It’s best to say YES when Jessica proposes a culinary project. It’s what I did when she said that we should be canning tomatoes. A look at our calendars, a call to Riverdog Farm, a visit to the store to stock up on canning supplies and we were ready to process five large boxes of 2013 Early Girl tomatoes. Come and can with us!
This is the second time that we managed to put a whole day aside to turn some 125+ lbs of tomatoes into 35 quarts of precious, delicious and hopefully long-lasting tomato sauce. Last time around we weren’t all that organized – it was our first time, after all – but at least we didn’t infect anybody with botulism! This year we supported our efforts with what my mom views as an indispensable tomato sauce processing machine: the Flotte Lotte. It’s a hand-operated food-mill that allows you to peel and deseed large amounts of cooked tomatoes without having to use your hands and thereby risk burning your fingers. And if you think that peels and seeds don’t matter, just ask any Italian: she will turn up her nose if there are any traces of either in a tomato sauce.
Canning tomatoes isn’t that difficult but mistakes can have severe consequences, so we highly recommend you follow detailed instructions from an authoritative source on the subject such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation. We washed, quartered and cooked the tomatoes in batches in heavy pots to avoid burning. We then used the Flotte Lotte to remove peels and seeds and returned the strained sauce to the pots to simmer further. How long you keep it simmering is a matter of how much time you have . . . we simmered the pots of sauce for at least two to three hours, but they could have gone for longer. Once we were satisfied with the consistency, we filled batches of sterilized Ball glass jars with a little lemon juice and lots of sauce, cleaned the jar rim, covered jars with lids, turned the bands to “finger-tight” and carefully submerged the jars into boiling water, one by one. After a generous 40 minutes of a rolling boil – this is where we’re eliminating any bad bacteria – we removed the jars from the canning pot and let them cool. We were serenaded by a string of “pops” as the jars sealed and, thus, readied themselves for winter.
While I grew up with my mom canning all sorts of fruits and vegetables, I had never partaken in this type of kitchen pursuit in my own home. Which is exactly why I delved into the idea wholeheartedly. I wanted to learn something new. If canning is your calling, buy a Flotte Lotte and get busy in the kitchen. If, however, this post is not feeding your inner canning fire, then find something else that’s new for you – ideally in the kitchen – and give it a try. It’s fun, it stimulates your brain and you will learn something new. Either way, you won’t regret it. Come and cook with us!