Canning Season is Almost Here – Stay Safe Out There

packed in jarsWe just planted our tomatoes, eggplants and tomatillos this weekend. In a couple of more weeks we’ll be planting peppers, squash, cucumbers, melons, beans and corn. In just a few months we’ll be busy harvesting and preserving our bounty through drying, freezing and canning.

Preserving has been gaining in popularity and I see some really great recipes out there on the interwebs. I also see some dangerous ones that kind of scare me. I’ve seen so many bad ones, in fact,  that I’ve decided that I’m no longer going to judge canned goods at events anymore unless the recipe and canning process is included with the sample. You can’t simply shoot from the hip and make up recipes that “sound about right” and expect for them to store at room temperature for extended lengths of time.  There’s a science behind canning to ensure safety that I can’t stress enough. So I figured that with canning season fast approaching we should discuss some guidelines to canning to help everyone stay safe.

The Rules

1. Just because it’s on the internet does not automatically make it a safe recipe. 

Be critical of every recipe you see on the internet.  Check to make sure it has enough acid and is processed long enough if it’s not pressure canned and uses low acid ingredients (especially if it is raw packed). If it’s high acid make sure it is water bath canned long enough. The USDA has safe canning guidelines through their National Center for Home Food Preservation site that you can cross reference from. Also avoid recipes that have dairy, eggs, and pureed low acid food (such as lemon curd, pumpkin butter and pureed bananas) and don’t also say that it is to only be kept in the refrigerator for a limited amount of time (usually for a month) or to freeze the finished product.

2. Books are *usually* a safe bet. 

I only say “usually” because I’ve seen some questionable and downright dangerous recipes even in published books. Check the book to make sure it says the recipes have been tested for safety. The most reliably safe books (though I can’t testify to the flavor of all the recipes in these books) are:

cans

These are refrigerator-style pickles that have a finite shelf life.

3.  If you find a safe recipe do not alter it, but if you do, know the guidelines. 

Even adding a bit more onion to a recipe can alter the pH enough to make it unsafe. For water bath canned products you want the pH to be 4.6 or lower. However, unless you have a super deluxe Vitamix blender, chances are just blending and using a litmus strip isn’t going to give you an accurate reading of the acidity. The safest way to test is to send it to a food lab, but that can get expensive so just stick with a tested recipe. Always follow the basic safe guidelines if you do change the recipe. If you’re not sure, err on the side of caution and don’t alter it. The canning recipes I have on this blog always follow the safe guidelines and I almost always increase the acid when I don’t need to just to be on the safe side. I will not post low-acid recipes that require pressure canning. And recipes that don’t follow the safe guidelines, like our oven-baked heirloom tomato sauce, will always be for eating immediately of freezing (which is why we don’t include canning instructions with it).

4. Not all fruit is created equal. 

While many fruits are high acid and relatively easy to can, some are either borderline or low acid and must have acid added. Figs, bananas, white peaches, Asian pears, watermelon, mangoes and tomatoes all fall into this category of not acidic enough to can on their own without added acid. Be sure to follow the USDA guidelines if canning these items. I have posted tomato canning guidelines that are based on USDA guidelines and the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

 5. If it’s a low acid food and you don’t add acid don’t even think of water bath canning it (same goes for recipes with meat in them even if you do add acid).

I’m serious here. Botulism will fucking kill you. Adding loads of salt or sugar won’t save you here.

6. If a recipe says to pack pint jars don’t pack quart jars and increase the time to what you think it should be. 

Sometimes you’ll come across recipes that only give you the processing time for a specific jar size. Don’t pack into larger jars because you don’t know what the processing time is for them to be safe. Tomato paste is a good example of this. Due to it’s consistency it’s best to only can it in 8 oz jars. And never can using jars larger than a quart unless the recipe calls for them (tomato juice can be canned in 1.5L jars per the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving).

7. Don’t create shortcuts.

  • Cut fruits or vegetables into the indicated size as this ensures that the center reaches the correct temperature and acidity if using low acid foods.
  • Don’t “eyeball” the amounts of your ingredients – think of this as a science experiment rather than an art project.
  • Start your processing time after the water has come back up to boiling if using a water bath canner or after you reach pressure when pressure canning.
  • Pack hot food into hot jars that were slowly brought up to temperature, not cold jars (the sudden heat from the food will stress the glass causing breakage).
  • Don’t reuse lids (Tattler lids are the exception). You can reuse rings though.
  • Follow head space rules for a recipe – don’t over or under fill jars.
  • Always make sure there is at least 1″ of water covering the jars when in the canner.
  • Do not skip the water bath for acidic foods. The water bath heats up the food in the jar to kill microorganisms. The heated food increases in volume (why you need to follow rules for head space) pushing out air. The water covering the jars doesn’t allow air to reenter the jars. The air also is heated making it expand and escape the jar. Less oxygen means less oxidation and less spoilage (except for anaerobic microorganisms like Clostridium botulinum, many other microorganisms require oxygen). You’re much more likely to get mold if you don’t properly do a water bath. Mold changes the pH of the product making an acidic food more basic which opens it up to C. botulinum, which causes botulism.
  • Remove air bubbles after packing hot jars. Sometimes the food can contain enough air in it to alter the head space. Plus extra air means extra oxygen and more chances for spoilage.
  • Always wipe the rim with a clean cloth before putting the lid on. This will help ensure a good seal while also removing a vehicle for contamination to get inside the jar.

8. Take the rings off your jars after they seal. 

The rings are really just designed to keep the lid on while canning and should be removed after they seal. This will help reduce corrosion and rust on your jars but more importantly removing the rings help you avoid a false seal. A failed seal would indicate spoilage but if the ring keeps the lid down you wouldn’t necessarily know the food has spoiled – smell, taste and looks can be deceiving for some types of spoilage. However, you can put the rings back on once you break the seal to avoid creating a mess.

9. Remember to adjust for altitude. 

Find out your altitude and then adjust your canning time. Please note that the time difference may vary depending on the product you’re canning.

10. Use the right equipment. 

Steam canners and oven canning are not recommended and cannot remove the risk of all types of spoilage. A stock pot that is deep enough for your jars plus 1″ of cover is fine for water bath canning. Make sure to use a rack on the bottom of your pot though. The rack helps keep water moving all the way around the jar and helps prevent the jars from breaking. Use a pressure canner, not a pressure cooker, when canning low acid foods and meat. Pressure cookers don’t have as reliable gauges if they have one at all. Also make sure that your pressure canner is in good condition. Old or poorly taken care of pressure cookers are dangerous and can explode. Your county extension can test your pressure canner for you or direct you to somewhere that can.

Canning isn’t something that should intimidate you by any means, you just have to follow some rules to make sure your finished product is safe. Properly canned foods are delicious and most times are much healthier than what you can purchase at the store. So get out there and start canning!

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Canning Tomatoes 101

We do a lot of canning here, especially with tomatoes. We harvest several hundred pounds every year with most of it being preserved. This year I’ve been getting a lot of questions about canning and tomatoes seem to the most popular.

Tomatoes are the gray area of canning. They’re not quite acidic enough to just straight can like fruit but the right amount of added acid can keep you from having to pressure can them.  Here are the basics on canning them (and much of this can actually be used for water bath canning other things like fruit and pickles. This will mostly be for making sauces, paste and juice. Crushed, diced and whole tomatoes can be done in a similar manner but you need to skin and core them first and the process is slightly different. The amount of acid is the same though. Even with pressure canning tomatoes you will need to add acid. If you’re adding other vegetables to your recipe you will need to pressure can because you’ve dropped the acidity too far. But don’t be mistaken, if you skip the acid or add other low acid ingredients tomatoes can effing kill you. Botulism is no joke.

Start with your water bath canner and canning rack at the bottom. If you don’t have a canner and rack use a large pot and put a towel on the bottom or use lid rings on the bottom. The rack/towel/rings serve to protect the jars from breaking. Put jars in your canner and fill with water. I usually will fill until the water is just above the rims to ensure that the water is at least an inch above the top of the jars when they are filled. Heat up on the stove.

In the meantime take the lids (without the rims) and put them in a pan with some more water and heat them up as well. Do not boil, just get them to a simmer. If you don’t have a lid magnet or rack put them in the water alternating direction (bottom up then bottom down) to make them easier to get out.

You can skin and seed the tomatoes before hand but if you have a sieve or food mill don’t bother with the extra step. Cut up the tomatoes and put in a large pot and heat them up. Bring to a boil and then simmer down until the fruit breaks down.

Run through your food mill with the finest mesh. This will remove the seeds and skins while breaking down the flesh. If you’ve already skinned and seeded them you’ll need to run the fruit through a sieve or food mill to make smooth.

Return juice and flesh to the stove and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Cook down as far as you need it depending on what you’re producing. This is also when you want to add any herbs or spices.

Once it’s boiled down it’s time to can it. Make sure that the water bath canner is boiling. You will be working with one jar at a time to make sure they stay hot while filling them. You don’t want to add a hot liquid to a cool jar because you risk breaking the glass. In addition put a towel down to put the hot jars on so they don’t break when touching a cold surface.  Pull out a jar and empty the water out.

To the jar you’ll need to add lemon juice or citric acid. It’s best to use commercial lemon juice which has a known pH level. Never use Meyer lemons because they don’t have a low enough pH to properly acidify the tomatoes. The guidelines are:

  • 1/2 pint (8 oz): 1.5 teaspoon lemon juice or 1/4 tsp citric acid
  • pint: 1 Tbs lemon juice or 1/4 tsp citric acid
  • quart: 2 Tbs lemon juice or 1/2 tsp citric acid
  • 1.5 L: 3 Tbs lemon juice or 3/4 tsp citric acid

If you want to use salt (it’s not required) the following guidelines are:

  • 1/2 pint (8oz): 1/4 tsp
  • pint: 1/2 tsp
  • quart: 1 tsp
  • 1.5 L: 1.5 tsp

Using a canning funnel fill your jars with the hot sauce/paste/juice leaving a 1/2″ of headspace. Remove any air bubbles and adjust headspace as needed. Wipe rim so that it’s clean for a proper seal. Take a lid from the hot water and place it on the jar. Take a band (which should be cool) and screw down the lid to finger-tight. Place the jar back in the canner and pull out another jar and repeat the process until all of the jars are filled. Once the last jar goes in start the timer. The water bath will increase pressure within the jars forcing air out to create a seal. Processing times* are:

Tomato Juice:

8 oz and pint: 35 minutes

quart: 40 minutes

1.5 L: 50 minutes

Tomato Sauce:

8 oz and pint: 35 minutes

quart: 40 minutes

1.5 L: 50 minutes

Tomato Paste:

8 oz: 45 minutes

Turn off canner, remove lid and let sit for 5 minutes and then remove jars. Place on a towel to allow to cool. The lids should start to pop immediately which means they are sealing. Any that don’t seal put in the fridge and use them soon. Once the lids seal remove the rings. This will help prevent rusting and also if a seal breaks it won’t keep the jar artificially sealed, hiding a spoiled product.

As long as proper procedures are followed home canning tomatoes can be done safely. Always err on the side of caution and you won’t have anything to worry about.

*Times will be different at higher elevations.

 

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Fire Roasted Chilies

Every year my mom would order 25-50lbs of green chilies from Hatch, New Mexico. Hatch Green Chilies are some of the best you can find and trust me, they earn their reputation. We couldn’t go through the large produce boxes of chilies without them going bad before we even made a dent so we would spend a weekend roasting them on the grill and then freezing them. Freezing really is the best way because they defrost fast under some running water and the skins help protect them a bit from freezer burn.

This year we are growing the standard Anaheim pepper. It’s not a particular spicy pepper (some of the Hatch varieties were incredibly hot) but they are perfect for my green chili stew. I harvested about 3lbs and since we were already going to have the grill going it was a perfect time to roast them.

When I was younger we would just roast them on a gas grill, but our gas grill here no longer is used with gas so we’re going to actually hardwood fire roast them. It leaves a bit more of a smokey flavor to the peppers, which is nice. The trick with fire roasting peppers is that you want to cook them slow and you do not want to place the peppers directly over the flame or else they will burn, which isn’t exactly what you want.

What you are looking for is blistering of the skin. You can get it a little charred but you don’t want to cook it so fast that the skin and pulp burn together and render the pepper useless for cooking. Don’t leave your peppers either because you’ll want to be constantly rotating them to keep them from burning while also evenly blistering.

When they are completely roasted the skins will separate all the way around the pepper. The green won’t be as bright and the skin will feel and look like paper. Sometimes they puff up but will deflate quickly when you take them off the heat. I have a cookie sheet ready that I will then place the peppers on to cool off before bagging them up and freezing them.

Fire roasting helps separate the the thick skin from the pulp which can then easily be peeled off. This actually depends greatly on the type of pepper you roast. Anaheim-type peppers are the best because the skins are thick while other peppers, like Anchos/Poblanos have thinner skin. Those are much harder to peel after roasting but they are really tasty to roast and can be a bit spicier.

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Oven-Baked Heirloom Tomato Sauce

*This is a repost from several years ago when the lovely Jessa wrote our recipes.


I’ll start this off with an excuse and an apology – I’ve pinched a nerve in my neck and am stuck in bed with a ridiculous contraption of pillows, blankets, rolled-up towels, hot water bottles, ice packs, and painkillers trying to keep me motionless and (somewhat) pain-free. But it’s not working.

Typing is about the worst thing for me to be doing now (small arm/neck/shoulder muscles and all that), so with very little back-story or fanfare, I present to you one of my new favorite recipes, adapted from a method I saw on a TV show a while back (Good Eats, recipe by Alton Brown): an oven-baked tomato sauce perfect for pasta, pizza, eggplant parmesan…the possibilities are endless.


And right now, so are the tomatoes. I got these for $1.00/lb at the Alemany Farmer’s Market here in town, and have been waiting for this moment to start making (and putting up) tomatoes for the loooong dry spell of $7.99 heirlooms (or worse, NO heirlooms!) that is likely just around the corner.
Stupid fog. I can’t wait until my garden is putting out more than the occasional Sungold.


All the herbs are from the back yard – my favorite secret weapon? FRESH (not dried) fennel/anise seed straight off the plant. It grows wild everywhere around here, and these little seeds are full of delicious, deep flavor and a lovely crunchy green texture (I find the dry ones a bit chewy if not ground up).
I promise to make up for this terse post once I’m back on my feet; by then I’ll have gone so stir-crazy I’ll probably cook for several days straight just to feel sane again!


Oven-Baked Tomato Sauce (makes about 3 c.)

10-12 good-sized ripe tomatoes (San Marzanos and Romas are best, called “paste tomatoes”, but any thick-walled heirloom will do OK too. You just want to find the highest meat-to-seed/water ratio you can get)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 Tbsp olive or sunflower oil
a few sprigs each of your favorite herbs (I like oregano or marjoram to be the main flavor, with backups of lemon thyme, basil, and a hefty teaspoon full of fresh fennel seed)
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 c sherry or white wine
1 bay leaf
Wash and half the tomatoes, scooping out a majority of the seeds and gelatinous goop, but leaving any meaty inner-walls intact. Place them face-up in glass or pyrex casserole dishes. Sprinkle with the herbs, alliums (onions and garlic), and salt and pepper. Drizzle with oil, and put them in a 325 degree oven for around an hour and a half.

Once that time has elapsed, there may be quite a bit of juice in the bottom of the pan. Turn your oven to broil, and leave the oven door ajar for a good 20 minutes to boil away and condense the moisture.

Once the tomatoes are in less than a half-centimeter of juice (or you’re bored and don’t want to wait any more), transfer everything into a food processor, blender, or use an immersion blender to process everything into a smooth-ish paste. If you are averse to skins, you can run it through a food mill to remove any seeds/skins/lumps instead of blending. Me? I like the skins and am not fond of food mills.


Once fully blended, pour the mixture into a pot and add some sherry, wine (red or white), or vodka to open up the sauce and give it a little oomph. Also add a bay leaf, and any additional spices (hot pepper flakes, more fennel seed, more salt?), and simmer to cook off the alcohol.
Serve this sauce hot over pasta or in a lasagna, simmer fried spicy mini-meatballs in it for an amazing party snack, or spread it over your (homemade, of course) sourdough pizza dough and top with ridiculous amounts of mozzerella cheese.
Enjoy!
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Spicy Refrigerator Pickled Fennel

I didn’t think I over planted fennel. I only planted 10 plants but time got away from us and I only had used a couple of them. They were starting to bolt and I didn’t want to waste them so I decided on the hottest day of the year so far that I needed to pickle them as soon as possible.

Because it was so hot I decided that your standard pickles with the hot water bath just wasn’t going to happen. Our Wedgewood throws off some serious heat and we were out of propane for the outdoor burner. Refrigerator pickles, however, have minimal heat use so it really was going to be the best option. As long as we ate them up withing 3 months we wouldn’t have to worry about them spoiling.

Most people are turned off by the smell of fennel with is similar to black licorice. However I find when I cook it that taste and smell go away rather rapidly. The brine I made from this is very spicy so feel free to adjust the amount of red pepper flakes. It’s also a bit sweet but not as sweet as bread and butter pickles.

  • 16 cups trimmed and sliced fennel bulbs (a mandolin works best for this)
  • 4 cups apple cider vinegar, 5% acidity
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 Tbs kosher salt
  • 2 Tbs pickling spice
  • 2 Tbs red pepper flakes

Pack the sliced fennel into sterile quart jars (makes about 3 quarts). Combine the rest of the ingredients in a stock pot and bring to a boil. Boil for 10 minutes. Ladle hot brine over the fennel in the jars and allow to cool to room temperature. Refrigerate and allow to marinate for 24 hours but best after 2 weeks. Enjoy!

 

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Marinated Artichoke Hearts

I know, I’ve posted this before but artichokes are back in season so I want to repost it.

Artichokes, boy do we have a lot of them! Sometimes we’ve got as much as 20lbs of them languishing in the refrigerator. And really, you can only eat them boiled, steamed or barbequed so many times. So I needed to do something with them before we had to throw them out. Preserving them seemed to be the best option. Little did I know that preserving them would get us to eat them even faster! Of the 4 quarts we canned, only one remains 2 weeks later.

I started with Hank Shaw’s Pickled Artichoke recipe but made a couple of changes based on my personal preferences and what we had on hand. This recipe creates a very refreshing and bright flavor that you just want to keep eating.

Marinated Artichokes – makes 4 quarts
15-20lbs of small artichokes
2 cups lemon juice
4 cups apple cider vinegar – 5% acidity
2 cups grapeseed oil
5 sliced garlic cloves
10 dried chili halves
6 tbs salt
1/4 cup sugar
4 lemons, halved

1. Combine all ingredients but artichokes and halved lemons in a stockpot and bring to a boil.
2. Remove tough, outer leaves of artichokes, trim, cut in half and scoop out choke. Rub with the lemons to keep from oxidizing and put in a bowl.
3. Put artichoke halves in boiling liquid and return to a boil. Cook for 10 minutes.
4. Pack into sterilized quart jars until 3/4s full and top off with hot liquid leaving 1/2″ headspace. Screw on lid until finger tight.
5. Process in a water bath canner for 25 minutes. Remove from canner and allow to cool.

Trust me, once you crack open a jar it won’t last for very long. This is now my favorite way to eat artichokes.

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Tom’s Spicy Tomato Sauce

Tom and I’s first date he made me dinner at his apartment. It was a simple yet tasty dinner but I was most impressed that not only that he could cook but also that he enjoyed it. One of his best dishes was spaghetti sauce from scratch. Everyone who ever tries it raves about it.

Over time his recipe has improved. Fresh herbs and homemade sauce from our garden replaced the commercial sauce and dried herbs. The season really depends on all that we put in it. During the winter we don’t have peppers, zucchini, or eggplant available. So instead we just add more onions and mushrooms.

The secret ingredients in this sauce are the hot sauce and the sugar. Tom didn’t really want me to share, but then why would you make this recipe if it was just so-so?  The hot sauce adds some heat along with some extra acid. We generally like to use Tapatio. I think Tabasco would be too vinegary for this sauce though.

  • 4 c tomato sauce
  • 1 c tomato paste
  • 1/4 c red wine
  • 1 c water
  • 1lb sausage, removed from casings or ground meat
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 zucchini, cut in half and sliced
  • 8 oz mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 small eggplant roughly chopped
  • 1 bell pepper chopped
  • 2 Tbs Olive Oil
  • 2 Tbs Hot Sauce
  • 2 Tbs chopped fresh basil
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh Thyme
  • 1 Tbs chopped fresh Oregano
  • 1 Tbs sugar
  • Salt and Pepper to taste


1. In a hot dutch oven over medium high heat add oil and then sausage. Break up sausage while it cooks. Add garlic, herbs and hot sauce and continue cooking until sausage is browned.
2. Deglaze with the red wine.
3. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until vegetable are tender and the sauce has thickened.
4. Serve over fresh pasta or add to a lasagna (I’ve been known to eat it on it’s own).

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Makin’ Yogurt

I love yogurt. I try to eat it every day. The problem is, if you buy it, it can get pricey. So I did some online research and found a great way to get my daily yogurt for a fraction of the price.

What you will need:

1 gallon of milk (any type of milk you want to use)
1 cup of yogurt with live and active cultures – later you can use the yogurt you’ve made as a starter
Thick bottomed pot (large enough for 1 gallon of milk)
Candy thermometer
Sterile canning jars
Ice chest

Heat milk in pan to 120 deg F stirring constantly
Combine some of the heated milk with the yogurt and mix until smooth. Add mixture into the hot milk.
Put mixture into sterile jars and seal lids. Place the sealed jars into an ice chest filled with hot water that is between 110-120 deg F.
Leave overnight in ice chest or until gelled. Place jars in the refrigerator.

That’s it.
The texture will be different than what you buy at the store because it doesn’t contain gelatin, modified corn starch or other added gelling agents. If you want a thicker, Greek style yogurt you can strain it. Place a large coffee filter in a colander, put the yogurt in the filter, place colander over a bowl and place in fridge. Leave overnight.

You can add fruit to the bottom of the jars or mix in sugar and vanilla extract for flavoring.

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Green Tomato Lemon Marmalade

Cook down halved or quartered tomatoes

We were given a slew of green tomatoes. Last week I picked out the ripe ones and made pizza sauce.Now what to do with all the green ones? We did make some fried green tomatoes, but that didn’t even make a dent in them. At first I wanted to make a chutney but a friend of ours gave us some lemons (and some canned items) for helping her cull an injured chicken she had. I love to make marmalade, but it wasn’t quite enough lemons to do that so I came up with the idea to do a green tomato lemon marmalade.

Mill the tomatoes to remove seeds and skins

OK, so I have to be honest, I don’t like this marmalade. You do have to take that with a grain of salt though because I don’t like tomatoes very much. For the most part it does actually taste good, but for me I get this really strong zinc taste from it. That same taste you get when sucking on a zinc lozenge when your sick. No one else that’s tried it can taste zinc though. They all really like it, so I’m posting this because you can’t take my word on it.

Zest the lemons

 You will need a couple of specialized tools to help speed things up. First, you’ll need a food mill. Otherwise you can seed and skin the tomatoes the old fashioned way. Also, I highly recommend getting a zester for the lemons. This really helps making long, thin strands of zest for the marmalade. Otherwise you’ll need to carefully cut the zest away from the white pith and then slice it really thin. You don’t want to include the white pithy part of the peel because that is what will make the marmalade bitter.  Oh, and now that I’ve got myself a candy thermometer I can’t believe I went so long without it. So get one if you plan to make a lot of preserves.

Supreme the lemons

So what you need:
6lbs of Green tomatoes
1 1/2 lbs lemons
3/4 cup of sugar per 1 cup of liquid

1. Half or quarter the tomatoes and throw them into a pot. Bring them to a boil and let the tomatoes cook down. Once they are soft run them through a food mill to remove the seeds and skins.
2. While it’s cooking down, zest your lemons, cut off the white pith and outer membrane, and remove the pulp from the membrane (supreme).
3. Add everything together and then measure out how much you have. Add the sugar.
4. Cook down until your preserve has reached the gelling point at 220 deg F.
5. Ladle into sterile jars and process in a water bath canner for 10 minutes.

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Making the Most of a Long Weekend

Having a long weekend with few distractions has allowed us to take advantage of some time at home. We’ve been so busy lately that it’s nice to just be home and get stuff done. It was extra nice to spend most of Thursday relaxing and not doing much.

Friday, Tom got up at 2:30am to traipse off with his buddies to go pig hunting. They didn’t get anything but he had fun and I got some alone time to get some things done that I’ve been putting off because of distractions. I also processed the 20+lbs of apples that we had into 26 pints of applesauce. With the peels and cores I decided to give apple pectin a try. It seems to have worked out well and I look forward to making new jellies and jams that I couldn’t do previously because I refuse to buy commercial pectin (yes, I’m stubborn that way).

I have to say the applesauce came out perfect. It’s tart and sweet with a ton of flavor – just how I like it. I didn’t really write down a recipe. I just threw the peeled, cored and sliced apples into a large pot, added enough water to keep them from burning and cooked them down. I then ran them threw the food mill, put them back in the pot, added sugar to taste and a 1/4 cup of lemon juice just to up the acidity a bit. Put them in sterile jars and water bath canned them for 20 minutes.

Today after we got home from the farmers’ market we pulled everything out of the garden that was at it’s end. Asparagus, corn stalks, squash, cucumbers, everything. The weeds are pretty bad and I have no idea how we’ll ever conquer them but the first step will be laying down black plastic next week.

Now that the garden is cleaned up it’s time for some fermentation! Cottage cheese and sauerkraut are next on the list.

For tomorrow we’ll be laying down new irrigation lines, spreading compost and manure, make some cheddar cheese, and take some blood samples from our goats to send in for testing. Oh yeah, did I mention we’re getting a third doe? More on that later…

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