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Storing up

2.October 2011

Last night, pretty late at night, Dan and I went to work blanching, peeling, quartering, and stuffing tomatoes into jars, attempting to save up their juicy freshness for the long dark months of winter coming soon to a sad little New England apartment near you.  (You can tell how excited I am for winter this year.)

But, come to think of it, I’ve been storing up a lot lately – it’s been a while since I’ve shown my face around here and it’s due not to lack of desire, but instead to a groundswell of deadlines and the growing dread of impending change.  I’m not one of these people who can’t handle change – in fact I crave it from time to time.  But this time seems like it’s going to be bigger changes than before – or none at all.  It’s hard to say which way the wind will blow.

Anyway, I’ve been saving up a lot of content to share with you – a mountain of cookies and a big bowl of punch I made for a Party in August, Plum Cake, Zucchini Cake from July when we were up to our ears in Zucchini, Mediterranean goodies from earlier this Spring, and so forth.  And I’ll hopefully get to all of it at some point or another.  But for now, we’ll have to just settle for Tomatoes.

In honor of the impending season change and season of change, I decided to can tomatoes the normal way, but in addition I decided to make a sweeter (more optimistic, if you will) version and put up some tomato jam.  (Maybe I’ll make a sour tomato chutney to cover all my bases, in case nothing works out well.)

Lest we degenerate into navel-gazery, let’s talk tomatoes.

My friend Kerstin got me a great deal on some tomatoes and we went to town.

I grew up with my mom and grandma canning for most of the second half of the Summer, trying to avoid the clouds of tomatoey steam that billowed from the downstairs kitchen next door and taking great, great pleasure in peeling the wax pencil that they used to mark the still-hot jars with the date.  My grandpa would then enter into his journal how many quarts of this and that we had put up.  (His journal, it turns out, was more a list of dates and statistics than it is any linear account of what happened.  Kind of a numerical shorthand for family history.)

I feel like I should have an in-born or at least long-learned knowledge of how to can things like fresh tomatoes, but I don’t. (Shame on me!  Shame!)  So I turned to Jessie Knadler and Kelly Geary’s book Tart and Sweet.  The instructions in that book were really great – very thorough and super-well indexed, but not at all overwhelming.  Here’s the gist:

  1. Blanch your tomatoes (dip them in boiling water for 10-15 seconds) and peel them.
  2. Cut them up however you like. (I quartered mine.)
  3. Put 1/4 t citric acid (check the canning aisle of your supermarket) and 1/2 t salt in each pint jar.
  4. Shove the tomatoes into the jars, leaving 3/4 inch of headspace.
  5. Bring a bunch of water to a boil, then ladle it into the jars to fill in all the crannies between the tomatoes and then top them.  Leave a total of about 1/2 inch of headspace. (i.e. cover the tomatoes by about 1/4 inch)
  6. Process for 40 minutes in a hot water bath.  If you don’t already know how this works, I insist you either look at a canning book or consult this website for your own safety.
The tomato jam was a slightly more creative (and, I’d say, delicious) process.  Here’s what I did, drawing heavily on Mark Bittman’s recipe (as posted by The Wednesday Chef).
Optimistic Tomato Jam
  • 3 lb ripe tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
  • 1 c dark brown sugar
  • 1 c granulated sugar
  • 2 T freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 t citric acid
  • 2 T fresh grated ginger
  • 2 t ground cumin
  • 1/2 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t whole cloves (I was out of ground – if using ground, use 1/4 t)
  • 1 t salt
  • 1/4 t cayenne pepper
  1. Combine all in a pot. Bring to boil
  2. Lower heat and simmer until thickened to jam-like consistency. (You can check the thickness by putting a spoonful onto a plate and sticking it in the freezer for a couple minutes to cool it down.)
  3. Fill into half-pint jars, seal and process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes.  For me, this yielded three half-pints, but if you don’t mind it being a little runnier, you could probably get four by not reducing it as much.
**Serving suggestion: Add to crusty bread and homemade ricotta.  Enjoy with coffee for breakfast.
7 Comments leave one →
  1. 2.October 2011 13:10

    Yum! This looks delicious! I hate the season changes too, but I’m trying to be optimistic about it this year. Someone told me I have to think about all the fun things each season brings, and find activities I enjoy that I can only do in specific seasons. It’s not easy when I think about the hours of shoveling ahead of me this winter :)

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      3.October 2011 10:48

      Optimism is definitely in order. I’m actually thinking the time change will help, since I’m on an early-riser schedule these days. Until it gets permanently dark, that is.

  2. 2.October 2011 14:47

    MMMmmm tomato jam is one of our absolute favorites. Put up a ton of it this summer. Don’t think you can ever have too many tomatoes in jars.

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      3.October 2011 10:49

      Right? Tomatoes in jars are the best! I’m already planning the ration schedule, in case we run short.

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      1.June 2012 17:21

      It’s true. Can’t wait for this year’s crop to come in!

  3. 2.October 2011 14:56

    Yum, looks amazing. So happy to see someone canning – my mom also did canning when I was small, jams and tomatoes and grape juice (really delicious!) as I remember, and I’ve been thinking recently of trying my hand at it.

    • Darby O'Shea permalink*
      3.October 2011 10:50

      Canning is the best and it’s really not that hard. I recommend the books “Tart and Sweet” and “Putting Up” as primers! We have a ton of Concord grapes in our back yard. Maybe I should put up some grape juice! Never canned juice before!

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