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Posts Tagged ‘water bath canning’

Clearly, the fall school semester has begun. That’s when I practically drop off the face of the earth. But I’m surfacing this morning to reminisce about the fun I had with tomatoes this summer. Although it almost still feels like summer in Georgia…kind of annoying as I’m ready to start wearing sweaters! I was actually still able to get tomatoes at the farmer’s market two weeks ago…amazing! Anyway, here is a happy memory from this summer’s tomato haul:

When you make every effort to eat seasonally, tomatoes are one of those things that are truly treasured. A fresh, homegrown tomato in the heat of summer is a special thing. But I don’t want to forget that in the middle of winter. “Fresh” grocery store tomatoes are a sad, tasteless waste of money. Enter the water bath canner and 24 pounds of tomatoes I picked up from a happy vendor at the farmer’s market.

As I was picking through the tomatoes for my canning projects I heard another market customer come up to the farmer and tell them in a hushed voice about how they had the best tomatoes in the whole market. This is the kind of stuff you want to hear when you’re preparing to drop sixty bucks on ‘maters. The farmer replied that it must be the soil…or the love they have for growing. Ah. That’s something you can never buy at Publix.

When I got home I had several ideas for what I wanted to do. I knew I wanted to make the garlic-basil tomato sauce from the Ball website. But how much did I want to make? And there was something else nagging at me…

I recently pronounced my disgust for jarred salsa. Yet when I was home in Iowa for my niece’s wedding in July my sister in law provided me with a taste of a jar of her home canned salsa and it was good enough for me to ask for her recipe. Perhaps I was too quick to judge. Maybe I shouldn’t condemn all jarred salsa until I have tried my own…

So I ended up with three different salsa recipes. Janet’s recipe, one from the Ball website, and one from Cooks.com. It was going to be a salsa brawl to the finish, and a really really long weekend in the kitchen. I had pickled jalapenos to can as well.

Basil garlic tomato sauce/soup.Tasty!

The tomato sauce turned out delicious, but very thin. Next time I may strain the tomatoes a good bit. Or just eat it as soup…it bares a fair resemblance to my tomato-basil soup.

The three salsa recipes smelled fantastic cooking away on the stove prior to filling the hot jars. Only the Ball recipe called for cilantro, one of the ingredients I feel a good salsa needs to have. But after tasting Janet’s cilantro-free salsa I am in a bit of a quandary as to whether it really is a requirement.

 

 

Janet’s Salsa

5 cups tomatoes

1 green pepper

1 red pepper

1 large onion

1 banana pepper (optional)

½ cup vinegar

¼ cup tomato paste

1 T sugar

2 tsp crushed red pepper

1 T salt

1 tsp garlic salt

Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook for one hour. Pour into hot jars and process for 30 minutes.

I used about four pounds of tomatoes for this and it yielded six half-pint jars. I did not use banana pepper but did use two large and one small jalapeno peppers. (Later I made the same recipe again but added fresh garlic to the mix. I am incapable of leaving anything alone.)

At first I thought the addition of tomato paste was really odd, but as things got cooking and I saw how liquidy all the salsas were I understood, and I actually ended up adding it to both other salsa recipes otherwise they would have been soup instead of dip. Next time I am definitely being more cautious about how much juice I allow to make it into the pot.

For the pickled jalapenos, I didn’t have any carrots to include so I used some of the multi-colored bell peppers I got at the farmer’s market instead. Hopefully that doesn’t wreck the recipe. I plan to include these pickled peppers in black bean soups and such this winter.

I was excited to be able to use almost exclusively items from my farmer’s market for these recipes. The tomatoes, of course, but also the red and green peppers, the jalapenos, and the onions. Only the cilantro and seasonings were store-bought.

Canned pickled jalapenos, salsas and tomato sauce.

At the end of the weekend, I had six pints of garlic-basil tomato sauce, six half-pints of Janet’s salsa, six pints of pickled jalapenos and onions, and three pints each of the Ball salsa and Cooks salsa. I’m still a big fan of Janet’s salsa, but the Cook’s salsa kind of caught me by suprise. It was the one I was least excited about but turned out to be the most interesting (and a little hotter than the other two). Test subject Bill likes the Ball recipe with the cilantro. A suprising success story for all three recipes, and I stand corrected. I will eat jarred salsa if it’s home made!

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Before I forget – announcements! I participated in a blog hop this week! Check us out here: http://spaininiowa.blogspot.com/2010/07/simple-lives-thursday-first-edition.html

Also, I’m on Facebook! Like me – I’m nice! http://www.facebook.com/pages/Kitchen-Kung-Fu/117815484922486

Now for our regularly scheduled blog:

A few months back I bought a pressure canner. I know a lot of traditional foodies are down on pressure canning, but here’s my position: I can’t rely 100% on electricity and feel secure. I desire shelf-stable, safe food that I prepared in the event of an emergency. I certainly would not recommend relying on pressure canned foods on a regular basis throughout the year. It’s more of a personal survival and independence thing.

My All-American Pressure Canner (AKA the Tank)

That said, pressure canners are a bit intimidating in the kitchen. First, they are heavy and huge. Second, they have ginormous warning labels all over them. Not the kind of thing that gives the average cook warm fuzzies. I bought this one because it had a higher capacity (fewer loads needed) and it’s made in the USA (go USA!). Let me tell you, this thing is built like a TANK. If this doesn’t last forever nothing will. I also like that it has a metal-to-metal seal that you lubricate with petroleum jelly instead of gaskets that can and will go bad, requiring replacement. Additionally, the safety features are impeccable. You shift the lid to lock, then there are six wing nuts that hold the lid securely to the base. That baby’s not going anywhere. There’s some really good info on pressure canning and pressure canners here. I recommend doing some homework before buying one, as they are pricey.

My test run for the pressure canner was green beans. I picked up a load at the farmer’s market and washed and cut the beans. After spending about an hour reading the user’s manual for the canner (which I found poorly organized and required reading parts several times to determine which steps came when), I was ready to roll. I washed the canner and lubricated the seal and the screws. I packed the beans in hot pint jars and poured boiling water over them, checked for air pockets, and lidded.

Vent on the pressure canner (without the weight)

Here’s a big difference between pressure canning and water bath canning. When you put jars into a water bath canner, there’s water in it already going to town boiling. When you put jars into a pressure canner, it’s cold. There’s about an inch and a half of water (for my canner)  at the bottom of the base. It’s a bit…anticlimactic. Don’t worry though, there’s more action to come.

I settled seven pint jars on the rack inside the canner and secured the lid. The jars were to be processed at 10 pounds of pressure for 20 minutes. However, the first step was to vent steam. This means the canner has to heat up. This took FOREVER, but finally I could see steam coming out of the vent and started counting – seven minutes as per the owner’s manual. Then I put the weight on the vent set for ten pounds. You don’t start counting the processing time until the weight begins to jiggle. This, also, takes forever (at least for my enormous caldron).

I found it was easier to watch for steam with the black background of the handle for contrast.

The weight is supposed to do its jiggling venting dance one to four times per minute. I found it difficult to maintain that. Either the heat was too high and it jiggled all the time or it was too low and it didn’t jiggle at all. Oh well. The pressure gauge showed constant at ten pounds of pressure the whole time so I wasn’t too worried.

Once processing time was up, I cut the heat and waited. And waited. And waited. Finally the pressure gauge was showing zero pounds of pressure. I removed the weight from the vent and allowed the rest of the steam/pressure to release, then removed the lid. Note: it is hotter than hell. Do not allow it to touch any body part EVER. Not that I did that or anything.

My jars of green beans inside were intact. They had not exploded, disintegrated or otherwise become unusable during their time under pressure. The test run was counted as a success.

The next day it was time for the big guns. Beef stew. Making a protein like beef shelf stable is no laughing matter. I joked about botulism last year when I canned, but for real – I don’t want to kill myself or others in an attempt to be independent. I carefully followed the exact instructions for preparing the stew as per this recipe. I would hope Ball knows what they are doing when it comes to canning. (Ok I added garlic. Who can make soup without garlic??)

I followed the same procedure as the day before. This time the jars processed for an hour and fifteen minutes. Actually probably longer given how long it takes the thing to heat up and cool down, but I followed the instructions precisely for my first time through. I can play with timing later.

Pressure canned green beans and beef stew; water bath canned marinara sauce

While the stew pressure canned I was busy making marinara to water bath can. I made it last year and test subject Bill has been talking about it ever since. I had enough tomatoes to make twice as many this year. Good thing, because it is time consuming to make! Darn tasty, though…mmm, need to do some fried mozzarella to go with it…

While the marinara cooked down the stew finished processing and cooling. And the lid promptly became stuck. The manual had talked about the possibility of a vacuum forming and how to remedy it – by prying the lid open with a screwdriver. However, test subject Bill came to the rescue with the claw end of a hammer. Worked like a charm!

My weekend's work

By the end of the day, I had fourteen cans of beef stew, seven cans of green beans and seven cans of marinara. It was a long but productive weekend. And if the power were to go out…we would be ok for a while due to our own diligence and foresight. After all, who wants to eat factory processed crap even in the midst of an emergency? We have standards!

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