Have you noticed a lack of canning posts this year? If not, I sure have. I have also noticed the lack of variety in our home canned items in the pantry, the abundance of empty jars sitting around, and the amount of other items left over from past canning seasons.
The jam and jelly making marathon 3 years ago meant we are still eating blackberry jam, tomato marmalade, and apple jelly syrup (the jelly did not set). Thanks to the Farm Market Swap last year, we do have some variety in the house.
Due to the demands of life we right now, spending hours canning produce and taking care of a large garden were things I had to admit I could not do this year. What I did do were the basics, things we would really have missed if they were not present. These are also things that happen to make my life easier. Namely – cherry tomatoes, a few regular tomato plants, pearl onions for stews this winter, pizza sauce, and crushed tomatoes. If there is anything else we really need, like spaghetti sauce, I can easily order a few jars online if I really did not want to go to the store. At this point, it is worth if for me to accept that option.
The blackberry bushes and strawberry beds are at a point where not a lot of attention is needed. This is a nice stage, as I can reap the fruits of my labor without spending a lot of labor doing so. What I was not going to do with these fruits, was to make jams. (see paragraph above) Instead we ate them fresh as they came on and I did not feel guilty about it one bit.
In mid summer, I was presented with the opportunity to can tomatoes. My garden had not started to produce enough, but a local farmer/gardener had grown some in a greenhouse and theirs were ready. As it turns out, they were a bit green still, but I was not going to look a gift horse in the mouth. I knew that if I did not take advantage of this opportunity at this moment, there would be no canning done during the normal growing season.
I sat down, making a list of my pantry desires. As it turns out, we really do not eat a quart of beets a week. At this rate I can safely say it is more like a quart every 3 weeks. Not looking to make that mistake again, I added in the desired, realistic amount.
First up, diced tomatoes. I had not canned these before, only crushed, but hoped diced would be just as easy and a nicer texture in some of our meals this winter. After all, the diced tomatoes at the grocery store came out looking so nice this past winter.
Um, yeah, I am not the grocery store. They will taste the same, but not exactly like I hoped they would look. Perhaps if the tomatoes had been more mature it would have worked out better.
We like the taste of roasted tomatoes in the new tomato soup recipe we have been using. Made it the other day with candy onions and the taste was even better. Thought it was so good I would try it with pizza sauce. It changes the first steps a bit, though that is not too hard of a change.
Using pickyourown.org‘s recipe I adjusted the steps to incorporate roasting the tomatoes. Before placing the tomatoes on the pans to roast (make sure you line it well with foil or else you will be getting new pans out of this process), I squeezed out all the extra juice I could. This was collected in bowls and pans for use later if needed.
Since roasting takes at least an hour, after many batches the house was smelling very yummy.
Using the roasted tomatoes, I proceeded with the recipe, adding back in any extra liquid needed. As it turned out, I added back in most of what I had squeezed out. The roasting process had removed a fair amount from the tomatoes themselves, so there really was less liquid than when I started the whole process.
Without the need to cook down the recipe, I was able to greatly reduce the amount of stop top cooking time. It sort of made up for the late night I had finishing up the last batch roasting in the oven.
In the images above, I got a bit zealous filling the jars. The jar in the top right corner is too full. If I tried to place this in the pressure canner, it would never seal. Removing a table spoon or two (lower left photo above) put it exactly where it needed to be. A quick wiping of the jar lid and it was ready to go.
What I have not shown you is the canning of crushed tomatoes. I was tempted to can up more pizza sauce. However, at the end of the light night of roasting, I nixed that idea and moved on to crushed tomatoes.
Right now though, I think I will go use some of the above pizza sauce and make lunch. That sounds really good today.
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