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).

IMG_20140907_205108

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…

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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.

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.

Blueberry Jam

Back in 2010 I made two batches of blueberry lime jam, we gave most of one batch away and ate all of the other. We were quite sad when we got down to the last jar. For some reason in 2011 I didn’t make it, but I did make blackberry jam (which didn’t go over as well for whatever reason). So this year I wanted to make sure to make another batch. And I’m trying to get better at recording my notes during canning.

3 pints of blueberries yielded about 2 1/2 cups of mashed berries. I add the zest of one lime and use lime juice for my added acid. With pomona’s pectin I use the full amount of sugar, 2 cups.

Since I had 1/2 cup of mashed blueberries I decided to experiment a little bit. I also had  almost a pint of strawberries and almost a pint of raspberries from this weekend I went ahead and mashed up the remaining strawberries and about half the raspberries – this gave me 1 1/2 cups of mashed berries. I added a teaspoon of vanilla bean paste, the remainder of vanilla bean pods from a batch of vanilla sugar (plus the remaining tablespoon of sugar) and 3/4 cup of sugar. Oh and I used raspberry vinegar for my added acid. I’m geekily calling it Tri Vanilla Berry Jam.

September 21, 2012. Tags: , . preserving. Leave a comment.

Inventorying my homemade pantry

This is my third year of ‘putting up’ food for the winter. My second serious year, last year I took a bunch of notes and saved them as private blog posts (and I just edited them to be public). That has worked fairly well, since I don’t loose those notes. And now, as tomato season starts for us (surely someone else sees the irony of advertising Early Girl tomatoes the first weekend in September?)… I need to take stock of what I have left from last year.
Taking stock (IMG_6626)

  • 3 pints of salsa (orig. 7+6+7=20? pints)
  • slightly less than a bag of slow-oven roasted tomatoes
  • 3 pints of garlic dill pickles (orig. 7 pints)
  • 2 pints of dilly beans (orig. 3 pints)
  • 1 pint of lemon[y] cucumber pickles (orig. 3 pints)
  • 3 half-pints of vanilla pear jam (orig. 6 half-pints
  • 3 half-pints of blackberry jam (can’t find my notes)

Thoughts: we are almost spot on for salsa. I think we gave a couple jars away, and I know we didn’t try to “conserve” our salsa use so I’m going to aim for making three batches this year. Oddly enough the first year we made slow oven roasted tomatoes we flew them and so decided to make double the quantity, and yet we have almost half of them left over… We definitely paced ourselves in dill pickle consumption, but I don’t know why we  haven’t eaten the dilly beans. I’m skipping any pickle recipe that calls for sugar though (lemon[y] cucumber pickles were a sweet), we just don’t eat them up quickly. And the jam – the blackberry was a solid but uninteresting jam that never inspired us to make chock-full-o-jam things, and the vanilla pear I think I forgot to give a couple jars away – but I’m looking forward to adding it to yogurt with some homemade granola. I need to find my balance between pb&j jam and fun/intriguing jam.

Additionally earlier this year I put up:

  • 4 half-pints of rhubarb jelly
  • 4 half-pints of rhubarb syrup
  • 3 half-pints of rosemary rhubarb jam
  • 1 half-pint of strawberry rhubarb jam (a gift, plus about 5 oz straight to fridge)
  • 3 pints of asparagus pickles

And more to come, I have jam in the water-bath canner as I type. I need to get serious about getting our salsa and garlic-dill pickle supply canned.

September 4, 2012. Tags: , . Cooking, preserving, Thoughts. Leave a comment.

Pickles 2011

I made pickles on my own in 2009.  And again in 2010, each year I try to take notes because I always find myself stumped… which recipe did I make?  How much produce did I buy?  On Saturday I grab 5 lbs of pickling cucumbers (all small enough to fit in a pint jar whole), ~2 lbs of green beans (and hey look, tomatillos, I’ll take 3 lbs for my favorite green enchilada sauce) from the farmer’s market and planned to pickle the weekend away.

9/3/2011

First up: Garlic Dill Pickles, recipe courtesy of Food in Jars.  We made these last year, but I find myself stumped?  Black pepper, I don’t remember that, did we prefer fresh dill or dill seed?  I don’t think we noticed a difference, or if we did it wasn’t enough to be memorable.  Oh, hey we did use dried whole chiles instead of crushed red pepper – 1 per jar. But what exactly is 2 quarts of cucumbers? I decided to do a little tracking.  Using a spare dry pint box from berries I filled it 4 times and dumped the cucumbers in a big bowl set up on my scale. 39.5 oz.  I get 8 jars ready, only to realize that my water bath canner holds 7 jars.  Oh well.  And then I only manage to fill 6 of those jars (each holds 6 cucumbers when I mix slightly smaller with slightly larger cucumbers, one jar has 5 thicker cucumbers).  So I grab 7 more cucumbers, quickly scrub and prep them (I cut both ends off because I worry I’ll mistake a blossom end for a stem end). This year we are aiming for a few spicier jars and add 2 chiles to 3 of the jars.  I do have some extra brine… oh well.

Garlic Dill Pickles: 41 cucumbers (not quite 3 lbs) in 7 pint jars.

Second batch: Cucumber Pickles with Lemon from The Complete Book of Small Batch Preserving.  Calls for 2 lbs of pickles (and I have 30 oz remaining).  Wish I had started sooner since the cucs need to be salted and sit for 3 hours.  I didn’t believe that the cucumber slices would fit in three jars so I prepped four jars and upped the brine (vinegar, lemon juice, sugar and spices by 1 1/3) only to have it all fit perfectly in 3 jars.

Third Batch: Dilly Beans from Food in Jars, with a slight modification to the brine (following the Ball Complete Guide… brine ratio so I used 2 1/2 T of salt instead of 4 T that Marissa called for).  2 lbs of green beans probably could have filled 4 jars, but I prepped three jars.  Ooops, processed them for 10 minutes instead of 5.

September 4, 2011. Tags: , , . preserving. Leave a comment.

Blueberry Lime Jam Notes (2010)

I first heard of Blueberry Lime jam on the Little Red Bike Blog. Then PDX Knitterati mentioned it. I had to make it. Batch #1 was a half-batch, just 3 half-pints. But it confirmed – this was a must-make jam. I did make it a bit more lime-centric, using a full lime’s worth of zest instead of half a lime’s zest.

Batch #2 was a full-batch, but still small, 5 half-pints (I really thought I’d manage a 6th jar, but it was only half-full). To get 4 cups of mashed blueberries I had to mash about 7 cups of whole blueberries. I used Pomona’s Pectin , the full sugar amount (2 cups), lime juice and the zest from one lime.

Time: cleaning berries started at 8 pm, full jars went in the canner at 11:30 pm…

September 3, 2011. Tags: , , , . preserving. 1 comment.

Salsa 2010 notes

We purchased 15 lbs of canning tomatoes and 1 pint basket of jalapenos for our salsa canning adventure.

After pouring over countless recipes, worrying about vinegar versus lemon juice and the wide range of vinegar additions (necessary due to the questionable acidity level of the tomatoes combined with the low-acid peppers, onions and other salsa additions) we settled on Spicy Tomato Salsa (page 205) from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine.

Some things we want to remember: Our 15 lbs of tomatoes yielded 21 cups of diced tomatoes (after blanching, peeling and coring). We used 12 cups for the salsa and froze the remaining in 2 cups increments. We used 4 chile negros and 5 guajillo chiles for the the dried chiles in the salsa and left the seeds in one jalapeno. Our yield was 8 pints and 1 half-pint. (I’ve yet to have a spot-on yield from this book.)

It took like 2 1/2 hours to go from raw, unprepped ingredients to salsa in a pot. Another 30 or 40 minutes to bring it to a boil. And finally 3 hours 45 minutes from starting (or maybe 3 hours 15 minutes) the filled cans are in the canning pot.

September 3, 2011. Tags: , , , . preserving. Leave a comment.

Pickle Notes (2010)

I could have sworn I made notes of my canning efforts last year – which recipes, and what sorts of spicing modifications that I made, but of course now I can’t find that.

When Beth/Bookishbiker posted this zucchini recipe it caught my eye (I had some great pickles seasoned with tumeric earlier this summer at a pizza place). So when I didn’t get around to making dinner with some zucchini I decided to go ahead and make them. Once I started the recipe I realized how much sugar was in the recipe – yup, it tastes a lot like bread and butter pickles. That is okay though. And in classic fashion my yield is off from the recipe yeild. I packed 3 pints jars plus one very full 1/2 pint jar – I probably should have packed the zucchini and onion slices looser in 4 pint jars. Oh well.

And I knew I wanted to make sweet spiced pickled beets again, but I also knew I didn’t want to make last years recipe since that turned out way too sweet. I’m 90% sure I used the Small Batch preserving recipe. So this year I tried the Ball Guide to Home Preservation recipe with my addition of ginger to the spices. But how much ginger did I use last year? Drats. So I decided to add just over 1/2 tablespoon of the dried, cracked ginger. I bought 2 bunches of beets at the Farmer’s Market (with oodles of golf ball size beets instead of the 4 or so larger beets that I see so often) I know it wasn’t the 10 lbs the recipe called for, but I was okay tossing a bit of brine (better than scrambling to boil a second batch of brine like I did last year). I thought I’d end up with about 4 pints. I ended up with 2 pints. Which might be a problem, since my mom has asked for some for christmas. Last year she actually mixed her plain canned beets with my pickled beets and said that created the perfect sweet-level of brine. Here’s hoping this brine recipe is a winner.

And finally: stop trying to process more than one type of pickle in an evening. Or at least pay attention to processing times before you are 3/4 the way through the process. That is when I realized that my zucchini jars only need to boil for 10 minutes while my beets need to boil for 30 minutes. The mom suggestion was to just take the zucchini out sooner.

September 3, 2011. Tags: , , , , , , . preserving. Leave a comment.

Third Pickle Round (2010)

We’ve been on the hunt for the perfect pickle recipe. Since I managed to find more small pickling cucs at the Farmer’s Market last weekend I gave another recipe a try. I ended up buying 1 3/4 lbs of very small cucumbers and using Food in Jar’s Garlic Dill Pickles recipe (http://www.foodinjars.com/2009/08/garlic-dill-pickles/) I made 5 pints of pickles. I actually reduced the brine by 3/4 and that made almost the perfect amount for my 5 jars with just a tad leftover. It is so nice to not frantically be making a 2nd small batch of brine to fill that last jar.

How many jars of pickles do I have now?
-5 pints cucumber garlic-dills
-2 pints sweet & spiced beets
-3 pints bread & butter zucchinis
-3 pints dilly beans
-2 quarts refrigerator dill cucumbers

and hopefully by the end of the day 2 pints (or halfpints) of sweet & spiced pear pickles

September 3, 2011. Tags: , , . preserving. Leave a comment.

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