Tomato Canning 101

Tomatoes waiting to be cannedSo. I've never canned anything in my life, which makes me a bit of misfit in these parts. Men and women of all ages here tell stories of helping mothers and grandmothers put up mounds of canned peaches, pickled cucumbers, spaghetti sauce, okra, squash, zucchini, green beans, apples, etc. 

As I learn more about food (and the horrible, horrendous things that go into the canned goods on the supermarket shelves), the more interested I become in learning how to grow and can my own food. (The growing part didn't go so well this year. We harvested one perfect, beautiful squash. Everything else died.) So I was super excited when my friend and yoga instructor Tabitha invited me to a tomato canning party at her home on Friday. 

I showed up eager to learn and ready to work. Tabitha had everything ready - cans, tomatoes (Oh Lord, the amount of tomatoes!), lids, pots, and wine. (The wine is to be sipped during canning and is not to be added to the tomatoes -- unless you've been doing a lot of sipping and are feeling adventurous and/or clumsy.)

I hadn't realized that canning tomatoes doesn't require a pressure cooker and is actually a pretty straightforward process. Pour boiling water over the tomatoes, peel off the skin, slice and dice. Add tomatoes to jars, boil 32 minutes, remove and listen for popping sound that lets you know the lid has sealed. 

I also hadn't realized that canning was such a time intensive process. We met at 6:30 PM and I figured I'd be home by 9 or 10 PM. Uh, wrong. I left a little before midnight and I was the first one out the door. We put up (oh, that sounds so June Cleaver in the country - I love it!) over 70 quarts of tomatoes. I brought home twelve. I can't wait to pull them out this winter and use them in sauces and stews. If only I had a dugout basement to keep them in, a la Laura Ingalls Wilder. Alas, they're stored on the top shelf of our kitchen cupboards, above the never-used electric juicer and semi-rusted out coffee grinder. 

I had fun the first four hours. Then the heat and wine and lack of sleep and NEVER ENDING SUPPLY OF TOMATOES THAT JUST KEPT COMING AND COMING AND COMING got to me a bit. One can sympathize with prairie wives who may have gone slowly insane during canning season. Mmm... tomatoes!

There is talk of canning peaches in the next week or two. I hope we do. I don't know that I'd want to spend a whole day canning by myself, but when combined with friends and food, laughter and wine, there aren't many better ways to spend a Friday night. 

At least not here in these parts.