8.18.2010

Canning Tomatoes

Well, all those tomatoes had to go somewhere and I can only serve so many! Anyone that comes within 50 feet of the Diner gets a bag of tomatoes. Menu planning, this time of year, is done around tomatoes. But there can only be so many days of scrambled omelets with tomatoes for breakfast, tomato sandwiches for lunch and, well, you’ve-heard-it-before for dinner.

Last year I decided I would save some tomatoes for the winter and freeze them – whole. When I took the three bags of tomatoes out of the freezer in December to make Art’s Special Sauce last year, the tomatoes looked fine and I was hopeful. Then I thawed them out – not so good. What a lumpy, soggy, squishy mess! The tomatoes promptly went into the compost pile!

So this year I was determined to can. Then at the Garlic Festival last month, I ran across some coupons for Ball/Kerr canning kits and jars. Aha! It was meant to be!

The next challenge was finding a recipe. Then the September issue of The Food Network Magazine arrived in the mail with recipes and photos for the canning process. Great! Well, it turned out a little “exotic” (Spicy Tomato Jam) for my first try. I finally found two recipes on the Ball website – freshpreserving.com – and printed them. One was for simple canned tomatoes, the other for tomato sauce.

I knew I needed some time, but was still not realistic about how much time!

I tackled the task on Sunday, thinking the Diner was open for breakfast and dinner that day (with HH fixing breakfast), so piece of cake! I would have all afternoon! I started at Noon and stopped at 4 PM, with only the canned tomatoes complete! Oh my, 11 pint jars and I was only a little over half done!

I decided to take all the cherry tomatoes (and the few yellow pear tomatoes from my neighbor), but prep all the tomatoes – even all the big ones for the sauce. I had been harvesting every other day all week, and not giving any away, to make sure I had enough. I talked to someone last month who canned tomatoes for the first time and she talked about how what looked like an over abundance of tomatoes in her stock pot cooking down to less than half the volume. That was NOT going to happen to me! If I’m canning, there will be plenty.

There were plenty - it took me an hour and a half to harvest a bit more, clean and cut all those tomatoes!

There were three big stock pots on the stove, two with jars and lids and one for tomatoes. And I did NOT have a problem with not enough tomatoes, I had to do one batch, and then cook down the rest – of just cherry tomatoes for canning!

In the middle of all of this, SS called and asked a simple question, “what are you up to?” “I’m canning!” So I had to fill her in and tell her all about it, she gave me her canning tips, all of which she has learned from Housewives of New Jersey and Cake Boss, none of which she has personally practiced. But all helpful and made me think…later.

By 4 PM I was exhausted, and the dinner crowd was still due at the Diner for the Scampi special that was on the menu!

Here are the fruits of labor for Day One, tomorrow, Day Two.

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