Friday, July 29, 2011

Burning the Midnight Oil

I'm not a night owl.  But propping my eyes open until midnight is easier than chasing a 3 year old and a 1 year old out of the kitchen.  My dear husband loves to plant a huge garden and even helps me can.  I scare both of us when I have a knife, so he cores and skins while I scald, cool, and stuff jars.  We have a row of Roma tomatoes and a row of slicing tomatoes, but we think we'll just plant Romas next year as they are so easy to prep for canning--scald, slice of the top, slice them in half, squeeze...out pops the tomato ready to go in the jar.  No circling with your knife to get the core out, the skin slides off, and there isn't as much juice running all over the counter.
I suppose it isn't as healthy as freezing them, but it's more economical and less messy (think leaky plastic bag thawing in a pool of tomato juice).  I don't add salt though.  From what I've read it is optional and we don't need the sodium anyway.  I use quart jars because I normally use that much at a time anyway, and it means less time processing since the same number of quarts as pints fit in my hot water bath pot (I only pressure can if I need to--green beans).  So far we have 24 quarts and that is after having to throw a lot of bad ones out.
If you can get some hand me down canning supplies (pot, jars, rings, jar tongues) and only have to buy lids every year (less than $2-3 for 12), its a good savings.  If you have a place to start seedlings seeds would be the way to go, but buying some good plants would be the next best thing as once they start producing fruit they will continue until frost.  We have been extremely dry, but our tomatoes are still producing, and they should do a lot better once it starts raining again early this fall. 

I would suggest spraying for bugs too (grasshoppers will destroy the plant pretty quickly).  My city friends are pretty sold on organic, but my ag background husband tells me that the natural pesticide that a plant produces after being bitten is more toxic that the pesticides that are available.  Something to look into.  Of course make sure and follow withdrawal guidelines if you choose to use chemicals.

The process I use is similar to this but I don't add any lemon juice and instead of adding tomato juice or hot water, I just smash the tomatoes as I'm packing them to make their own juices.  It doesn't sound as pretty, but by the time they are cooked and I am taking them out of the jar, I don't notice that they are smashed.

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