In celebration of our three year blogging anniversary (congratulations to us!) I’m making an exception to our normal dinner menu/recipe format in order to encourage you all to try canning or preserving during this produce-abundant time of year. Over the last few years, really since having kids, I’ve been trying to move towards more local, sustainable, organic and less processed foods. Canning and preserving makes this goal more attainable, especially in Wisconsin, which has easy access to farms but a short growing season. After reading Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle and having Kristin walk me through canning a batch of homemade pickles, I am now a canning addict. Home preserved food is cheaper and better tasting than store bought and nothing beats the feeling of opening your pantry and seeing rows of gorgeous food lined up and ready for the long winter ahead. Food that you made!
If you think canning is difficult and time consuming, think again. Putting up a batch of pickles takes less than 2 hours and hardly any prep, especially after you’ve done it a few times and figure out little tricks like putting up the canning water to boil before doing anything else. I put on a good album and do my canning after my children go to bed. I find it relaxing and fun. Last week, my friends and I tried canning tomatoes for the first time, throwing a little canning party complete with hired babysitter. Although novices with tomatoes, we cranked out 15 jars in three hours at cost of about $1 per jar. We also did a quick double batch (8 jars) of dilly beans. Not too bad for a Sunday morning’s work.
Canned Tomatoes (Packed in Water)
from Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, recipe available here
There are many wonderful canning websites with detailed instructions and pictures on how to prepare your jars, lids and other canning set up information. I like the canning tips at pickyourown.org and the photos and instructions for tomato canning at Food in Jars. Beginners should also check out the videos and instructions here.
2-1/2 to 3-1/2 lb (1 to 1.5 kg) ripe tomatoes (about 7 to 10 medium) per quart
Citric acid or bottled lemon juice
Glass preserving jars with lids and bands
Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside. [NOTE: I sometimes do this step in my dishwasher, running the washer on “high temp” and then keeping the jars inside and hot until ready to fill.]
Prepare the tomatoes according to raw or hot pack recipe below.
Add ½ teaspoon citric acid or 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice to each hot quart jar. Add ¼ teaspoon citric acid or 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each hot pint jar.
Pack tomatoes into hot jars according to raw or hot pack recipe. Add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart jar, 1/2 teaspoon to each pint jar, if desired. Remove air bubbles in the jars with a spoon or, my preference, a large chopstick. Wipe each rim. Center a hot lid on each jar. Apply a band to each jar and adjust until the fit is fingertip tight.
Process the filled jars in a boiling water canner 40 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts, adjusting for altitude. Remove the jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours [NOTE: we heard the beautiful “pop” of the seal in about 3 hours]. The lid should not flex up and down when the center is pressed.
Raw Pack –
1.) Pack the tomatoes into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
2.) Ladle hot water over tomatoes leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart jar, 1/2 teaspoon to each pint jar, if desired.
Hot Pack –
1.) Place the tomatoes in a large saucepot. Add water to cover. Bring to a boil and boil gently 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking.
2.) Pack the hot tomatoes into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
3.) Ladle hot cooking liquid over tomatoes leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart jar, 1/2 teaspoon to each pint jar, if desired.
Pickled Green Beans (aka Dilly Beans)
from Food in Jars
2 lbs (900 g) green beans, trimmed to fit your jars
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper (more or less depending on your spice preference)
4 teaspoons dill seed (not dill weed)
4 cloves garlic
2 1/2 cups (600 ml) white vinegar (5%)
2 1/2 cups (600 ml) water
1/4 cup (50 g) pickling salt (use a bit more if you’ve only got kosher)
Prep your canning pot by inserting a rack to keep your jars off the bottom of the pot, place pint jars in (wide-mouth pints work best here. A 12 ounce jelly jar is also nice, as it’s a bit taller than a standard pint and makes for less trimming) and fill it with water. Bring to a boil to sterilize while you prepare the rest of your ingredients.
Wash and trim your beans so that they fit in your jar. If you have particularly long beans, your best bet is to cut them in half, although by doing so, you do lose the visual appeal of having all the beans standing at attending.
Combine vinegar, water and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. While it’s heating up, pack your beans into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace (distance between the tops of the beans and the rim of the jar). To each jar, add 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper, 1 clove of garlic and 1 teaspoon dill seeds.
Pour the boiling brine over the beans, making sure to leave that 1/2 inch headspace. Use a plastic knife to remove air bubbles from jar by running it around the interior of the jar. Wipe the rims and apply the lids (which have been sitting in a small saucepan of water at a mere simmer for at least ten minutes in order to soften the sealing compound) and rings.
Process for 5 minutes in a boiling water bath (remember that you don’t start timing until the pot has come to a roiling boil).
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