Thursday, October 3, 2013


So really, honestly, someday I mean to write about the crafty stuff I've been doing; the stuff that has had me out of the kitchen and playing with Mod Podge and jewelry fittings and comic books and fabric scraps, but late summer and early fall in my world are about canning.  And canning, and canning, and more canning.

I finally got to make applesauce last week, but I am a bad blogger and forgot to take pictures, so I'll leave it to your imaginations for the moment.  Luckily for you, though, I'm picking up a bucket of apples from my aunt today to make more applesauce this weekend, so there's another chance for pictures.  Please try to contain you excitement.

Mostly, though, our kitchen has been covered in tomatoes.  When I say covered, I don't mean a little box of them sitting in the corner waiting patiently to be processed, I mean covered.  Bags sitting on every available surface, piles in the sink waiting to be washed and peeled, bowls holding the overflow that wouldn't fit in the pot simmering on the stove... covered.

I got a bit lazy this year and last with my tomato canning: some years I've gone all out and made pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce in addition to my usual salsa, but the past couple of years I've just canned lots of whole tomatoes (using this recipe with the addition of a couple of whole garlic cloves and some basil leaves stuffed in the jars with the tomatoes - I know, I know - never change a canning recipe.  But I've been adding garlic and basil for years and haven't died of botulism yet, for what that's worth.  You've been warned nonetheless).  My excuse for the whole tomatoes is that they're more versatile - if we want pizza sauce we can cook them down and puree the sauce; if we want spaghetti sauce we can do that, but if we just want some tomatoes to round out a recipe, they're good for that, too.   The real reason, though, is that it's about a million times faster to can whole tomatoes than it is to make sauce, cook it down to perfection and then can it.  It's the lazy person's guide to home preserves from me to you.

My one concession to ambition this year in the tomato department was in making V8 juice.  That was less work than making sauce because I did it at my aunt and uncle's house and used their juicer to crush all of the veggies after they cooked - much easier and less messy than doing it with a blender.  I used this recipe and it turned out really good - it's tasty cold, but it also makes a solid soup warmed up and it's definitely a killer Bloody Mary mix.  My only changes were to use swiss chard instead of celery (there was no celery at the market, so I used the white-ribbed swiss chard and it seemed like a good substitution - not bitter at all) and to add more horseradish than the recipe called for because I like it a bit spicy.

This was my super-lazy tomato preserving plan - I had a ton of cherry tomatoes, which I love, but which we would've never been able to eat before the went bad, so I rinsed them and spread them out on a jelly roll pan and threw them in the freezer.  When they were frozen solid, I dumped them in a ziplock baggie like a bunch of tiny cue balls and now we'll have them for omelettes, stews and what have you this winter.  Easy peasy.

I made two batches of tomato salsa this year, plus a batch of salsa verde.  I used this recipe for roasted tomato salsa (I think the recipe calls for just the chilis to be roasted, but I fired up the charcoal grill and I figured that as long as it was going I might as well roast everything in the world, so basically every ingredient called for by the recipe got a taste of the flames).  I highly recommend this recipe - I made one batch as a milder salsa with just a few jalapenos and another, hotter batch the next weekend with jalapenos and some Scotch bonnet  chilis, and both came out really well.  This will be my go-to recipe for salsa from now on - you can taste the nice, roasted flavor along with the usual salsa-y thing going on.  Yum.  I always make a ton of salsa because it's good for chili base as well - rather than add a ton of ingredients to my crock pot chili I just brown up whatever meat I'm using, add whatever veggies and spices I have on hand and then toss in a jar of salsa to round everything out.

And now I'm hungry for chili.

I used this recipe for the salsa verde - this was the first time I've tried making it before and it was awesome.  The only change I made was to roast all of the veggies on the grill (I made it the same day as one of the batches of tomato salsa and I was in the mood to GRILL EVERYTHING) and to add salt, pepper, cumin and a splash of apple cider vinegar.  We made chicken enchiladas for dinner the other night (I'm an overachiever and made homemade tortilla shells, too, which were easy after I figured out that when they say "flour" tortilla, they mean "coat every surface in your kitchen including yourself in flour so they won't stick when you're rolling  them out and then you're golden") and slathered them in salsa verde - it was kind of heavenly, really.

I think the final total was something like 110 lbs. of tomatoes plus five lbs. of tomatillos that I processed.  It was a little bit ridiculous, and there was a week or so there when I couldn't stand the thought of a tomato, let alone countenance one sitting brazenly in my kitchen mocking me, but I'll be happy for these jars come wintertime when the thought of a sun-ripened tomato seems a long way off.

So I promise the season of canning is winding down for me and I'll find something more interesting to write about soon.  In the meantime, though, my larder is stocked and now I can settle in and enjoy fall.  Current project: get the family to a pumpkin patch to get some super cute pictures of Jack among the pumpkins.

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