Wednesday, August 5, 2009

once again, tomatoes

The first time I decided to preserve food was a complete fiasco. Honestly I don't know why I have been addicted to it ever since. My roommate and I decided that jars of homemade apple butter would be a great gift for all of our friends and family for Christmas. We tried a few recipes in small batches and took aspects of a few to make our "ultimate" recipe. Then we multiplied the recipe by 9, which by our calculations would yield about 35 jars. It was ambitious, we knew. But we had access to her parent's very large kitchen, canning tools and we had even convinced Cristina to help. Fifty pounds of apples and 16 hours of stirring later, we had 90 jars of apple butter to deal with. It took two days of stirring to cook it all down. At one point, we had 4 large pots on the stove, plus another one bubbling away on a camp stove. Abby got a nasty burn on her chest from apple splatter, and by the end of the weekend we never wanted to talk about apple butter again. At least it turned out delicious.
So, what did we learn? Apparently not much because the following year, I got a desperate call from Abby while I was on vacation. She was up to her elbows in orange slices for marmalade and needed 20 more pounds of sugar, stat.
And a year after that, Cristina and I thought it would be splendid to make peach jam for each of our guests as a wedding favor. We're celebrating our two year anniversary soon, and we are finally down to 2 jars.

On the plus side, I have canned tomatoes for three years in a row. I basically live for tomato season, and having a few precious jars to open in the middle of the winter is a sacred tradition. My sister and I have become quite the jam makers. Our pickles need some fine tuning, but the pickled green beans were awesome.

It turns out that doing smaller batches more frequently is more fun. So last weekend I bought 1 case of dry-farmed Early Girls from Dirty Girl Farms and made some tomato sauce. About 2 of the 22 pounds were very small, not worth peeling, and those I turned into fresh salsa.

Details for canning tomatoes coming tomorrow. Stay tuned.

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