Monday, September 01, 2008

Tomato update

I finished canning the salsa and now have 8 pints of it! I was very happy with how it came out; I adjusted my recipe slightly from last year and so it was a tiny bit hotter, had a better cilantro kick and just a slightly more vinegar taste, something that was missing last year.

This year, the salsa in its raw state before cooking for canning was terrific, but it had an almost ketchup-y taste to it (well, they are tomatoes). After cooking, some flavors intensified and the ketchup taste went away, thank heaven. It is so much better than anything in the store, and even better than last year's batch. After cooking, the minced garlic and the heat of the peppers were more pronounced, as was the vinegar and lemon juice. Overall, though, despite the work, it's quite satisfying to produce something in your kitchen like this that caps an entire season of work.

Here are some shots of the process. Sorry that I didn't get a shot of everything cut up. That has to be done in stages because there isn't enough room to get everything into one place and so I just didn't do it.

Start with a variety of ripened tomatoes.

Fresh peppers, onions and cilantro make for bright flavors.

Once all the ingredients are cut up, start the water boiling in the canning kettle.

You really can't can without all the proper tools. Besides the canning kettle and rack (pictured here on the left), you need a jar lifter and jar funnel to make filling the jars, placing them into the kettle and removing them much easier. They are a necessity, not an option. They are sold as a kit that Ball makes. If you decide to try this, you'll need to buy them.

Now you heat the salsa to the boiling point and continue boiling for 10 minutes.

It's all a dance, this. The jars have been in the dishwasher being sterilized, and they come out just in time (still hot) to be filled with the boiling salsa. Here they are, lined up and ready to go, with the funnel in the first jar.

The jars have the hot salsa ladled into them.

Jars are filled to 1/4 inch from the top.

When the funnel is removed, each jar rim has to be wiped down to remove all residue so that the seal will not be compromised.

The filled jars go into the rack...

...and the seal is placed, then secured with the jar ring.

The canning rack gets placed into the boiling water in the canner. The water must fully cover the jars by at least an inch (jars must remain completely submerged during processing). The lid is put on and the jars "process" for 20 minutes.

When the processing is finished, the jars are lifted from the boiling water and placed on a cooling rack.

As the jars cool, the vacuum seal is formed. You hear a "plink" noise when the seal has successfully formed on each jar, and the lid appears to be a bit concave. Only when the seal has been made is it safe to store the jars. Sealing lids may not be re-used from previously sealed jars, although rings may.

I thought you might want to see two of the larger tomatoes from this year's harvest. On the left, a Cherokee Purple; on the right, a Watermelon beefsteak. Cherokee Purples aren't so much purple as brown; they're odd-looking, but delicious.

And finally, the Watermelon beefsteak makes a really yummy BLT. No, that's not cheese, it's the tomato! And we didn't have lettuce today, so I had to settle for a BT.

By the way, stop over at Jess' blog for today's birthday party pictures!


At 10:20 PM, September 01, 2008, Blogger Jess said...

I am a lucky man!

If anyone has any doubt, I can assure you that Marc is a great gardener and a fabulous chef! The tomatoes are delicious, and the salsa is amazing. Even a simple sandwich like a BLT (or a BT, in this case) is amazing when Marc makes it! The same can be said for the cake he made for Mandy's birthday (as Marc said, more on that over at my blog).

How did I get so lucky to find this man? I love you, Bokey!

At 3:09 PM, September 02, 2008, Blogger Michelle Ann said...


Okay, I need to send you my address so I can receive my tomato care package. :)

At 3:35 PM, September 02, 2008, Blogger Dantallion said...

You've inspired me. I feel like canning and jarring things. (at least in my own mind. For the sake of not putting additional strain on Canada's health care system, I won't actually try and cook things for real...)

It all looks amazing, Marc.

At 4:33 PM, September 05, 2008, Blogger Greg said... are truly a god of the kitchen, with all your canning and such.

Most impressive...perhaps if I can perfect the art of vegetable growing in the future, I'll give you some competition, but for now, you rule. (That salsa looks yummy...)

Now, what's this "pee-loop" stuff?


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