Monthly Archives: August 2010

Tomato Canning Tutorial

Today’s guest post comes from Laura of A Pug in the Kitchen.  I’ve known Laura for the longest of all my bloggy friends and she graciously agreed to do this tutorial after “canning tomato sauce” won my poll and I realized I probably wouldn’t be able to do it!

I come from a long line of tomato sauce makers.  As far back as when I was still standing on a kitchen chair to help my mom, I remember stories of her grandmother’s sauce and how she always carried a sprig of basil in the front pocket of her apron.  If you ask my grandmother’s neighbors what they remember most about her, they will typically answer that the whole street smelled like home when she made her pasta sauce.  My own mother planted 2 dozen tomato plants every year and made vat after vat of sauce.  After she died, I got her tomato sauce vat and I proudly use it yearly.  However, when it came time to make my own sauce, I wanted to can mine, and not use up valuable freezer space.  For this, I took lessons from my husband’s sister’s mother-in-law.  It was a long day, full of tomatoes, but the skills I learned then I use often and hope you will find helpful throughout this brief lesson on canning tomato sauce.

 

Before you begin, you must first make sure you have canning jars, lids, rings and something to use as a water bath canner.  I have a home canning kit that was given to me as a wedding present, but I have also found that as long as you are able to cover your jars completely with water, you can use any pan you’d like.  When I make sauce, I prefer to use the Roma tomato variety because they are meatier tomatoes and the sauce thickens up better.  Any tomato will do, it’s simply my preference. 

 

My mother washed, cored and quartered the tomatoes before taking them for a spin in her blender.  While this method is a piece of cake and requires no blanching and peeling, I am rather partial to the Kitchen Aid attachment for straining fruits and vegetables.  It is literally the same 3 steps as with a blender, but the Kitchen Aid attachment is designed to reject the seeds and skin, so all you have a pure tomato pulp.  (Also effective and a much cheaper option is a simple food grinder.  It’s great for quick jobs, homemade baby foods and if you don’t have a Kitchen Aid!) Once your tomatoes are mashed, put them into a stockpot and begin to heat them.  The point of heating the tomatoes is to sanitize them and then cook them to the thickness you desire.  I like mine as thick as I can get it, so I often add in an 8 oz can of tomato paste per 6-7 pounds of tomatoes while the sauce is cooking to ensure it gets to the consistency I want.    You can add in your choice of spices while the sauce is cooking or leave it plain and add them in before you serve. 

 

While your sauce is cooking, this is the time to get your jars, lids and rings in order.  I try to do the bulk of my sauce in quart-sized jars, but after I have at least 20, I am willing to do pints of sauce.  You will need to sanitize your jars and one of the quickest ways of doing this is to put them in your dishwasher on the sanitize cycle.  If you don’t have this option, fill your canner with water and boil the jars for 2 minutes.  The lids and the rings should go in a separate pan to simmer until you are ready to use them.

 

Once the jars have been sanitized, the water in your canner is boiling and your sauce is the thickness you desire, you are ready!  Carefully ladle the sauce into your jars, leaving 1/4th inch headspace.  Then add in 2 Tbsp. lemon juice for quart jars (1 Tbsp for pints), so keep the tomatoes fresh tasting and to reduce any odds of spoilage.  Then wipe the rims with a towel, retrieve your lids and fasten them tightly.  Set your jars down in the boiling water bath and make sure the tops are covered with at least an inch of water.  Process them for 40 minutes for quarts and 35 minutes for pints.  Once the jars are done, remove them from the water using tongs and set them aside to cool.  When they are cool, you can check to make sure they have all sealed by pushing down on the tops of the lids and making sure they don’t spring back.  Don’t do this while the jars are still hot because you can seriously burn yourself and you really shouldn’t mess with the jars until they are cool as it can hinder them from sealing completely.  As the jars do seal, you should hear them “ping” shut.  If you’ve never heard it before, you’ll love it and if you’re a pro, I think you’ll agree with me that that sound is even more rewarding than the sauce itself after a long day of tomato canning!

 Quick tips:

*For thin sauce – An average of 35 pounds of tomatoes is needed per 7 quarts of sauce; an average of 21 pounds of tomatoes is needed per 9 pints of sauce. A bushel weighs 53 pounds and yields 10 to 12 quarts of sauce-an average of 5 pounds per quart.

*For thick sauce – An average of 46 pounds of tomatoes is needed per 7 quarts of sauce; an average of 28 pounds of tomatoes is needed per 9 pints of sauce. A bushel weighs 53 pounds and yields 7 to 9 quarts of sauce-an average of 6½ pounds per quart.

*I don’t recommend putting fresh garlic into your sauce before you can it.  For some reason, the flavor always seems a little off to me.  I like to simmer my sauce for a little before actually using it, so I add the garlic in then.

Laura is an advocate of things green, natural and even a little crunchy after leaving her career as a Toxicology researcher when it became evident to her what was really going on behind all the pretty labels.  Today, she can be found in the garden, in the kitchen, playing with her 1 year old son, crafting or stealing a few moments to read.  Feeding people real, local and simple food that isn’t deceptively healthy is her passion.  Check out Laura’s blog A Pug in the Kitchen or follow her on twitter @Beansprouthair.  

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Filed under Food, Living from Scratch, Local Agriculture, Recipes, Sustainable Living

Back to School!

Today is my first day back to work after six months at home.  It’s incredible how fast that time just flew by.  I know I’m going to struggle to combine being a mother with working, especially in the beginning, and blogging will simply fall through the cracks.  I’ve set a goal of blogging once a week, even if it’s just to share a photo or two, but I’m not sure that plan is realistic.  I’ve decided to take a twitter and facebook hiatus so all my spare internet time can be devoted to this blog, though I’m not sure there will be “spare” internet time.

In the mean time, I’ve organized some wonderful guest posts from some amazing friends.  They’re generously sharing their stories, skills, photos and journeys.  Please check out each new post on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, starting today and continuing until I run out of guest writers. Visit their blogs, too, and I think you’ll enjoy getting to know each of them.

Though I’m feeling torn about going back to work, I do love my job.  I love exploring the outdoors, working in the greenhouse, experimenting in the laboratory and figuring out how to save the planet alongside my students.  They truly give me hope for our future on planet Earth.  Still, I could never love my work as much as I love my son.

I’m still accepting guest posts if you’d like to contribute! Find the details here.

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Picking Apples

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Menu Plan *Friday

What can I say? I got groceries today, and I have time! My first week at work is next week, so I’m hoping a menu plan will help me get organized and help to streamline my cooking as well as make sure nothing gets wasted.  I’m making an effort to have lots of healthy vegetables, and I’ll be taking leftovers to work for lunch.  I’m not setting days, since I’d rather make whatever I feel like having, and this will allow for any disruptions in the plan.

Meal 1

  • chicken breast stuffed with spinach and ricotta (double batch and freeze)
  • brown rice
  • carrots
  • tossed salad

Meal 2

  • homemade pizza
  • tossed salad

Meal 3

  • roasted chicken
  • stuffing
  • butternut squash
  • cranberry applesauce
  • tossed salad

Meal 4

  • spaghetti and meatballs (double batch and freeze)
  • sauteed spinach with garlic
  • tossed salad

Meal 5

  • pork chops
  • buttered noodles
  • sauteed cabbage
  • applesauce
  • tossed salad

Meal 6

  • crab cakes
  • mashed potatoes
  • sauteed spinach with garlic
  • tossed salad

Meal 7

  • take out!

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Filed under Food, What's for Supper?

Greening Back to School

This post is my contribution to the Green Moms Carnival.  This month’s carnival is hosted by Mindful Momma and the topic is “Back to School.”

Last night, a family friend asked me about what we teachers ask students to purchase for going back to school.  He had heard a radio story about people being asked to bring in rolls of toilet paper, paper towels, hand sanitizer and other non-educational items.  Can I just say that this is ridiculous?

Now, I may have a different perspective because I teach high school and my only requirements are that each student covers his or her book, has a notebook of his or her choice, and brings some sort of writing utensil.  I’m easy to please.  If kids want highlighters, colored pencils, a fancy trapper keeper (do they still make those?) or a TI-86 calculator, good for them.  But those aren’t REQUIRED items in my classroom.

As an environmental educator and an environmentalist, I encourage kids to skip purchasing new items and use the ones they have at home that are perfectly good.  At the end of each year when kids clean out their lockers, I inevitably see them throwing out binders, notebooks, folders, etc.  I spend much of my time standing by the trash, asking them if they’d like to donate it to my classroom instead.  I’d much prefer that they’d save it for next year, and I’m sure their parents would like that, but teenagers don’t always think cost-effectively.  Fast-forward to the next school year and I offer students my “salvaged” binders on the first day, first-come-first-served, and explain that they’re reusing, an important part of Reduce-Reuse-Recycle.  Since I was on maternity leave at the end of last year, I have no binders to give away this year.  But I’ll encourage kids to check out what they have at home before buying new.

Some ideas: Do you have any idea how many partially used spiral notebooks there are? You probably have many in your house.  Why not cut out the paper and put it in a binder instead of buying new? Or simply rip out the used pages and you have a brand new notebook! Why not use scrap paper or junk mail instead of buying post-it notes or pads? Do you really need to buy new pens, pencils, crayons, rulers, calculators? Why not shop around at home before heading out to the store? It’ll save you some money and reduce your impact on the planet.

Finally, when it comes to buying toilet paper, paper towels and hand sanitizer (my school doesn’t do this),  I think it’s crazy, but I can understand wanting to use as much of the budget for education as possible.  However, as a taxpayer, I don’t want to have to go out and buy these things that the school should provide.  It would make much more sense for the school to buy these items in bulk, and thereby save money, packaging and a lot of aggravated parents.  If your child’s school is asking for these items, I’d encourage you to contact the teacher, principal, superintendent or Board of Education.  It just makes no sense for children to bring these items to school.  (It reminds me of a story my grandfather told about being required to bring wood for the wood stove to his one-room school house, and that the kids who brought the most wood got to sit closest to the fire.)  Maybe you can explain that your family chooses to use cloth wipes instead of toilet paper? That would be a fun way to introduce yourself to the new teacher!

Do you have any tips for going back to school without being a mega-consumer?

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New Profile Picture!

If you’re friends with me around the internet, you might notice my profile picture is changing… See the whole photo shoot.

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Wordless Wednesday: Sitting?!?!

(Just for a few seconds…)

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