Canning; or, what I did with 40 lbs of tomatoes

A friend asked me if I’d talk a little about this, so here it goes.

This was my second year canning. Last year I did just salsas. This year? I branched out a little. And scaled up.

Honestly, canning isn’t hard, if you can follow directions. If you like to wing it, or figure it out as you go along, canning likely isn’t for you. Botulism is a real concern for home canners, and you should follow directions carefully. For that reason, I’m not going to write out any recipes here. I can’t add anything to the conversation about how to properly can, so I’m not going to even try.

The only two plants in my garden this year that produced anything were the jalapenos. Everything else was a waste of water. So this means all my hopes of canning my own tomatoes were down the drain.

I started with a shopping bag full of roma tomatoes from a coworker. She had mentioned at some point that they usually get overwhelmed, and I offered to gladly take them off her hands. I added another 25 lbs from the farmers market. This is what 25 lbs of roma tomatoes looks like:

It was pretty easy for me to come up with ideas of what to do with everything. I actually think the hard part was picking which ideas to follow through on.

This is what I ended up with:

So, what did I make?

I honestly don’t remember what the “? salsa” was. Well, I remember it was “leftovers” of at least two salsas, but I think a third recipe might have been in there.

Tomato Salsa-Slicing and the Peach-Apple Salsa are good solid salsa recipes from the University of Wisconsin-Extension Cooperative (pdf warning).

The Sweent n spicy tomato jam recipe came from White on Rice. It’s really tasty, even if I’m not sure what I’m going to do with it.

For the diced tomatoes, I followed use real butter’s directions. This was the only recipe I messed up this year. Seriously. And this is probably the easiest recipe out of the lot. It wasn’t until the jars were in the boiling water that I remembered that I didn’t add lemon juice. *sigh* So when they were done and cool enough to handle, I re-canned them in clean jars AND new lids, this time with lemon juice. There will be no dying of botulism in this house!

The plain tomato sauce recipe also came from use real butter. I could have put spices/herbs in it, but we decided against that so that the sauce will be more versatile when we actually go to use it.

The tomato butter recipe is another one that I’m not sure what I’m actually going to do with. But it’s tasty. And I’m glad I made it. This one came from Food in Jars.

The Hot Giardiniera Pickled Peppers was a bitch to make. The recipe, yet again, came from use real butter. I told the ManBeast that I won’t make this again unless he really likes it AND he helps. Too much chopping for something I don’t really eat.

Sadly, you can’t really see the pickled peppers. I followed a general recipe for that, pickling a combination of hot peppers from the farmers market, including my own jalapenos. I frankly don’t remember which exact recipe I followed for this, but the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving has a recipe that looks like it’s pretty similar to what ever it was I did.

Somewhere in there, I also made normal pickles:

Half the jars are regular dill pickles. Half the jars got some pepper flakes too. I followed this recipe for refrigerator pickles. Since this recipe is NOT fit for canning, I didn’t can them (duh). But that also means we have 7 quarts of pickles. Oh well.

In the process, I’ve also come to covet these jars. So cute. So tiny!

In hindsight, there are few things I wish I’d done different. I wish I’d caught peach season and made Vanilla Peach Bourbon Jam. I’d kind of still like to make apple butter, but I’m almost out of jars, and I’m not sure I’m in the mood to buy more. I did learn that it’s actually the supermarket that we shop at that locally has the cheapest cases of jars. And Amazon is NOT to be trusted for jar prices. They are incredibly overprices. I’ll keep looking for jars in the thrift store when I go, but sometimes, it’s easier to just buy them new. Oh, and the farm I got my tomatoes from? While they are at our local farmers market, I actually found them on craigslist.

Until next time, I get to figure out how to spend $50 my parents gave me for my birthday for “canning” stuff. I haven’t decided if I want a cookbook or two (the Ball cookbook I’ve used I’ve borrowed from the library for the past two years). I’d also like to buy a pot large enough to fit the quart jars in.

And here’s a picture of Thor and his fascination with the new record player:

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Rainbow cupcakes with raspberry buttercream

A really nice coworker made me “cupcakes” for my birthday:

So of course I had to try to top her and make something even more awesome for the next person’s birthday. I went with rainbow cupcakes with raspberry buttercream.

I used version II of the white cake recipe from “The Joy of Cooking” as my cupcake recipe. I wouldn’t suggest using this recipe. You lose some of the loft from handling the batter so much for these cupcakes. Now I know.

Here’s what the plain batter looks like:

I used standard food dye to make the colors:

And you can be damn straight that I put the colored batters in the right order:

The buttercream. The person who actually had the birthday told me that she liked raspberry. So I made raspberry buttercream.

Raspberry Buttercream
1. In a small sauce pan cook down about 12 ounces of berries. I didn’t have 12 full ounces of raspberries, so I put some blueberries and blackberries in too. You want to cook this until it’s pretty thick. The directions I followed suggest down to 1/4 cup, but I lost patience and stopped before then. Let it cool.

2. Sift/filter (what word am I looking for?!?) out the seeds.

3. Cream 1 stick of butter.

4. As the mixer is going, add in batches, 2 cups powdered sugar, the sauce, and 1/2 tsp lemon juice. Blend until smooth.

5. Add another 1.5 cups powdered sugar, or to taste and desired consistency.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

Ta da! I finally figured out how to get straight to the ‘make a new post’ box that lets me do html from the beginning. Not the BS that WP seems to think I want.

I made stuffed acorn squash last night. It was great last night. And it was great today as lunch, as I’m sure it will be tomorrow too. Even the ManBeast approved and said I can make this again. You’ll want to do this on a day when you have plenty of time. This is NOT a fast recipe.

Stuffed Acorn Squash

0. Preheat oven to 400F.

1. Split and clean out an acorn squash. In a baking dish, put the cut side down. Put water in the dish to about 1/4″ up the side of the squash. Or some estimation of that, with more being better than less.

2. Bake squash for 1 hour.

Towards the end of that time, prepare the stuffing.
3. Cook 1/2 lb ground pork sausage. With some crushed red pepper if you like spicy. Set pork aside.

4. In same pan, sautee 1/2 onion, and a few cloves of chopped garlic (I used 4 small ones).

5. When the onions are soft (or done to your liking, this recipe is pretty flexible), add a 1/2 stalk chopped celery, 5 sliced/chopped mushrooms, and a 1/2 peeled/chopped tart apple. The recipe I followed called for 1/2 c pecans, but I forgot them. I’d probably like them, but I’m not sure the ManBeast would.

6. Cook until nice and soft and everything is well cooked. Put in same bowl as pork.

7. “Deglaze” pan with 1/4 c white wine. This didn’t work so well, as our cast iron is now well seasoned, but I did it any way. Reduce wine a bit.

8. Add in pork mixture along with 1 egg, 2 T milk, and a 1/2 c “bread crumbs”. Spice/herb to taste. I added 3 fresh chopped sage leaves, a 1 tsp dried thyme, 1 tsp salt, and some pepper.

9. Hopefully in there somewhere, you took the squash out and let them cool a bit. Flip them over and be careful of any water that has sucked back up into the cavity. You might want to scoop out some of the squash, mix it with the pork mixture. Stuff the cavity with the pork mixture. It will likely mound over a bit. I put some more crushed red pepper over the top.

10. Bake at 375F for 1/2 hour. Top with parmesan cheese.

A word about the “bread crumbs”. You could use actual bread crumbs, or something else bread-ish. I made biscuits the night previous and while they tasted good, they didn’t quite get the fluff I wanted. So I hacked up 3 of those and used them as my “bread crumbs”. You could probably even do this without the bread crumbs.

A word about cost. We get ground pork sausage for $2 a pound (or maybe less, I can’t remember). The acorn squash was $1.50 at the farmers market, and the apples, I paid maybe $1 for two. The celery was a wilting stalk that normally I would have thrown out. The mushrooms were left over from another dish where we didn’t need the whole package. So really, all told, you could probably do this entire dish for well under $10. To me, the pecans would likely be the most expensive, and I’m kind of glad I left them out. I even used one of the cheapest bottles of white wine I could find. This worked out to be four meals for us.