At last the sad day has come (and gone by now) and our dear closet dweller has moved out of her garret. Not only that, but she has left the state entirely and moved on to more populace places. We miss her every night.
And we manically fill the time with projects. In the past seven days since her leaving, we have re-organized the kitchen, re-arranged the living room, re-categorized our books, moved various pieces of furniture, conquered the long-standing Box Mountain from when we moved here a year ago, and most importantly, canned lots of tomatoes. I think it’s fair to say that the canning has been a welcome distraction from the odd quietness at the edges of our little apartment. When three people share a three-room apartment for this long, it takes some adjusting to get used to the space being used by only two. In addition we’ve been working on our winter’s frozen food supply over the last week: we now have cilantro, peppers, and parsley put away for the winter as well as the tomato extravaganza, which is mostly what I’m here to talk about. Well that and a goodbye to the Closet Dweller.
What you need:
Lots of clean bowls and counter-tops
Lots and lots of tomato seconds, or nice tomatoes if you want to spring for them
Clean mason jars
New lids with bands. Canning lids can seal only once, so make sure they are new.
1 pair of canning tongs
1 wide-mouth funnel. It really is worth it.
A pot large enough to cover your jars in at least 1-2 inches of water without spilling over and putting out your pilot light. (In fact, a water bath canner is really probably worth it. It costs about $25 and comes with a rack to hold the jars).
It’s important to stay really clean about everything. Work with a clean kitchen, wash everything very well before using it, and wash your hands often.
The whole processes goes like this:
1. Bring home a huge box of tomato seconds from the farm.
2. Spend a day or two cleaning and chopping and sorting. Cut off any parts that seem even slightly suspect.
3. Cook the tomatoes for 1-5 hours depending on how many pieces of furniture you are moving at the same time. You want the volume to reduce somewhat, or a lot. Cooking the tomatoes for about 3 hours, you get a ration sort of like this: for every two cups of fresh tomatoes, about 1 1/2 cups canned.
4. Wash mason jars, lids, and bands in hot soapy water. Set aside for sterilizing. Also wash your wide mouth funnel and tongs and any other tools you might find yourself using. If you have hotdog tongs (which we don’t) they are very helpful, wash them too.
5. Fill the canning pot with water and put on high heat to boil. Once the water is boiling, lower the clean and empty jars, lids, and bands into the water, cover, and boil for 10 minutes. This is the sterilize them. You can also boil your funnel, canning tongs, and hotdog tongs.
6. Meanwhile, turn the heat up on your tomatoes so they are close to a boil.
7. After the jars have been sterilized, lift one of them out of the water, pouring out the water from the inside.
8. Use the wide mouth funnel to fill the jar, leaving 1 inch of headroom. Add 1 tablespoon white vinegar per pint jar to raise the acidity and help preserve it..
9. Carefully wipe the rim and threads of the jar so there is no tomato outside the jar at all. Now go back to you pot of boiling water with jars, lids, and bands. Lift out a lid and carefully place it on top of the jar. Get a band and screw it on, again, carefully. You don’t need to tighten too much, but you don’t want it to be loose.
10. Repeat this process until you have as many jars full of tomato as you can fit in your canner at a time. Using the tongs, lower the jars back into the boiling water, again, making sure that the water covers them by 1-2 inches.
11. Bring the pot back to a boil with all the jars in it. Boil the jars for 10 minutes, starting after the pot has reached a full boil.
12. When the ten minutes of boiling are up, lift the jars one by one from the canner, being sure not to tilt them to on their sides. Set them down and listen carefully for the pops of the lids sealing. A jar is only safe if the lid pops.
Keep the jars out of light. Store in the dark emptiness of where your Closet Dweller used to live (or in a cabinet).