When tomatoes are piled high at the farm market, it’s official: canning season has arrived. This year I took a more serious and planned approach to my canning. No longer would Grandma’s heavy pot serve as a makeshift water bath canner. Nor would there be an aesthetically challenged granite canner on my stove. Instead, a beautiful stainless steel water bath canner with glass lid has a place of honor in my kitchen. This year I intend to can the bounty and place it in my pantry to be used as I please during the year.
First to be canned were the peaches. Peaches are so beautiful when they are piled on a farm market table. I love their smell and great cobblers and pies have been made by many and enjoyed by many. But my preferred method of using peaches is in a barbecue sauce for chicken, pork, and seafood. (The recipe I use, Zesty Peach Barbecue Sauce, comes from the makers of Ball Canning Supplies and is found at the freshpreserving website.) The first time I made this sauce the ingredients were not as finely diced as the recipe directed but the result were akin to a relish, which I love more than a sauce. Seeing the pieces of peaches and red pepper in the relish are pretty to look at. The adjustment is now a permanent change and the recipe is forever on the don’t forget to can list.
Home-canned tomatoes and tomato sauce beat the grocery store variety and having a few jars on had during the winter allows me to have a pasta sauce I like and can alter at will. So this year canned tomatoes will have a home in my pantry. Putting the tomatoes through a food mill to remove the skins before canning is a small price to pay upfront, but skins in my sauce? No way! One might think canning tomatoes is simple – just can them. No, I need to decide which size jars to use (pints or half pints), If they should be sauced or left whole, how many pounds for me and for my mom, sand if the sauce should be spiced or left plain. Glad I can handle these big decisions in life.
After some tomatoes were canned, I made catsup. Four years ago I had my first taste of homemade catsup and I now refuse to purchase it from the store. For just a few hours of work I can reap the catsup benefits all year long. No store bought catsup holds a candle to the homemade variety. So each August for the last three years, I have been making the catsup to use and to give to friends. While hours of time are required to cook down the tomato and onion mixture, most of that time is not spent standing at the stove. After tomato, onion and garlic are chopped and put into the pot to cook down, I clean any mess while the mixture bubbles away. Then, I work around the house. After the first reduction is done, sugar and spices are added and the waiting begins again. Once the second reduction has occurred, the catsup is ladled into jars, and placed in a water bath canner for ten minutes. Until the time arrives to ladle the catsup into jars and place in the water bath, the day is easy-peasy. Then five minutes of work before there is a need to wait for the processing bath to be over. During the bath, the canning equipment is cleaned. The only downside is the CSA share does not give pounds of tomatoes, so I have to purchase tomatoes from a farm stand, the onions do come from the share, and the garlic comes from my friend Barb. (The spices came from the mystical island where all spices grow under the ever-shinning sun.) Maybe, just maybe, I will invite you over to have some catsup.