Tomato Preserving 2014

I survived Tomato Week! Two Sundays ago I bought a 25 lb box of roma tomatoes from my usual farmer’s market booth. One thing I’ve learned is that I need to spread out the tomatoes to insure that I can target those mostly likely to spoil first, and weed out any spoiled tomatoes (I found one at the bottom of the box, it had taken out one neighbor, but due to my quick check no other tomatoes were spoiled).

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I started with salsa – a pantry staple in our house, and we just haven’t been thrilled with so many of the store bought options. A friend mentioned that she tried the Mrs Wages salsa mix and it was easy and tasty. So, when I saw a medium version on sale at the store I grabbed a pouch. I also decided not to make more than one batch of any given recipe – last year I made two of a favorite recipe and was plain tired of it by early summer (however we nailed our salsa consumption – I have one pint leftover from last year and that is only because, around May we started conserving and bought two jars from the store in anticipation of running out).

5 lbs of tomatoes plus the Mrs. Wages pouch of dried vegetables and spices became 5 pints of salsa. It had a crazy long processing time, but I wasn’t confident enough to not listen. (40 minutes – I have a plain chopped tomato recipe that only calls for 35 minutes, and my other recipes call for 15 or 20 minutes). On first taste it was pretty good, but perhaps a touch salty.

5 lbs of tomatoes turned into 10 cups of coarsely chopped tomatoes for our usual Simple ‘House’ Salsa from Ball Complete Guide became 5 pints of salsa (4 pints sealed, 1 pint went to the fridge with a bout a cup left over). This year I used 5 large jalapenos with all their seeds (which the food processor turned into about 1 1/4 cups of chopped jalapeno) instead of the called for green or red bell pepper.

6 lbs of tomatoes turned into 12 cups of coarsely chopped tomatoes for our usual Spicy Tomato Salsa from Ball Complete Guide became 7 pints of salsa (with about 2 tablespoons leftover). This year I used 2 dried chipotles, 1 dried chile negro and 6 dried chile gaujillos. I used lots of gaujillos simply because I only wanted to buy one packet of dried chiles from the store (the dried chipotles and chile negro were leftover from last year). I seeded half the fresh jalapenos.

2 lbs of tomatoes turned into the Blender Salsa from Marissa McCellan’s new Preserving by the Pint. I got just over the stated 4 half-pint yield. I considered processing it in our usual pint jars but was worried about processing time so I stuck to the half-pints. My first thoughts are that it is very tomato-y and lime-y. I might try adding some fresh, chopped cilantro when we open a jar since we are big cilantro fans.

Just shy of 5 lbs of tomatoes went in the oven, slow roasting. They turned into 9.35 oz of tomatoes and are stored in a ziplock in the freezer.

So 18 lbs of tomatoes turned into 18+ pints of salsa. 5 lbs of tomatoes went to the freezer and we have 4 tomatoes left (3/4 lb).

Other notes: With the exception of the Blender Salsa I hand chop all the tomatoes. It goes surprisingly fast, or at least faster than I think it should (about 20 minutes for 5-6 lbs). This year I also hand chopped my onion, but I use the food processor to chop my jalapenos (just a few pulses does it) because the less I have to handle them the better (maybe one day I will have disposable gloves that fit and then I can compare hand chopped versus food processor).

I’m really excited that this year I managed to get through the whole box of tomatoes in less than a week. Now I have to decide, do I want to buy another 25 lb box? It would be nice to make a second batch of oven roasted tomatoes, and there was a tomato jam recipe I wanted to make… I could maybe see adding another batch of salsa, plus I could make some chopped tomatoes, maybe some rotel-style tomatoes for chili this winter and maybe finally try my hand at whole, peeled tomatoes…

September 17, 2014. Tags: , . preserving. 2 comments.

Preserving: Lemony Strawberry Jam 1.0

There is a booth at the Farmer’s market that makes the best stuff, she was a big inspiration that got me past the awful, heat and humidity filled childhood memories of canning with my mom (I mean, I’m thankful I have a mom that makes stuff, that taught me to make stuff, I just had no fun canning back then, in a midwest kitchen with no A/C). The downside, (never mind the price which I’m happy to pay as a treat) she only sells at one market, the huge crazy, shuffle your feet because you are surrounded by people on all four sides market downtown. Instead we tend to frequent the surrounding neighborhood markets that are smaller and slightly less crowded.

Back to the jam. Until now I’ve avoided trying to recreate her strawberry-lemon jam (or is it marmalade, I think it is more jam than marmalade, obviously I need to buy another jar to taste-test). But we bought half a flat of strawberries last week, ate the first pint as a road trip snack and the second as strawberry shortcake. 4 pints left for jam and a bag of organic lemons in the fridge.

lemony strawberry jam

I’m really into making my jam with Pomona’s Pectin. The basic recipes included are lower in sugar than most jams, but then I browse my other books for flavor-boosting variations. This is how I make our blueberry-lime jam. And so it is where I started for the strawberry-lemon jam of my dreams. 4 cups mashed strawberries (my 4 pints weighed in ~36 oz and gave me just shy of 2 cups – I tossed a small handful of frozen berries in to reach that mark), 2 cups sugar (max amount is still so much lower than my Ball book), juice of one lemon, zest of 2 lemons, the calcium water and pectin. Yield was 5 half-pints (and one spoonful for slurping). While I did lick the spoon, the spatula, the jar funnel and the pan once it cooled I don’t think it is the jam of my dreams.

An aside: anyone know how to get strawberry jam to not have those aesthetically marring air bubbles?

June 12, 2014. Tags: , , . preserving. 1 comment.

Me Made May 2014

Last year I participated in Me Made May by wearing at least one me-made handmade item of clothing a day. I fell off the photo wagon at some point and stopped documenting the project on my blog. But I managed all but one day IIRC.

This year May snuck up on me. I never actually pledged to do this challenge. I didn’t even think I made any new garments since last May (but I had, plus finished a couple things). But once I realized it was May 1st and an unseasonal scorcher of a day I decided to grab a me-made top, my Colette Sorbetto (probably never documented) made out of some Lisette for JoAnn’s cotton lawn (I think). The first time I cut out Sorbetto I cut entirely the wrong size and it was horrible on me – this top, might need a little tweaking but I think the fit is decent though I’m not entirely sure how to style it since wearing snug t-shirts is such a default for me. Store bought shorts and flip-flops did the job today.

So belatedly, I, Anotheryarn, sign up as a participant of Me-Made-May ’14. I endeavor to wear one me-made garment each day for the duration of May 2014.

May 1, 2014. Tags: . Me Made May. 1 comment.

One Community: April

I’ve been meaning to try out this One Community photo project for a while now In the words of AfricanKelli:

One Community is a monthly photo project in which participants photograph their homes and communities with a theme in mind. The theme varies by month. The goal is to both showcase similarities and differences in our communities worldwide – and bring us all closer together in understanding through art.

April’s words are: Spring, Purple, Flowers and Rise. This month’s link-up is hosted on Sarah’s (Beauty School Dropout) blog. Last week I grabbed my camera while I took the dog for a longer than usual walk. Spring has sprung here and we are having unusually sunny weather.

One Community April
Flowering tree on my block

One Community April
Grape Hyacinths in a neighbor’s yard. I also love the moss covered rock.

One Community April
My grandmother had camellia bushes growing in front of her house my whole life, it wasn’t until a few years ago that I realized they bloom at all because most of my visits were in the summer and fall.

One Community April
I think Camellia’s are more of a winter/early spring bloom as they’ve been blooming for a while now and are decidedly on their way out by April.

One Community April
I really need to remember to plant some hyacinths this fall. I might actually stop sticking my nose into other neighbors flowers if I had some of my own.

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On our Saturday morning walk I was super excited to see that the Trilliums had started blooming.

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I’m always trying to get a photo to capture how massive the trees are. These are in a park near my house.

 

And I might have had the Sunset Western Garden Book in my lap while I wrote this to confirm flower names and spellings.

April 9, 2014. Tags: , . Life, Thoughts. 6 comments.

WIPW: Green Grandpa Cardigan

I started this cardigan for that knitting challenge knitters do during the Olympic Games. Except I barely watched the Olympics, started knitting a week late, etc. Anyway, I was planning on making the Baby Sophisticate cardigan pattern for a while, and this January the right yarn came into my hands – except it wasn’t the right yarn when I realized that I should make a 2T size. Since it was a simple pattern I decided to mash-up this pattern with another that had my gauge and sizing (not to mention I’ve made several top-down raglans, so I have the construction down – I just needed some assistance with sizing). I’m not entirely sure I’m on the mark for size but we shall see. I’ve done a little bit of work on this since the photo was taken – but I’m stuck waiting for the right buttons so I can make sure my buttonholes are the right size.

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Meanwhile I have finished two things, the granny circle stool cover and I finally hemmed a skirt that has been kicking around my sewing space unhemmed for at least 2 (make that 2 1/2) years. And I think I managed to clear my sewing/cutting table which is helping boost productivity (I hemmed the skirt and a pair of pj pants for a friend).

April 2, 2014. Tags: , . Knitting. 2 comments.

WIPW: Crocheted Stool Cozy

This project has been percolating in my brain since I saw this stool covered with a granny-round cover three years ago. Three years ago (pin to prove it)! Of course at the time I didn’t have lots of brightly colored yarn scraps in the same weight (I flit about yarn the same way I flit about projects, I’m all over the map). At the beginning of this year a friend was destashing yarn and gave me these balls of worsted weight Nature Spun yarn.
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And this weekend I decided it was time. Being stuck on the couch all day due to feeling ill had something to do with it… I’m almost done, but surprised at how long an outer round is taking. Since I’m not comfortable enough with crochet to wing it and expect my piece to come out flat and round I went searching on Ravelry for a pattern. I found this Granny Mandala pattern that seemed like the best fit. Monday night I thought I was done with the top and so I lightly steam blocked it. Nope, not done yet. And that is how my pile of WIP grows.

granny stool cover

March 12, 2014. Crochet. 2 comments.

WIPW: Perfect is better than done?

No it isn’t… but my brain keeps trying to tell me that. I have too many works in progress. Each time I try to count them I loose track, and if I attempt to put them all on the sewing table it gets buried and takes forever to unbury it. Here is one of many WIP. I’m trying to whittle them done and not start new projects (but I have two I’ve mentally started anyway).

wonky cross blocks pillow top

This will be a pillow top that coordinates with a pillow that I finished two years ago and cut out three years ago. I had 7 extra blocks, so I made 9 more. I had to get a little creative with that red dot since I was running out of it. And then I went and decided that I couldn’t live with the blobby pinwheel in the center of the top so I had to rip three seams and reassemble it (lesson: layout before seaming blocks). I’m still not really happy with it, but am calling close-enough. Now to find my stash of crummy fabric to use on the back of my pillow-top quilt sandwich.

March 5, 2014. Tags: , . quilting. 5 comments.

How many socks in a pair?

I have this horrible curse of knitting three heels every time I make a pair of socks. This go round I actually knit three whole socks to get a pair. But the good news is it only took me 6 months to knit a pair of socks instead of my usual 12 months.

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Pattern: Go With the Flow Socks by Evelyn A. Clark from Favorite Socks
warning: despite being a republished pattern my copy still had errata (the number of stitches for the heel – which meant, yup I knit four heels)
Yarn: Cascade Heritage Solids in white – the final two socks weigh in at 62 grams total.

I started these socks this spring after my mom requested handknit socks she could wear with her sneakers. Of course I did a gauge swatch and determined I needed to find a pattern that used 60 stitches around instead of 64. I actually started knitting Hedera first, but for the second time it wasn’t working for me, then I settled on this pattern. It has a super simple repeat (4 rows and 6 stitches). The first sock knit up quickly and I actually thought these could become a mother’s day gift. Ha.

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Can you see what went wrong? I hated knitting these socks with 4 dpns so after I finished the first sock I bought a new set of needles and cast on for the second sock. But it took forever for me to get ahold of another pair of 2.0 mm needles. I eventually settled on a set of KP Harmony dpns. Finally in July I kitchenered the second toe. I had been counting rows like crazy to make sure the socks would be the same size. One seemed a bit smaller, I counted again and my numbers matched so I figured it block out. I tried the socks on and then I knew there was no way these socks made a pair – one was significantly smaller than the other! It took me over two weeks to realize that the difference between Clover bamboo 2.0 mm dpns and KP Harmony 2.0 mm dpns were the culprit. And then I couldn’t find the Clover dpns, I had managed to loose them in my house, and none of the stores near me carried them. Eventually I found a pair across town. And eventually I knit the third sock. And it matched the first! (Also I learned if I’m monogamous with my knitting, and pick it up everyday I can knit a sock in less than a month.)

November 19, 2013. Tags: , . Knitting. 3 comments.

WIPW: Aerial Quilt

In May I was able to take a class from Carolyn Friedlander about [foundation] paper piecing at Modern Domestic. The pattern/project for class was Carolyn’s Aerial quilt pattern. As written it can be a table topper, a wall hanging, a throw or a full/queen bed quilt. I love when pattern writers take the time to give us multiple quilt sizes (and their yardage requirements). The class happened the day after I got back in town from a week+ trip. Before the trip I pulled some fabric possibilities, but I forgot to finalize my decision until I arrived home the night before class (I left myself no time to start second guess, or shop obsessively for the “perfect” pieces). With my sister’s help I settled on the blue & grey selection and I love every piece that I choose (most purchased just because). I even tossed in a couple “my precious” pieces.

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I did a couple b&w shots to help me with value variation and started piecing. I think I finished two blocks during class.

Untitled (phone shot in class after I grouped strips into blocks)

The week after class I was super excited about the project and worked on a block a night for a few nights. Then I had 5 out of the 6 blocks needed and it languished. I finished that 6th block over the weekend. But I’m not sure it should be a wall hanging anymore.

Should it be a table runner for my new rectangular table?

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(how long are table runners supposed to be anyway?)

A wall hanging? Or should I make 30 more blocks so it can be a throw? Do I attempt to bed-size it?

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(that is laying on the unmade bed of the guest room, I think the wall color is blue, but it looks minty in certain lights).

I never bought the border fabric, so while that is an undecided factor, it opens up possibilities instead of limiting them due to fabric quantity. I estimate that if I cut up the rest of the fabric (I cut one to two strips from each print initially) I need about one more yard to have enough for 30 more blocks. But I found that last block sort of tedious to make (there is one seam I find myself ripping and redoing 2-3 times per block). What if I hate making them after a few more blocks? Does it really work for my house? Do I just want to be done with the project? What sort of end project will I find most functional in my home?

September 11, 2013. Tags: , , . quilting. 3 comments.

Tomato Preserving 2013

There is still time. Every year I take notes, but never feel like I get them done in time to publish this. Because when I started canning, recipes that list things like “12 cups of chopped tomato” aren’t very helpful while I’m at the market trying to buy the correct amount. Also, I tend to lose paper notes. But I hope someone finds this helpful.

Last week (8/25) I bought a 20 lb box of organic roma tomatoes. And throughout the week I worked on processing them with a friend of mine. They sat until Tuesday, at which point I took them out of the box and put them in a single layer* on three sheet pans (two half-sheets and one jelly-roll). On Wednesday I blanched and chopped 12 pounds in preparation for 2 batches of salsa (I divided these as I went). On Thursday I chopped everything else for those two batches, then cooked and processed one batch. On Friday I cooked and processed the second batch. And now its Sunday night and I started oven-dried tomatoes (4 1/8 lbs fit on my jelly roll pans that fit in my small oven). Sometimes starting a canning project can be daunting so I break it into chunks (a tip from Food in Jars blog). I had friends staying with me so we tried to fit canning amongst about-the-town and entertain-the-kiddos time. Another friend of mine powered through her box in one night.

Salsa pic

The short notes

  • 6 lbs tomatoes becomes 12 cups of tomatoes becomes 7 pints of Spicy Tomato Salsa from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.  I seeded 2 jalapenos, used 4 with seeds, I used 1/2 cup of the dried-chile water to puree. Initial taste tests suggest an extra spicy version this year.
  • 5 lbs tomatoes becomes 10 cups of tomatoes becomes 5 pints of House Tomato Salsa from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. I used 5 jalapenos with seeds instead of the green bell pepper and hot sauce. Initial taste tests suggest an extra spicy version this year.
  • 4 lbs tomatoes on their way to oven-dried goodness. This gets stored in the freezer – I highly recommend having these to perk up fall, winter, spring and early summer meals.
  • approximately 3 lbs haven’t met their fate yet.
  • We probably ate a pound with meals.

* This box came home on the under ripe side. Last year a lost several tomatoes because they went bad in the box and contaminated other tomatoes (“one rotten apple spoils the bunch” has merit) so this year I spread everything out. Keeping them on sheet pans made it easy to move as we dealt with other cooking tasks (like blackberry jam and dinner).

And now this week I came home from the market with 10 lbs of tomatillos. Salsa verde is in my near future. And next week I plan to split a 20 lb box of romas with a friend.

September 1, 2013. Tags: , , . preserving. 5 comments.

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