Saturday, September 17, 2011

It's Tomato Day!

I don't do all my tomato canning in one day, but I do reserve one day a year for buying a 1/2 bushel of tomatoes and making sauce.  Given that every single other Saturday this month is filled with canning classes and demos*, this was the chosen day.  Here's a couple logistical tips for canning a lot of tomatoes by yourself:

1.  Bring a little cart on wheels for hefting those tomatoes through the farmer's market.  I use a luggage dolly thingie with a cardboard box strapped to it.  It looks ridiculous when it's empty, but it's no fun carrying 24 lbs. of tomatoes through the whole market. You'll be lifting plenty of jars and heavy pots later.

2.  Use your sink.  I don't know about you, but I don't have bowl big enough to hold this amount of tomatoes.  So make use of your (sparkling clean) sink!  Another option: turn your cake-holder tupperware thing upside down and use it as a bowl.

3.  Make sure you weigh or measure your tomatoes carefully.  Don't count on that 1/2 bushel to be exactly 24 lbs.- Following safe, tested recipes and the proportions they call for is really important in avoiding killing anyone with your canned goods.  On that same note: Please don't skip the lemon juice (or citric acid)  in your canned tomatoes.

4.  Make sure you have a pot that's big enough.  This one barely cuts it and it holds 8 quarts.  I often end up splitting my tomato sauce into two pans the same size and putting a half recipe in each.  Once the sauce has reduced, I can combine them so that all the jars taste consistent.

5.  If you must blanch tomatoes for your recipe, for goodness sake, don't use up all the ice in your freezer cooling the tomatoes down.  You're going to need that ice for your drinks while you can!  Use the sink again- Fill it with cold water and add a couple ice packs (the kind you use in coolers) to keep the water chilled even when you're adding boiling hot blanched tomatoes to the sink.

6.  If you can avoid it, skip blanching and peeling tomatoes.  I'm a little bit in love with my food mill for making sauce and juice. You just have to heat up your tomatoes quickly and completely, letting them all soften.  Then crank the food mill around a few million times and you have a lovely, smooth tomato sauce (or thick juice, depending on the size insert in your food mill).  Don't think you can skip a step and just smash raw tomatoes through this baby.  You'll end up with what's called a "cold break" in your tomato juice.  That's where the juice and the solids separate and there's no way you're going to win at the state fair with a jar like that.

*I have some fun canning events coming up!  
Saturday, Sept. 24, 2011 I'll be at Warners' Stellian in St. Paul teaching folks to can pickled green beans.  Just click the link to get registration info.  I'm really excited about teaching canning at a home appliance store, especially since this store is like a second home to me after my year of broken appliances.  Warners' Stellian saved me every time (and they're not paying me to say this).

I'll also be at the Minneapolis Farmers Market on October 1, demonstrating how to make pickled Indian-spiced carrots.  These carrots are sweet, spicy, tangy and crazy addictive.


Catherine Weber said...

What time is your thing at the Farmer's Market?

Anonymous said...

Why did you buy tomatoes?! Don't you have tomatoes coming out of your ears from your garden?


Liz said...

Catherine- I think it's at 10:30 am.

Courtney- Seems crazy, right?! I had abut 8-10 lbs. from the garden, but needed lots more for a giant batch of sauce and 2 batches of salsa.