Canning – Take 1

Hello all.  If you read my last post you’ll recall that Virginia is in the midst of a relentless and unbearable heat wave.  Of course when it’s 106 outside you should definitely boil several gallons of water, several times in a 10×10 kitchen over a period of about six hours.  Clearly the heat has caused my better judgment to leave me entirely.  But there you have it.  Yesterday at the farmer’s market I talked to a farmer who pulls out tomato “seconds” and sells them at a reduced price for canning and making sauce and whatnot.  I bought 20 pounds on a whim.

I spent today in a steamy kitchen coring and peeling tomatoes; chopping onions and cilantro; seeding and chopping cucumbers and various peppers; and trying to remember not to touch my eye with a finger recently in contact with said peppers.  (Yes, at least once a year I scratch the corner of my eye or adjust my contact with a finger replete with jalapeno juice.  The stuff stays on your hands a long time, even after washing.  Ouch)!

If you have an interest in canning I recommend the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  There are great recipes for jams, jellies, chutneys, pickles and salsas.  Today I chose the Fiesta Salsa so I could use up some cucumbers in addition to the tomatoes and peppers.  If you’re new to canning read the instructions carefully.  The goal is to preserve food without the need for refrigeration, but also without botulism.  Hot water bath canning requires a certain level of acidity so the measurements are important.  This is not a place to make substitutions or otherwise monkey with the recipe.

One note.  I  always feel a little guilty about all the water I use when I’m canning tomatoes.  You need one large pot to blanch; one large pot of ice water to loosen the skins; and one huge pot to do the actual canning.  It’s a LOT of water.  To make sure the water isn’t wasted I just leave it overnight in the pots so that it cools completely and then I carry it out to the garden for watering.  The blanching water will have little remnants of tomato, but that won’t hurt anything.

So, here’s the equation for today:  98 degree kitchen + 20 lbs of tomatoes + 6 hours on your feet = 11 pints of salsa.

Stay tuned, because as the title indicates this is just take 1.  The big tomato canning day is still to come and likely one more as well.

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