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Archive for the ‘canning’ Category

Sauce

Thanks to a new to me produce stand I finally had tomatoes for sauce! 40lbs to be exact. I may have gone a little overboard.

Each year I make a pretty basic sauce* with my tomatoes and after a run through a food mill (I hate seeds and skins in my sauce) I can them in quarts. It makes a thin slightly watery sauce but I adjust my final cooking time on whatever I’m making to compensate. This year since my garden crop has failed to ripen I decided to try something a little different with my purchased tomatoes.


Batch 1: Roma tomatoes, reduced by 1/3.


Batch 2: Roma tomatoes plus ground up sundried tomatoes (from last years harvest).


Batch 3: Roma tomatoes, roasted in the oven with a drizzle of olive oil and half a head of garlic (used balsamic vinegar instead of lemon juice).


Batch 4: Roma tomatoes, reduced till less than half for a loose tomato paste.

This year I found some wine pH papers at the local brew shop and tested each batch and adjusted the acid level accordingly. I realized in all the years canning tomato sauce I just assumed the lemon juice called for in the recipe was 1: the right amount and 2: even necessary to get the pH below 4.6. I aimed for a pH of 4.0 just to be sure and the lemon juice I added was less than the amount in the recipe. Totally worth the $4 investment to really know the acidity level of your sauce.

Over the coming year I’m going to taste test to see if I have a favorite method. Hopefully my favorite won’t turn out to be the most time consuming version (the oven roasted method). None of my jars this year contain basil due to mistakenly buying thai basil instead of sweet basil. It’s a good excuse to make some fresh spring rolls I think.

* Basic sauce gets a splash of lemon juice, a fresh basil leaf and a hefty pinch of kosher salt. Tomato sauce in it’s most basic form.

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Millions of peaches

The recent “heatwave” happened to coincide with a strong desire to start canning this year. Probably not the ideal situation but I had a recent purchase to make things a little easier.

I’d been eyeing steam canners for a couple years now but every time I found one in the store I wasn’t willing to pay full price. I would walk on by and each year while making large batches of tomato sauce in quarts I would curse my resistance to buying one. Even my largest and deepest stockpot had a hard time holding enough water to safely stay at a rolling boil plus the amount of time and energy used to heat that much water was insane. A harvests worth of sauce could easily take hours of constantly boiling water and heat the kitchen beyond anything bearable. I managed to spot a good deal online earlier this year and soon a steam canner was on its way to me. A few weekends ago was the first time I decided to try it out.

The weekend was to start with u-pick strawberries but once I arrived at the farm I decided on pre-picked flats that they had on sale. Not only were the flats cheaper than u-pick but it meant I could get home even earlier. Somehow 6 flats and strawberries and 1 flat of tayberries were in the back of my car. Once home 1 flat was chopped up and left to drain for strawberry juice that was then frozen (for strawberry jelly at a later date). The remaining 4 flats were washed, hulled and frozen either whole on sheetpans (later to go in freezer bags) or chopped and tossed with sugar to freeze.

Then I tackled the peaches that I’d picked up at the grocery store at a killer price. First up was a large batch of peach slices in light syrup which is something I’ve never tried before. One thing I did learn is that my canned peach slices look nothing like the one on the cover of the Ball canning book, mine were slightly jagged and definitely less than perfect. It’s obvious I won’t be winning any prizes at the county fair for my canning.

Then came the time to make a giant batch of peach jam. I topped up half the peach jam jars with a tablespoon of brandy before setting them in the canner. Brandied Peach Jam will hopefully make it into a couple of Christmas gifts this year.

The remaining peaches were skinned, sliced and then frozen for ziptop bags. The amount of frozen fruit in the freezer is starting to reach maximum capacity but I’m well on my way to being set for the entire year. In the meantime I’ve been working my way through the first batch of peach jam.

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