Last week the college held a tomato canning workshop. This was open to anyone that wanted to learn how to preserve their bountiful harvest, and it was offered to the public at an affordable price: free.
Ya know, that’s one thing that is a very common occurrence up here – workshops to learn lots of stuff that don’t cost a cent to attend. And they provide all the necessary equipment to do it. AND, they feed you too!!
Please, someone else give me an example of where this kind of stuff happens except in a tribal community.
No, really, I want to know, because I’ve never seen this before I moved up here.
Anywho, I knew the event was happening and my smart ass brain pipes up and says “Who doesn’t know how to do that?” My mind can be so rude sometimes. So I put it in its place by reminding it that not everyone was as privileged as I was to be able to learn this stuff growing up. It was part of my life when I was a kid.
My brain sulked into a corner for a while.
Over the years, I have been able to take the basic methods that my Mom taught me and adapt them to my specific needs. Usually, this is used when I can tomatoes and salsa. Mom used to just scald the skins, peel, quarter, and throw them in the jars topped with a dash of salt. Badda bing badda boom done.
She didn’t have time to mess around with anything pretty because it was basic and got the job done. After all, it was just tomatoes that were going to be used for spaghetti, goulash and the such.
Me, I take a little more time with it because… well, because I can.
A friend taught me a little trick when it comes to peeling the skins off, and I have to say that it works like a charm. No more boiling the water, filling the sink with ice water, and ending up with mushy tomatoes.
Here it is: Take you’re dullest paring knife, and with the back of the blade, pressing gently, run it all over the skin. I start at the top and do short strokes, then wind around the fruit from top to bottom. As you do this, you’ll notice that the skin is loosening around the “meat”. It changes color just a tad.
Now, core the stem part out and start peeling. That skin comes clean off!
If you come to a section that’s a little tough, just run the backside of the blade across the skin and go at it again.
Now here is where I take a little extra time in preparing my tomatoes for canning: I quarter them and squeeze the living bejeezus out of them, leaving just the meat. If it’s a small tomato, just half it.
A good way to do this so you don’t end up with juice squirted all over yourself and the kitchen is to think of how you squeeze a lemon without ending up with the seeds in your food. Cup it between your hands and give it a good hug.
I let all this go in my compost pile. But hey, if you want to save it and strain it for juice, have at it!
So now you’re expecting me to be filling the jars and be done with it, right? Sorry, it’s not that simple with me. I need these babies to drain even more (I like thick salsa and sauce). Into bowls they go, lids sealed tight and head straight for the fridge for the next day (or 2) until I’m ready to can. I won’t go longer than 3 days because after that, they tend to lose that wonderful aroma and I know they’re heading south.
When I pull them from the fridge, there’s at least another cup of liquid that I can drain off.
Sorry, not a great photo, but trust me on this one… it’s there. (Here’s a hint: it’s on the left side.)
I give them one more squeeze and they are ready for the jars or the leading role in my salsa.
The process itself is so simple, you don’t even need to know how to can to preserve your own tomatoes in jars. Just throw the stuff in freezer bags and thaw when needed (you’ll have some liquid from the thawing process, but you’ll know what to do).
So there you have it, Tomato Prep 101.
Another public service from your favorite blogger.
Now let’s get canning!