Tag Archives | whole fruits and vegetables

Imperfect Preservation

chopped tomatoes

Despite how I make it seem here, I am not a perfect food preserver. Sometimes my recipes don’t work out, my yields are way off, I don’t have enough jars ready or I wait too long to make something and discover that my lovingly chosen product has gone bad.

bad bits

Most recently, I was defeated by some tomatoes. Back in September, I ordered 50 pounds of tomatoes, planning to use most of them for a class I was scheduled to teach. However, the order was delayed and I didn’t get the tomatoes until after the class. Instead of coming home with 20 pounds, I had the full 50 to deal with. By this point, I’d already canned more than 75 pounds and was sort of done with tomatoes.

The smart thing to do would have been to accept that I just wasn’t up to the task and give some of them away. But I thought I’d be able to do it all.

four cups of puree

Instead, they withered. Some rotted. I made a few small recipes, but really didn’t make a dent. Finally, through attrition and just a little preserving, I only had enough to fill a crisper drawer. I needed the space and I wanted to stop feeling bad about these damned tomatoes and so I cooked. I chopped away the bad parts and cubed up the rest. I threw them all into a pot and simmered them until they were tender.

two pints

Once the were soft, I pushed them through a food mill, returned the puree to the pot and cooked it down until it lost its watery look. Then I canned what remained in two lonely pints. It is far, far better than nothing (though I still mourn the wasted tomatoes).

I think there are lessons in all of this. A reminder to keep my purchases manageable.  That there’s no shame in asking for help when I’m overwhelmed (with produce or otherwise). That there’s little that feels more cleansing than getting out of my head and taking action. And finally, that beating myself up when I don’t live up to my own expectations does no good.

Have any of the rest of you learned life lessons through canning recently? I’d love to hear them if you’d like to share.

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Photos from a Tomato Canning Workshop

tomato canning workshop

The bulk of the canning classes I teach are demonstration style. This is in part because I’ve found that new canners feel more comfortable starting out by watching and learning.  It also doesn’t help that good, hands on teach space is hard to come by in the Philadelphia area.

prepping jars

Thing is, I love it when I have the opportunity to lead a hands on workshop. I only get to do one or two of those a summer, but I have so much fun when it happens. Today was a workshop day.

blanching and filling

Blooming Glen Farm hosted today’s workshop and provided 100 pounds of gorgeous red tomatoes for the canning. We blanched, peeled, acidified, packed and processed our way through every one of those tomatoes, which resulted in 52 quarts of peeled tomatoes packed in water.

full jars

 Speaking of tomatoes, I heard a couple of days ago that Lancaster Farm Fresh has a ton of organic tomatoes to move this season. They’re selling them in 25 pound boxes for just $25 a box. They have pick up locations in Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland and Washington, D.C., so this isn’t one just for my Philly-based folks. You can place an order by through this form or by calling 717-656-3533.

canning station

Last thing! We’ve got a winner in the Jars to Go Lunch Tote giveaway. Random.org has selected #164, which is Debra Meadow. Here’s how she uses her jars at lunch time, “Leftovers with a dollop of homemade sauerkraut and a jar of homemade beet kvass or kombucha. In a smaller jar I take crispy almonds and a coconut butter square for a snack.” Sounds delicious, Debra!

For those of you who didn’t win, but are still interested in getting one of these lunch totes, please know that the A Tiny Forest shop owner Kim is just one person with a sewing machine. She’s a little backed up thanks to all of you who want to buy her clever product, so please be kind and patient. I promise, your bag will be worth the wait. And, if you’re good with a sewing machine, she also sells the pattern, if you want to take a stab at making one yourself.

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Tips for Tomato Canning Season

heirloom seconds

There’s been a rapid up-tick in questions about tomato preservation in the last week, so I thought I’d take a few minutes to gather all my tomato-centric posts in one place. Before you shoot me an email with a tomato query, take a look through these posts because your answer may be there.

Canning Whole Peeled Tomatoes – A basic tutorial that will walk you through the steps of canning whole tomatoes packed in their own juices. This is my preferred method for canning tomatoes for use throughout the year.

Tomato Canning 101 – If you’re dealing with floating tomatoes, a separated product or loss of liquid during processing, read this post in order to set your worries to rest.

Did your Sungolds, grape tomatoes and cherries do really well this year? Check out this post which details five ways you can preserve small tomatoes. On the flipside, if your bigger tomatoes are doing well, here are five ways to put them up.

Last summer, I made tomato paste for the first time. I wasn’t too keen on when I first did it, but I must confess, it’s been incredibly useful throughout this year. So much so, that I’m thinking of biting the bullet and doing it again (if I’m able to get a really good deal on tomatoes in the next few weeks).

Finally, no tomato post is complete without mention of my two favorite tomato jams. The classic and the one featuring yellow tomatoes and basil. Both are delicious.

In other news, the winner of the Mountain Rose Herbs giveaway is commenter #717, Elizabeth Dalton. Thanks to all who entered!

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