This past spring, hubby and I built raised garden beds in our backyard to maximize our veggie production (okay, he did most of the work). In addition to the crazy abundance of radishes, cucumbers and zucchini, we harvested tons of tomatoes–about 30 pounds so far and loads more still on the vine.
Although nothing beats the taste of fresh homegrown tomatoes thickly sliced and sprinkled with salt and pepper, there is no way we could have eaten the buckets upon buckets upon buckets we picked every few days.
So, I turned to canning, which is really packing the goods into jars and sealing them via water bath or pressure cooking. I wonder why using jars is called canning? I always want to say “jarring” instead.
My first attempts at canning began a few years ago when we truly had an insane amount of tomatoes–about 300! I made loads of salsa with success but the tomato sauce I attempted was a dismal disaster–just a pot of brown mud, which tasted close to mud, too. I canned it anyway, but I couldn’t stomach the thought of eating that goo, so it ended up down the drain a few months later.
We then had one year of a very small tomato crop yield, but the following year I was back to salsa making. Let me tell you how frustrating it is to take time to chop, cook, pulse, and pack all the salsa into jars only to have most of them crack in the pressure cooker. ARGH! And not just once, but twice that season. Double ARGH! And that was even with me closely following the instructions for pressure canning.
This year, with our organized garden beds, we purposely attempted to grow bunches of tomatoes so I could can them. But when I took the pressure cooker out of the cupboard, which hadn’t seen light in two years, the pressure gauge was broken. So I turned to the water bath method, which I find much easier, to tell the truth.
I canned whole tomatoes, Roasted Pepper and Garlic Tomato Sauce, and Tomato Salsa. I’m so excited that I discovered several useful and informative blogs as well as tasty recipes. And even more excited that not only did the tomatoes for the recipes come from our garden, but the peppers and chiles and jalapenos as well.
Now, you don’t have to turn to canning to make these recipes. You can easily reduce the amounts and still make scrumptious sauce and salsa. However, check out my salsa post if you want a really easy and quick salsa.
I’m going to list the various sites and recipes rather than type it all out. Plus, I want to send you to people who have knowledge about canning:
And in case you are wondering, we own the Presto Pressure Cooker/Canner (really, it’s a slightly older model than this one). It’s big and useful if canning a lot at once or items not acidic in nature. Years ago, before I even met hubby, he bought it to jar his own tuna (he loves to catch big fish).
I have also used the Ball Home Canning Discovery Kit for canning jams and to do small batches of canned whole tomatoes. It holds the pint-sized jars well but it’s a bit small for the quart-sized jars.
I want to purchase the Ball 21-Quart Waterbath Canner or something similar, but I’ve just used the pressure cooker pot instead for now. And it has been much easier since I bought the Norpro Jar Lifter.
The jars I’ve purchased at Smart and Final.
And finally, if you want to read some official info about Home Canning, check out the USDA Principles of Home Canning.
It’s really not as scary as it looks to home can. And it’s quite fun. And it can be quite time-consuming, but I’m getting better and faster at it. Try jam for starters instead; it’s much easier than tomatoes simply because tomatoes require blanching and peeling first.
So, now you know how I spent one entire day during my 3-day weekend : ) But I’m so excited to see all those jars lined up and know that all that goodness came from our garden and is not chock full of preservatives.