One might call it a Labor Day tradition: a gathering of many hands, a pitcher of sangria, and an unreasonably large quantity of tomatoes in a Rogers Park kitchen for the annual Canapolooza. In case you missed it, this is what happened:
My friend Ann can can.
She might be able to can can too, but trust me, Ann can definitely can.
When I picked up my 40 pounds of tomatoes from Midnight Sun last Sunday for her Labor Day canning party (thinking, “wow, this is a s*#$ ton of tomatoes“), Ann said, “I think we may have different expectations about canning day.”
When two crafty ladies get together with cocktails and 100 pounds of tomatoes, it’s kind of amazing. Aside from the 19 jars of marinara sauce now sit in my pantry ready for the pizza I might make next February, here are some photographic highlights of the day:
As I climbed the step stool and stored jar after jar of tomato sauce on top of the cupboards in my tiny kitchen, I gave myself a serious pat on the back:
Well, Warnecke, you’ve done it. You preserved enough tomatoes to make it through the winter, and next spring too. Well. done.
A pasta dish and a couple of homemade pizzas later and I’m about half way through my stash before the first snow. I’ve been yearning for the full experience of eating and living seasonally, and seriously want to make a pizza in February without buying a mealy tomato from Mexico. I thought this might be my year, but, alas, it seems not.
I realize that my quest to live like Laura Ingalls Wilder is somewhat impeded by living in a twenty-first century metropolis with 8 cubic feet of outdoor space…
It’s a process, but I’m determined to do it, and this year is apparently part of the learning process in what I actually need to do to get through a winter sans the produce aisle.
Next year I’ll be upping my game. I’m thinking, instead of thirty, I should really be canning more like 130 pounds of tomatoes.
I pseudo inherited my crock pot from my mother while foraging her basement on a Sunday trip to the suburbs. This 1975 Sears “Crock Watcher” is older than me, but undoubtedly in better condition.
If the 70’s got anything right, it’s the slow cooker. The idea that I can stick something in there at 6am before I leave for work, cover it with liquid, and come home to a good smelling house AND dinner still boggles my mind, and I do it about every other week…. sometimes more, sometimes less.
Lately Old Faithful has been working overtime cranking out tomato sauce to stock up for the winter. I bought 30 pounds of tomatoes from Midnight Sun Farm over the course of three weeks and have made tomato processing an obsession.
After an epic fail on the stove of sauce that was way more juicy than saucy, I revamped my approach. Ok, it wasn’t entirely a fail, just a misunderstanding between me and the tomatoes, really. After consulting mom (my go-to for kitchen mishaps) and my friend and fellow canning-enthusiast Toni Camphouse, I opted to try the slow cooker approach, and I’m never turning back.
Homemade Tomato Sauce
- Tomatoes (duh)
- Lemon Juice
- Canning jars and lids
Core and quarter tomatoes and fill your slow cooker. Prop the lid open with a spoon and cook all day on low.
Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the tomatoes until smooth. Pre-fill canning jars with salt and lemon juice. For quart jars, use 2TB lemon juice and 1 tsp. salt*. Half those if using pint jars. Add sauce to jars and fill to 1/2″ from the top. Cover with lid and band, twisting until hand tight.
Add jars to water bath (making sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 inch). Once water is boiling, reduce heat to a rolling boil and set time for 30-40 minutes (30 for pint jars, 40 for quart). Remove from water bath and set on a level surface to cool (don’t shake the jars). Store for as long as you like, or about a year, whichever comes first.
* You can add seasoning to your sauce before you jar it, but I prefer to do it once I open the jar so the herbs and spices are fresher.
I spent a lot of my Labor Day in the kitchen with lots and lots of tomatoes. I bought 10 pound from my local farmers market and though my intended sauce turned out like juice (this is the topic of another post, perhaps), I thought that it would be fun to start a tiny little how-to video series!
I have tons of recipe books, but sometimes instead of browsing through index after index I find it’s just easier to google stuff that I want to know instantly.
So here I am on the YouTube, in my teensy apartment kitchen (hey, a lot of awesome stuff comes out of that little room…), giving a quick lesson on how to core tomatoes. The video is tiny, like my kitchen, because it was taken by iphone… but you’ll get the idea.
So, what do we think? Yay? Nay? Want more of these? Let me know!
Tomatoes are so delicious. I can eat them whole. Like apples. For about two days.
When the tomatoes started arriving in my CSA box, I jumped for joy and literally squealed. It’s a BIG deal for seasonal eaters when the tomatoes are ready. I think I ate one with every meal for the first couple days, and then as swiftly as my excitement rose it passed.
A couple days ago, I just stopped being in the mood for tomatoes. Without enough supply to justify a full-on canning session, I looked back to my box and thought, wow, this could be an opportunity to use up the onions, garlic, and jalapenos too! So I threw together this beautiful and really, really spicy salsa. My hope is that with a few days in the fridge will take the edge off, but if you like hot, THIS is the salsa for you:
Spicy Garden Salsa
- About five big tomatoes, cored and chopped
- 1 bell pepper, chopped
- 1/2 C. onion, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3-4 jalapenos, seeded, de-veined, and chopped (or, keep a few seeds in if you dare) *
- Splash of vinegar
- 1 TB sugar
- 1/2 tsp. cumin
Mix up in a bowl and eat it. Or, store in a mason jar in the fridge and eat it later.
If you’re smart, unlike me, you’ll wear gloves when dealing with hot peppers. I didn’t and then scratched my forehead and it was still burning 30 minutes later…
There are plenty of great recipes for canning salsas to increase their shelf life. I just chose to do a quick fridge-worthy salsa because I was short on time, it’s really hot in the kitchen, and I figure this will be in my stomach before long.
Salsa is not just for chips! Use this to add flavor to your tacos, eggs, or make a sassy and refreshing salad by adding it to cubed fresh watermelon