Posting will be slim ’round these parts for the next couple of weeks, as I’ll be off on my honeymoon (a road trip through Vermont and New York State). However, I just wanted to say that if you happen to run into Damson plums (they’re at the end of their season right now), you should consider buying some and making jam. They make the most wonderfully sweet/tart jam I’ve ever had. I used eight cups of chopped plums and five cups of sugar and cooked it all down until it was thick and around 217 degrees. Delicious!
Okay kids, it looks like I’ve made a mistake about the processing time for the tomatoes. Commenter Maia pointed it out to me and when I double-checked my documentation, I discovered she was right. When you pack whole tomatoes in their own juice like I’ve done in the post below, safety regulations say that you must process them for 85 minutes. Tomatoes packed in water get processed for 40/45 minutes.
I’ve adjusted the post below accordingly, so make sure to update your recipes or alter your pack method to whole tomatoes in water. I apologize for the error!
Before tomato season comes to a close, I want to talk about my favorite way to preserve tomatoes. I typically only can them one way – (mostly) whole and peeled, in their own juices. I do them this way because I like the versatility they retain when put up in this manner. Later down the line, I can choose as to whether I want to puree them down, make a chunky sauce or just crush them with my hands and use them to top homemade pizza (Mmmm).
One thing to note is that my tomatoes aren’t perfectly whole. I do crush them a bit while cramming them into the jars, in order to generate enough liquid to totally cover the ‘maters. I find that I’m able to get three romas into a pint jar and six into a quart. On occasion, I’ll cut a tomato in to thirds or halves in order to finish off a jar and still have the proper amount of headspace.
Take your tomatoes and core them. This isn’t an absolutely necessary step, but I hate dealing with the cores when it comes time to use the tomatoes on the other end.
A cored tomato. Seriously easy.
Make two shallow cuts on the bottom of the tomato, to ease the peeling.
Drop cored and scored tomatoes into a pot of boiling water (don’t put too many in at once, or you’ll drop the water temperature drastically and it will take forever to return to a boil). Blanch tomatoes for 1-2 minutes, until the skins start to blister or loosen.
Put your blanched tomatoes into a boil of cold water, to halt cooking and to make them handle-able.
Peel tomatoes. The skins should slip off easily after the blanching and the cold water dip.
I put the tomatoes into the jars as I peel. Two standard sized romas typical fit at the bottom of the jar.
You may need to give them a little help. I use my hand when filling wide mouth jars, but when dealing with regular mouth openings, I employ the handle of a wooden spoon.
Look! A jar that’s filled with tomatoes! All the liquid you see here came from the tomatoes, as I gently smashed them to fit the jar.
Don’t forget to acidify. It’s one tablespoon of lemon juice for pints and two for quarts. I pour it on top of my filled jars, and then use a chopstick to remove the air bubbles from the jar and work the lemon juice down into its contents. You should have approximately 1/2 inch of headspace remaining after you add the lemon juice and de-bubble the jar.
After that, I wipe the rims, apply my lids (carefully simmered for 10 minutes at around 180 degrees), screw on the rings and lower the jars into the heated boiling water canner (remembering to use a rack so that the jars aren’t resting on the bottom of the pot).
Quarts of whole peeled tomatoes get processed in a boiling water canner for 45 85 minutes. Pints get processed for 40 minutes the same amount of time. Tomatoes that are packed in water are processed for 40/45 minutes.
Because my life is busy, I rarely do my tomatoes in one great, big canning day. Instead, I stretch the process out over several post-work weeknights. I’ll do four quarts at a time, because that’s how much my stock pot can hold during processing, and it keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. I find that a 25 pound box of tomatoes will make approximately 12-14 quarts of tomatoes, and so I do four jars a night for three nights in a row. It keeps me sane and keeps my pantry filled with wonderful, local tomatoes all winter long.
I’m a little later than I’d hoped in getting up the pear butter winner, but having one’s wedding just five days away tends to derail even the most heart-felt intentions. However, I do have a winner to announce and it’s none other than “Another Marisa,” the commenter who has renamed herself so as not to get confused with me. Yay Marisa! I’ll be emailing you shortly to get all your details so that I get you this butter sooner rather than later.
Now, I want to warn you all that posting is going to be sort of poky for the next couple of weeks or so. I’m getting married to my favorite guy this coming Saturday and so my brain is almost entirely filled with last-minute details, travel schedules and a concerted effort to shake the cold that’s been trying to gain foothold in my sinuses. I have a post on canning whole tomatoes that I’m going to try and get up before the big day, but I make no promises.
However, I do want to say, for those of you who are still battling the zucchini glut, that they make wonderful, if slightly less crisp pickles. I made a batch of seven pints recently, using the exact same brine that I use for my garlic dills and they are wonderful. They are particularly good in sandwiches, because they are a bit more yielding to the tooth than many cucumber pickles. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by squash, it’s a good way to conquer at least three or four good-sized zukes (yellow squash also works).
As a kid, I was fascinated by the lives of long-dead historical figures. I devoured those blue-bound “When They Were Young” biographies, absorbing the childhood details of Helen Keller, Susan B. Anthony and Clara Barton. I was a particular fan of Betsy Ross, in part because I’d taken the walking tour through her cramped colonial home in Philadelphia’s historic district (later, when we were back in California, I delightedly wore the Quaker sunbonnet my grandmother bought me at the museum gift shop).
One aspect that I found particularly entrancing in these “biographies” (looking back, I realize that these volumes were probably far more fiction than fact) was the way in which food preparation was detailed (this is also why I read and re-read all the Little House books).
There’s one scene in the Betsy Ross book that has always stuck with me, in which she (as a seven or eight year old) is given the task of tending the apple butter, as it slowly cooks over an open fire. She uses a wooden paddle to scrape the scum off the top of the butter and a long wooden stirrer, with which to ensure that the butter doesn’t burn on the bottom of the pot. I found this description, of a little girl being tasked with such responsibility, so very appealing. As a child of similar age, I longed to participate in the activities of food preparation, and to have a hand in making things from scratch.
However, in those days, our applesauce came from a jar and the only thing we spread on bread was strawberry jam from a large, blue plastic bucket (the one with a white handle and lid). It wasn’t until my family moved to Oregon a few years later, and we found ourselves in a new/old house with gnarled old apple trees down at the very back of the property, did we even attempt to make apple butter (there is little in the world that tastes better than apple butter made from antique, windfall apples).
These days, homemade fruit butters are an integral part of my summer and fall preserving routine. After the jump, you’ll find my general fruit butter technique, it’s not a specific recipe, but instead a flexible approach that can expand or contract, depending on how much fruit you have. I also have a half pint jar of pear butter to give away. If you want it, leave a comment by Friday, September 18th at 11:59 p.m.
I’ve gotten a couple of questions lately about the loss of syrup when canning whole fruit. Here’s the story. From what I’ve found and read, the loss of syrup isn’t a major problem unless the jars loses multiple inches. Ideally, you don’t lose too much in the processing, but sometimes it happens that upon removing the processed jars from the water, some liquid will bubble out as the air escapes (the official word for this loss of liquid is siphoning). However, as long as the jars sealed, you should be okay. You may get some discoloration in the fruit if you wait a long time to eat it, but if you use it in the next few months, you shouldn’t notice any loss in quality.
For next time, try to do a more complete job of removing the air bubbles from your jars before processing. Make sure the sealing compound in your lids is quite soft and tighten the rings more tightly than you typically do. Also check and ensure that your jars are completely covered with water during processing, as low levels can increase the chance of losing the liquid from your jars.
And, if you haven’t figured it out from the picture above, you can also can Seckel pears (the tiny, crispy ones) whole, just like the plums I did a couple of weeks back. The only change I made to the recipe was that I added a couple of teaspoons of powdered ginger to the syrup, for a slightly different flavor profile. I can’t wait to open those babies up!