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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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.

Breakfast burritos

So, what have I been up to?  Quite a bit.  What, with getting engaged, going to Copenhagen for a conference, canning probably close to 50 pounds of tomatoes (and other things), and trying to get science done?  I’ve been a little busy.  Today, I give you breakfast burritos.  Hopefully later this week I’ll talk about rainbow cupcakes and my canning adventures (not canning rainbow cupcakes though).

Breakfast burritos

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As always, I’m a fan of mis en place (mess in place).  This recipe includes:

1/2 diced onion
4 garlic cloves minced
2 peeled and “diced” baking potatoes
1 diced red bell pepper
1 package frozen spinach, defrosted and squeezed dry
3-4 chipotle peppers in adobe, chopped
~7 extra large eggs*
1 cup shredded monterey jack cheese
1/2 pound maple breakfast sausage
Oh, and my cooking fat was bacon fat

With about 3-4T bacon fat in a large skillet, brown your onions, add the garlic, then the potatoes.  The potatoes will take longer than you think to cook if you haven’t pre-boiled them (which is an option).  You might want to do something while they cook.  I scrubbed the cabinet doors:

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(I consider the left one clean enough, the right one will get done another day).

This is about what your potatoes should look like when you’re getting close to done:

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Once they are done, set them aside and briefly saute the red bell pepper in the same pan.  More if you like them cooked more, or less if you aren’t as fond of overcooked bell peppers as I am.  Set them aside in the same bowl as the potatoes.

Now cook your sausage.  You could probably use a number of different meats here.  The recipes I used for inspiration included chorizo, poached pulled chicken, other types of ground meat.  Pick what works for you.

Once the meat was cooked through, I added the potatoes and red peppers back to the pain and topped that with the egg/cheese mixture along with some salt, pepper, and a 1/2T of ancho pepper powder.  You want to stir gently here as the Pioneer Woman reminds us (which was one of the sites I used for inspiration).

Once everything was cooked, I let it cool for a bit.  I used basic flour tortillas as my wraps, putting 1/3 cup of mix in each wrap.  My 10 pack of wraps actually had 11, and I had enough left over mix for 7 more wraps.

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Each wrap was wrapped in plastic wrap and then loaded into a freezer bag.  That and the left over mix went into the freezer.  Tomorrow I’ll pull out one (or maybe two) wraps and reheat them in the microwave. Suggestions I’ve seen are to wrap in a paper towel and reheat for anywhere from 45 seconds to 3 minutes.  I’ll see what my microwave takes.

*I say 7 eggs because I actually had 4 yolks and 1 egg white to use up from other recipes, and then added 6 actual extra large eggs.

Peach Salsa

I went a salsa canning kick earlier this week. Unlike the 10 lbs of tomatoes I bought 2 weeks ago for $2.50, these 10 lbs (this time for $5) actually got almost all used BEFORE I had to cut off large chunks due to stupid fungus.

I’m going to make these recipes VERY bare bones. If you know how to can, these are all canning safe recipes. If you like fresh salsa, these all work fresh. If you’d like to learn to can, I suggest reading something like this pdf from the University of Wisconsin Extension office. Canning is doable, with patience and the right equipment, but you really need to be prepared. I don’t want anyone blaming me for a case of botulism because they tried canning these recipes and didn’t know what they were doing.

There are three recipes. I’ll post them in order of what I liked best. I also halved all the original recipes, as I wanted variety more than volume. If we weren’t leaving Tuesday, I’d contemplate getting more tomatoes to make of the first of these two salsas.

Peach Apple Salsa
This recipe is also from that pdf I linked above. It’s *almost* like Trader Joe’s peach salsa, which is by far my favorite store bought salsa.

1. You’ll want to make sure your apples and peaches don’t brown. You want to end up with
5 c peeled diced unripe peaches
1 c chopped granny smith apple
Into 8 cups of water, add 1500 mg of vitamin C (ascorbic acid). If you don’t have vitamin C tablets like I don’t, you might be able to find this in pure powder form at your local health foods store (Willy St Coop had it). In that case you’ll use about 1/2 tsp of the powder to the 8 cups of water. Wash and peel your apple(s) (1 large) and peaches (4 for me). Chop them in half and add to the vitamin C water. Soak for 10 minutes.

2. Combine in a large pan:
3 cups of peeled diced tomatoes (they suggest roma, that isn’t what I had)
1.25 c diced yellow onion
1 c chopped green bell pepper
2T pickling spice (tie into a reusable tea bag, mesh bag, cheese clothe, whatever works for you)
1.5t canning salt
2 t crushed red pepper flakes
1.875 c (so 1.5 c + 1/4 c + 1/8 c) packed light brown sugar
1 1/8 c cider vinegar (must be 5%)
5 c peeled diced unripe peaches (from step 1)
1 c chopped granny smith apple (from step 1)

3. Bring to a boil, stirring, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

4. Remove spice bag.

5. At this point it is edible. But if you want to can it:
you’ll need to put the solids in first to 1.25 inch headspace, then stop with cooking liquid to 1/2 headspace. Do your canning clean up and process cans for 15 minutes at sea level.

If you really want to can this, and want all the more nitty gritty directions, read the pdf link. Seriously. But if you have experience canning, I don’t imagine this will be difficult at all for you. It’s quite tasty.

My mom’s tomato sauce

I discovered the cookbook section of the university library that is across from my building on campus. This could be bad. Really bad. Or really tasty.

This recipe is truly my mom’s recipe, and her mom’s recipe. I did not grow up eating tomato sauce from a jar. While my mom always used canned whole tomatoes, the sauce was always made by her. You can certainly use canned tomatoes in this recipe, or fresh as I’ve attempted to detail below. If you find the sauce too thin, or not tomato-y enough after cooking down, I suggest adding tomato paste until you get it to how you like it.

My mom’s tomato sauce
1. In a medium soup/stock pot combine:
-About a half a pot worth of roughly chopped tomatoes (roughly 3 28oz cans), mine looks like about 6 cups, I’ve honestly never measured.
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp oregano
-1 Tbsp sugar

2. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmering. Simmer for 1-2 hours.
3. Put through a food mill to get out all of the skin and seeds.
4. If you still aren’t satisfied with the thickness of the sauce, continue to cook it down some more.
5. If the taste isn’t quite there for you, add some more of what you think it needs, and simmer just a bit more.
6. This sauce can certainly be used fresh. It also freezes well. Unless you REALLY know what you are doing, I don’t suggest canning this recipe, as I have no clue if the acidity level meets any of the guidelines for canning.

In hindsight, this recipe works much better as a conversation than a list of instructions. There are so many variables here. Have fewer tomatoes? More? It will still work, you just need to adjust. Really like other spices in your sauce? Have at it. Prefer it sweeter? Etc. This sauce is VERY easy to modify.

recipes in the works, and green beans

I’ve made a few things recently that I want to post, but I don’t want to post them until I’ve actually eaten them. I made maraschino cherries the other night. But they need to soak for two weeks, ideally. I might hold out to next week and then see how they taste. I also made dill pickles out of cucumbers from my own garden. But those also need two weeks. And just now I made some orange cream ice pops. But those will need to freeze over night. So hopefully soon I’ll have some new exciting recipes for you. In the mean time, green beans are in season. Here’s what I made with a few handfuls tonight for dinner.

Easy green beans
1. Put a pot of water on to boil with enough room to fit your green beans in.
2. While the water is heating up, rinse and cut the ends off your green beans. If you’ve got a newer cultivar (and if you don’t know, you likely do have a newer cultivar), you shouldn’t have to destring them. If you’ve got an older cultivar, you might need to destring them.
3. When the water is boiling, drop the green beans into the water and blanch for 6ish minutes. More or less depending on how cooked or crunchy you like your green beans.
4. While the green beans are cooking, chop up one to two cloves of garlic and a few sprigs of fresh dill. Mince them together.
5. When the beans are done, remove them either with a slotted spoon or use a colander.
6. In a bowl combine the hot beans, one to two tablespoons of butter, your garlic/dill mince, and a few shakes of salt. Mix well and serve.

Sauteed sugar snap/snow peas with carrots and honey glaze

This is an incredibly easy dish, but takes longer then I think it should. But it’s an easy summer side dish using mostly seasonal produce.

Sauteed sugar snap/snow peas with carrots and honey glaze

1. Cut about 2-4 lb of carrots into a shape and width that roughly resembles your pea pods.
2. Steam them over boiling water for about 3-5 min. More if you like your carrots mushier, less if you like them crunchier.
3. While the carrots are steaming, washing and remove the strings from 0.5-1 lb of pea pods (the original recipe calls for sugar snap peas, the snow peas also looked last week, so I used both).
4. Melt 1-2 T of bacon fat (or butter) in a large skillet. Here is a place that I would actually recommend a nonstick skillet, but a well cured cast iron will work well too. Saute pea pods for about 5 minutes.
5. Drain and add the carrots to the peas, cooking for another 3 min or so.
6. Add 1-2 T honey, depending on how many carrots/peas went into the skillet, and how sweet you like things. Cook for another minute or so, stirring regularly.
7. Turn off the heat, add 1/2 tsp thyme, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve!