Lids and Bands

Mom and I planted a garden this spring and prior to spending the better half of a morning tilling up the garden, we decided what we wanted to plant. We chose slicing and pickling cucumbers, sweet corn, roma and big boy tomatoes, green peppers, jalapenos, squash, zucchini, green beans and I’m sure I missed something. We’ve been reaping the benefits of our garden over the past couple of months and even more so recently. It feels great to know I’m cooking with fresh produce from a garden with little to no pesticides. Makes me want to buy a plot of land and create a co-op garden for others to share in the joy of fresh produce.

When we began this journey we talked about wanting enough tomatoes to make pasta sauce or salsa with. Two weekends ago after the recent storms had knocked down the already heavily weighted tomato plants, we gathered our roma and big boys to begin the canning process. In past months I had explored canning pickling cucumbers and more recently jalapeno, red and mystery spicy peppers with much success. The mystery spicy peppers are great with pasta.

Canning in general is time intensive but once you get everything set up and ready to go it goes pretty fast. Last Friday Mom came over so that we could can three bucket loads of tomatoes from about six plants. We began by sterilizing the jars and dunking the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds so we could easily peel the skin off. We chose tomatoes that weren’t tough from stink bugs and didn’t have too many bruises or bad spots.

After coring and quartering them we cooked them in a large pot to get their juices flowing. We then filled wide mouth pint jars leaving a 1/2″ headspace and put the lids on. Who needs a fancy canning pot with a handy dandy jar holder when you have a large stock pot and a lid smaller than the pot. We placed the lid in the base of the stock pot and filled it halfway with water. We brought the water to a gentle boil over medium-high heat before immersing the canned tomatoes.

We processed the jars before gently but quickly retrieving them from the pot of boiling water. Four hands are better than two when you don’t have all of the canning tools. The jars are resting very nicely downstairs in our basement storage area with little to no light and mild temperatures until we’re ready to eat them later this year.

There’s nothing like fresh peaches and blueberries from the Raleigh Farmers’ Market to make you want homemade jam. I think I’ll save the majority of them to give away as holiday gifts.

Have you canned anything recently? If you’re interested in trying it out, Ball has a great website with tons of recipes to choose from.

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