How hard CAN it be? – inspiration.intimidated

So this is my first inspiration.intimidated….

There are two things I’ve always wanted to say I have done. (I’m sure there are more, but I can’t think of them at this moment.)
1. Canning
2. Sewing
Today I was ready to at least try one.
Thanks to my two resident experts Alicia (my cousin) and and my daring friend Bethany I can now say I have canned.
Plus just last week I harvested all of my leftover tomatoes and I really needed a creative way to put them to use.  I had about 14 cups of green tomatoes and 12 cups of red orange and yellow tomatoes, that were at various stages of ripening.
I used two recipes. One was for Salsa Verde, and the other was for tomato preserves. Thanks to my cousin for these awesome recipes. I was able to sample them before they went into the jars and they sure were tasty. I have great hope for when I open them up!
For the Salsa Verde we (Bethany and I) used only the green tomatoes. And for the tomato preserves we used mostly the red, orange, and yellow tomatoes. Tomato preserves are very sweet and should be used like jam. (I had no idea!) I am also going to try it over cream cheese with crackers.
With those facts in mind we figured the more bitter, sour flavor of the green tomatoes would go better with salsa, and that the sweeter flavor of the partially or fully ripened tomatoes would be better for the preserves.

The process begins with cleaning and prepping the jars.

 

And of course there was the cleaning and de-stemming of the tomatoes. The recipes called for the tomatoes to be peeled and cored. However, I was using primarily cherry tomatoes and decided to leave the peels on. Way too much work for my taste to peel them all. Plus, I don’t mind a little added texture and things like salsa or jam.
Again that was a safe call on our part. After tasting them I definitely can see the added texture did not bother me a bit.
Primarily green tomatoes for the Salsa Verde and the partially or fully ripened tomatoes for the preserves.
First up… Salsa Verde
 
We made a double batch. And next year I will attempt to make even more. But since I have never done it before I did the double batch in two separate stockpots because I wasn’t sure if you could blend them. I think on the Salsa Verde it is safe to say you could do them in one big pot with a double batch.

 

Into the pots went the tomatoes, lime juice, red onion, peppers and garlic.

 

Then came more can prepping. While the tomatoes were brought to a boil. (We did use a tool similar to a potato masher to really get the tomatoes to break down.) The original recipe called for a submersion in hot water – the traditional way to can. My friend Bethany uses a different strategy where the jars are heated in the oven and then flipped upside down to seal them after filling them. We decided to go with her method. Again it saved a bit of time and seems simpler.  I am all about that. This method only works if the ingredients you are putting into the jar are at a high temperature themselves. So in this case for the salsa and the preserves this method would work just great.

 

Above you see the green Salsa Verde at a partial boil and then fully broken down.

 

 

Once the tomatoes are fully boiled and broken down we added the cilantro and all the spices. Then brought the salsa to a gentle boil for an additional 15 minutes.
At this point we heated the jars, lids, and lid rings to high temperatures so that we could just add the salsa to the jars and put them upside down to seal.  The jars are heated at 200° in the oven until hot. And the lids are heated in boiling water. This next part of the process really does take two people.

 

I pulled the jars out of the oven two at a time while Bethany filled them to almost full. About a half inch headspace gets left at the top. Then she wiped the rim very very clean and pulled a lid and lid ring out about boiling water to put them right on the jar. Then immediately flipped them upside down to seal. Again this part is done very quickly so having two people made it much easier.  Not to mention the fact that Bethany had a couple of tools that were almost imperative and I had no idea even existed.
The first one was a funnel that had a wide base. This allowed us to pour think recipes into the jars with a lot less mess. And secondly she had a small magnetic tool that was used to pull the lids out of the boiling water. I will definitely have to get these for myself if I plan to do this again. Which I do!
It was much simpler than I would’ve guessed.

 

 

 

 

Next up….

 

Tomato Preserves
You might be like me and saying “tomato preserves? What the heck are those?”
I can tell you from tasting throughout the step-by-step process that these should be really delicious. Still not quite certain what tomato preserves are, but I guess I will know by the end of the process.
This recipe is much simpler than the Salsa Verde. Inside of cheesecloth I put a teaspoon of pickling spice. I was able to get this in bulk at my local grocery store. And in went a peeled half-inch cube of ginger root. Then the cheesecloth was tied to make a spice bag.

 

The spice bag and sliced, deseeded lemons were added to water and sugar. Then brought to a boil to make a syrup. It needed to boil for 15 minutes.

 

The smells that poured out of the pan at this point gave me hope that tomato preserves would be absolutely delicious.

 

Next you add in the tomatoes. This is brought to a boil and left to boil at medium heat until the tomatoes are translucent.
Then it is left to cool for 12 to 18 hours… I didn’t realize this when I began, so Canning became a two day project for us! I headed back to Bethany’s the next day for family dinner and to finish canning.
Once cooled the tomatoes and lemon slices are removed from the syrup. The syrup is then brought to a boil until thick. (approximately 3 minutes) I will add that our’s never really thickened. My guess is that it wouldn’t. We added a box of Pectin here in hopes of thickening it up some. Not sure that worked either. 😉 I might try adding the pectin earlier. We also had to put the tomatoes into the cuisinart to get them to break down enough. (I think this was only necessary because we didn’t peel the tomatoes.)
Then the tomatoes are added back in and eventually create the perfect mixture that is the right texture for the preserves. And you skim the foam off the top.

 

More jar prepping in the oven and stovetop.

 

Then teamwork to fill the jars. We used really small jars for the preserves with approximately a quarter-inch of headspace. Flip them upside down to seal. And we’re done!
We thought this smaller size and jar design would make nice gifts!
I am going to keep at least one jar of each for me to taste and may also pass a few on as gifts this Christmas. Next year I will be sure to do double, triple, or quadruple batches so I have lots to give. The nice thing about the preserves is that they could be made any time of year with red tomatoes, versus the Salsa Verde recipe that is made with green tomatoes. Those of course I have to wait for in my own garden at the end of the summer season.

 

If I learned anything about canning I learned that the prep is the most work. But, in the end it is very satisfying! (Even though in this case we each only ended up with a couple of cans each I still found this to be very true.)
I definitely am a canning convert! I hope this tutorial inspires you to try canning yourself.
Or maybe just inspires you to try something that greatly intimidates you…
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