Canning season is more or less upon us. I’m skipping a lot this summer, like fruit jams and pickles, and putting all of my canning energy (what little there is at seven months pregnant) into the big-ticket item at my house – tomatoes. We use an alarming quantity of canned tomatoes – in soups, stews, pastas, casseroles, home made sauces – you name it, we likely put tomatoes in it. So that’s pretty much what I’m going to be putting up this summer.
I keep it simple with canning. I’d love to do fancy things, but I’m pretty utilitarian at heart, and let’s face it – canning can be pretty hard work. And for tomatoes, I like the raw ingredient to be as versatile as possible. I can always season or alter it later, so I like to do whole peeled tomatoes in water. For the most part, I use the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. The Ball website also has a wealth of information that I consult. They post a lot of their recipes right on their website, including Tomatoes Packed in Water. If you’ve never canned before, I think tomatoes in water is one of the easiest recipes to start with. For a primer, the Ball site has a PDF of Step-by-Step FreshPreserving of High-Acid Foods. Even though I’ve been canning for a few years now, I always consult the basics as a refresher course before I start each season.
And you can’t embark on a canning season without plenty of jars, so I took an inventory of the jars and bottles I have in my canning cupboard (well, a shelf in the corner cabinet under the counter in the kitchen, but it’s threatening to take over the whole thing).
2 small jelly (I think 4 ounces)
7 Ball Platinum Elite pint
I also have a collection of bottles that I use for vinegars, schnapps and the like –
6 glass mini wine bottles (4 green, 2 clear – all with gold screw-top lids)
1 small corked bottle
2 clear wire bail-top bottles (just over a liter each I think)
I need to fill in my canning jars. I think I have another pint jar in the house that I can bring back into the canning fold – it’s currently holding thread bobbins and doesn’t need to be. But I’d like to have two dozen pint jars total, so I still need to acquire another 14. And my ultimate goal for quart jars is four dozen, so I’m still 30 short there. I’ve got my sister on the lookout since she’s in better yard sale territory than me and I’ve got a wanted ad up on Craigslist for them too. I suppose I could always buy them retail… but I do love a good bargain and so often people are just itching to get rid of these things (though I personally can’t imagine why). And of course, I’ll need to buy some more jar rings and lids since I’m pretty much out of those. I’m on the lookout for Ball coupons that are sometimes available in the summer – the Smartsource coupon book was supposed to run one this past Sunday, but it didn’t run in our area for some reason. Hopefully I can snag one in the next few weeks, or catch a sale somewhere. Other than that, I’ve got all the equipment I need – I now own three stockpots of varying sizes (go me!) so prep and keeping the stove going will be no problem. I’ve got the wide-mouthed funnel, jar lifter and magnetic lid wand from previous years. Since I’m only planning on doing tomatoes in water, I don’t need to buy any pectin or pickling salt, although I do still have three boxes of powdered pectiin in the pantry that are good through 2012 (I think – I need to check the dates) as well as a giant box of pickling salt should the mood strike me. And this year, I have a luxury that I haven’t ever had before – kitchen space! I’ve got room to turn around and yards of counter space at my disposal this time, as well as a hefty gas stove, so I think I’m in good shape. I just have to wait for the tomatoes to ripen and start showing up in quantity at the farmer’s market. 🙂