinegar to penetrate cucumbers.  Pack into jar vertically.  Don’t overpack.  Add vinegar until the cukes are completely covered.  Add garlic and the fresh dill.  Whoops! No fresh dill.  Hmm, I know!  I’ll just sprinkle a bunch of dried dill in.  As I’m rummaging through the spice cabinets (I have four.  I love herbs and spices.), I notice the peppercorns.  Mmm, that sounds yummy in pickles.  In goes the peppercorns.  Then I think to myself.  Don’t pickles usually have mustard seed in them too?  I should add that.  In goes the mustard seed. 

Now, please don’t ask me how much I put in of my ‘extra’ ingredients.  I really have no idea and just shook the little jars till enough contents fell out that ‘looked right’.  You’ll have to use your mad scientist skills to figure that one out. 

Expose the jar to sunlight for 2 days for a total of 14 hours.  (at least)  Store pickles in refrigerator.  OR if you’re a little daring and you have a full fridge, just park those puppies on the tile floor right in front of the ac vent. 

*Note: if you wish to use salt, add 3 T salt to 2 quarts of water and decrease the vinegar to 1 quart.  Keep in sun for 3 days.

This second batch of pickles came out very tangy.  They have quite the punch of vinegar and dill.  Not unlike a pickle, just very strong.  I think next time I’ll try them with the salt.  I love salty pickles. 

I would LOVE to have a tried and true pickle recipe.  You know, the kind that someone’s grandmother has been making for years and always wins at the state fair kinda thing.  For now, we’re just experimenting with what we can find.  It’s not likely we’ll run out of cukes!

-knittingprose

Pickles, pickles, and more pickles…

Cucumbers.  Lots and lots… and lots of cucumbers.  That’s what we have and most of them are ginormous.  Something had to give with the cukes.  It’s nothing for us to go out, pick 5 and the next evening pick 10 more. 

As they piled up on the counter, I managed to sort out some smaller ones for canning pickles.  Having no clue how to can anything besides strawberry jam, I had to do a little research.  Like most every other subject, there’s plenty of information on the internet about canning pickles.  So many different recipes and methods it’ll make your head spin!  In the end, I went with a mixture of online instructions and the recipe on the back of a pickling mix I got at the store. : P  I’m going for easy on my first pickling adventure, you know. 

Pickling adventure #1

canned pickles Basically, I speared the cukes (because they were way too big for whole pickles) and soaked them in a vinegar/pickling mix solution.  Next, the spears were stuffed into jars by myself and my son.  At this point, all the other kids abandoned the operation out of boredom or some shiny thing caught their eye.  We filled the jars with the hot pickling solution, lidded and ringed the jars and placed them in the water bath.  Voila – we have pickles!  Okay, almost have pickles.  Now they get to sit for a month and a half to cure.

 

Pickling adventure #2

sun pickles So, yay!  We have nine jars of pickles!…  and still more cucumbers that even I can eat.  Now what?  And this is where my good friend Betty saves the day.  Mickey and Betty are vendors at the farmer’s market across the street from my house.  (I know, right?  You’re so jealous that I have a farmer’s market right across the street.  Every week.)  Anyhoo, I share with Mickey and Betty my cucumber dilemma and guess what sweet Betty brings me.  A gallon jar and TWO of her pickle recipes!  Sweet pickles and Sun pickles.  Well right away I’m enchanted.  Sun pickles?  Really?  I can make pickles harvesting energy and heat from the sun?  It’s almost mad scientist territory and I’m holding back my evil mad scientist laugh.  This is gonna be too fun. 

After, looking over the recipe I realize I have no fresh dill. : (  Everything else, I’m good on – garlic, vinegar, CUCUMBERS haha.  I’ll have to improvise. 

Instructions:  Wash cukes – use any size (even ginormous).  Cut 1/4 off each end.  If cukes are large, make deep slashes 1/4 inch from one end to the other.  This allows vinegar to penetrate cucumbers.  Pack into jar vertically.  Don’t overpack.  Add vinegar until the cukes are completely covered.  Add garlic and the fresh dill.  Whoops! No fresh dill.  Hmm, I know!  I’ll just sprinkle a bunch of dried dill in.  As I’m rummaging through the spice cabinets (I have four.  I love herbs and spices.), I notice the peppercorns.  Mmm, that sounds yummy in pickles.  In goes the peppercorns.  Then I think to myself.  Don’t pickles usually have mustard seed in them too?  I should add that.  In goes the mustard seed. 

Now, please don’t ask me how much I put in of my ‘extra’ ingredients.  I really have no idea and just shook the little jars till enough contents fell out that ‘looked right’.  You’ll have to use your mad scientist skills to figure that one out. 

Expose the jar to sunlight for 2 days for a total of 14 hours.  (at least)  Store pickles in refrigerator.  OR if you’re a little daring and you have a full fridge, just park those puppies on the tile floor right in front of the ac vent. 

*Note: if you wish to use salt, add 3 T salt to 2 quarts of water and decrease the vinegar to 1 quart.  Keep in sun for 3 days.

This second batch of pickles came out very tangy.  They have quite the punch of vinegar and dill.  Not unlike a pickle, just very strong.  I think next time I’ll try them with the salt.  I love salty pickles. 

I would LOVE to have a tried and true pickle recipe.  You know, the kind that someone’s grandmother has been making for years and always wins at the state fair kinda thing.  For now, we’re just experimenting with what we can find.  It’s not likely we’ll run out of cukes!

-knittingprose

can I can???

white scallop squash Well, it’s official.  We have cucumbers! : )  My favorite two things of summer – fresh homegrown cucumbers and tomatoes.  I really think I could live on them.  The kids and I picked about 4 the other day when we were out watering the garden and there were quite a few that looked like they’d be ready by the weekend.  As I was digging in the green beans I noticed several of our scallop squash that are beginning to take shape.  Have you seen these?  They have beautiful bright orange flowers that produce adorable little disc-shaped squash with a scalloped edge. 

I’m so very looking forward to tomatoes.  We have so many on the vine.  Lots of big green tomatoes that I’m just dying for to turn color!  This spring I planted 4 varieties – black giants, break o’ day, early girl and pink German tree.  I’ve not grown any of these varieties before so I’m eager to see what they all produce. 

Aside from the garden maintenance, I’ve been keeping busy studying up on things like canning and preserving our bounty.  Lord willing, I will have a canner before too long and we’ll have no trouble putting up some delicious tomatoes.  In all this reading, I’ve also gotten the idea to try canning some meat and full meals.  I wish I knew someone who’s had lots of experience at it.  We buy grassfed and local meat which can be expensive.  I’d love to have the ability of stocking up on meat during a good sale and be able to preserve it some other way than freezing.  I hate cooking frozen meat.  Not only is it a pain, but it just doesn’t taste as good.  Besides that, imagine getting home from church on Sunday afternoon about 1:30 and just popping open a couple cans of stewed meat or chili or soup, etc.  This seems like a great solution for so many occasions.

Speaking of all this veggie business, our little town started a farmer’s market that meets on Wednesday evenings just across the street from us.  We’ve learned so much about food and the like over the last year, it seems like this was just another little blessing from the Lord to encourage us.  We’ve enjoyed some great jams and treats from the vendors.  This week we’re expecting local honey which I’ve been wanting to get for a while now.  I’m hoping to talk to the vendor about some beeswax as well.  We’d like to make some candles and I’d love to have wax for salves on hand. 

All this is so new to us but we’re enjoying the process of learning and all the encouragement people seem eager to give. 

On a side note, it’s wonderful being pregnant again.  I’ve missed having a little one quite a bit and I’m savoring every second of this pregnancy.  Hopefully, we’ll find out if we’re expecting a boy or a girl sometime after our next appointment in July.  We’d love to eliminate half the name battle.  That’s our biggest struggle when it comes to having a new baby!

-knittingprose