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Saturday, February 23, 2013

Mom/Preservationist…The big weekend canning project!

I posted the other week about Bountiful Baskets and how much fruit and vegetables I have been getting from them. Not only do the baskets themselves give you lots of produce, but the add-ons are often too good to resist. 25 pounds of mixed citrus for $15?! 25 pounds of Roma tomatoes for $12? Yes please! Well the problem with buying all this stuff is that you have to use it before it goes bad, so this weekend, surrounded by citrus, tomatoes and plenty of other great stuff over-running our kitchen, Tim and I rolled up our sleeves and got canning.

I used to be a reluctant canner, jam and the occasional pickle would be all I would can. Fear of botulism kept me from getting too into canning. However, last winter, realizing we would be moving by spring and needing to use up the dozen chicken carcasses in our freezer I let Tim talk me into making and canning chicken stock. 19 quarts of it. Once safely through my first pressure canning experience I lost my fear of it. This past summer we expanded our pressure canning repertoire and canned 14 quarts of whole tomatoes. There is something so reassuring about pulling out big glass jars of produce you put up. And I know exactly what is in it: tomatoes, lemon juice and salt. End of story. Except for the jars in which we added some oregano and rosemary.

So back to this weekend wherein we have several flats of empty jars, two canners and mountains of produce.

A quick note on my canners. The one on the left is my mother's Presto aluminum canner from the 1970's. Still works great, unless you need to water bath process quart jars, it is a little too shallow for that. The one on the right is my brand new All American heavy cast aluminum pressure canner/cooker that the best Christmas present ever fairy brought me this Christmas. Works great, it is slower to come up to pressure than the smaller Presto, but quicker to cool down, and as anyone who pressure cans know, half the time of the project is spent building up pressure and bringing it back down again.

Tim started out working on tomatoes. We got a 25 pound box of Roma Tomatoes so we decided to make sauce and to try a batch of homemade ketchup. The recipe for the ketchup comes from “The Homemade Pantry: 101 foodsyou can stop buying and start making.” by Alana Chernila. This book was a recent purchase to go along with the recent direction our cooking and eating is taking, (but that’s another blog post) and is my new favorite cook book.

Tim seeded and cored the tomatoes and cooked them down with onion, garlic and spices. After a good run through with the immersion blender and the addition of vinegar, brown sugar and molasses we had ketchup. One recipe uses 6 pounds of tomatoes (we might have used a little more) and we got 3 quarts of ketchup plus a little left over that went straight into the fridge.

Now for the critique of homemade ketchup. This recipe is heavily spiced. We ended up adding extra brown sugar and molasses to get a more ‘ketchupy’ taste. Tim really likes the finished product. I think it tastes more like the base for an Indian sauce then actual ketchup. I could see it as the start to a good butter chicken sauce. Still, it was a good experiment and hey, how many people can say they made their own ketchup?

Homemade (spiced) Ketchup

From “The Homemade Pantry” by Alana Chernila.

2 T olive oil, 1 C diced onion, 5 garlic cloves, minced

6 pounds ripe tomatoes: peeled, seeded and cored. (We did not peel and it turned out fine)

3 t kosher salt

1 T paprika, 1 t ground cinnamon, ¼ t ground cloves, 1 T celery salt (we used celery seed)

½ t ground cumin, ¼ t dry mustard, 1 ½ T chili powder, ½ t ground pepper

¼ C apple cider vinegar & ¼ C white vinegar

1 T brown sugar, 1 T honey (we also added molasses)

Canning specific instructions: ½” headspace, water bath process for 30 minutes.

Now that the ketchup was out of the way we started on tomato sauce. We saved the insides of the tomatoes we used for ketchup and added those in with more of the tomatoes, plus onion, garlic, bay leaf and oregano and cooked it all down. Salt and lemon juice were added to up the acidity and we ladled the sauce into quart jars. The tomato sauce we pressure canned at 15 pounds of pressure for 45 minutes. I think that was actually a little long, but we are at a higher elevation here (around 4000 ft) and we added the extra time just to be safe.  

This weekend project is being split into two posts due to length and my inability to sit at the computer for more than 5 minutes without a child meltdown. More on canning and the marmalade project soon!

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