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The DIY Life: Canning your own fresh made pasta sauce – Tomato Basil

13 Sep

I realized when looking into my freezer, stuffed to the gills with bags of frozen garden tomatoes, that I had never posted the recipe for Tomato Basil sauce last year. Then I looked at my drafts and confirmed it. And I’m thinking, hmmm….we are coming up on the end of tomato season here in Pa, with the last bushels available for purchase at the local farms thinning out and thought ya, I should probably post that recipe. You know, as a reminder to folks who want to can some sauce to get their hands on some tomatoes…and those who have tomatoes get canning! Below is my original, forgotten about post from Tomatopalooza of 2012. Tomatopalooza of 2013 hasn’t happened yet, so I don’t know what my sauce yield will be. I still have some sauce on the shelf, so I’m not in a huge hurry to get on canning sauce. Plus, I’m waiting for hubs to hook me up with an outdoor propane stove so I can can on the deck under the the open sky. *hint hint hubs*

Enjoy the post from the past!

 

Tomatopalooza continued – this round consisted of a basic pasta sauce with simple flavorings so that it can be canned and stored for later use. With the surplus of tomatoes I have in the freezers, I needed to get a head start on making pasta sauce. We don’t eat TONS of pasta anymore because of the heaviness of it and the fact that it packs on pounds unless you are planning to run a marathon – so pasta becomes a special treat instead of a weekly meal. But I wanted to stop having to buy canned pasta sauce. I have become a huge fan of being able to look at a the jars on my shelf and be able to recite – and pronounce – all of the ingredients, regardless of the jar. And gifting someone a jar of something I made from scratch is so fulfilling. People are so appreciative of something, anything in a mason jar. And canning makes me feel proud and empowered. In control of my food source. It also makes me feel in touch with my family history because my Bubba was the canning icon in our family. Sadly, she passed away when I was only 7 so she never got to share her wisdom with me but I can feel her in the things I do.

This batch of sauce was something I spread out over 2 days. Since all my tomatoes were frozen, I thawed them in a HUGE pot over the next two nights, draining off any of the water that seeped out of the tomatoes (this made the cooking down process much faster!) and piling more in as the tomatoes settled and squished down. Out of roughly 40lbs of tomatoes, I ended up with 8 quarts + 6 pints of sauce. It wasn’t super thick like some of the commercially produced sauces but it was a nice consistency. We had some for dinner and with it being just a basic tomato sauce I added spinach, ricotta cheese, some salt and some cooked sausage. It was great!

I have linked to the original post on the Ball canning site for those of you wanting to not do such a huge batch of sauce. Me, I can’t help but do everything in bulk!

Basil Garlic Tomato Sauce

Adapted from Ball Canning

Yield: will vary depending on how long you cook the tomatoes and what type you use. 

2012 yield: 8 quarts 6 pints

40lbs frozen tomatoes – preferably Roma’s

2 cups chopped Vidalia onion

16 cloves garlic, minced

¼ – ½ cup dried basil

Citric acid or bottled lemon juice – refer to canning book for amounts based on jar size

Canning jars, lids and bands – sterilized and hot according to proper canning methods.

The day before cooking sauce, thaw your tomatoes in the pot you will be cooking them in. Drain off any “water” that seeps out of the tomatoes. Add your onion, garlic and basil to the pot. Use a potato masher to break up the frozen tomatoes. Cook until everything is boiling and onion is soft.

Strain the mixture through a food mill to remove seeds and skins. (At this point, you may put the strained sauce into the fridge and cook down another day)

Cook the strained mixture down until reduced by half for a thin sauce.

Add your citric acid/bottled lemon juice to each jar according to size. Fill with sauce to 1 inch headspace. Add to PRESSURE CANNER and process for 15 minutes for both pints and quarts at 11lbs of pressure, adjusting for your altitude.

No pressure canner, or you’re scared of it? You can process jars in a water bath canner as well: 35 minutes for pints

Let cool on counter for 24 hours. Remove bands and wipe down jars and store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year. Any jars that did not seal can either be reprocessed or stored in the fridge for use.

***Follow all canner directions for both pressure and water bath***

A Method to my Madness: Why I Can

26 Nov

I’m not going to lie – it was pretty freaking awesome to have all of last week off. However, having to go to work today? Totally blows. I wish my company was closed in observance of the first day of rifle hunting here in Pa. That would have been super fantastic. Because I’d still be in my pj’s just finishing up the last swig of coffee and getting ready to bring down all the Christmas decor. Sigh. Now, onto the real reason for my post!

Food Preservation – when people think of food preservation they think about their great grandparents and grandparents. They did it because times were tough and it helped to save money. It was a great way to feed their  – at many times – very large families. They did it because it was part of their immigrant heritage – their mothers did it, so they too carried on the tradition.

My bubba was a canner. She’d preserve the fruits and veggies from my pap’s well taken care of, high yielding garden. Sadly, I never got to see this part of her life because when she passed away, I was 7 and she was 92. Her canning days were behind her. My gram never canned or preserved food, therefore my mom never did. Which means I was never introduced to it. But I got into it because I like to think because it is in my blood, part of my DNA. But the real truth it that I got bored with traditional cooking and needed a challenge. I needed something different. I was already creative in the kitchen, trying new recipes and being adventurous. But food preservation? That was something totally different. There was a science to it. And the thought of having shelves full of beautiful mason jars filled with foods I had preserved was very appealing to me. But I wasn’t sure it was something that would stick for me as a hobby so I did a test before I committed to purchasing all the stuff you’d need. I made a batch of strawberry jam. That first batch of jam? It was delicious. It was sweet, it was simple, it was easy to make. And I was in love with the fact that I could recite all of the ingredients that were in it, without having to look at a label. The idea of simple preserved foods made a home in my head, and my heart. The following year, we planted a garden. I gave in, knowing I was hooked and purchased more mason jars, a canning pot, and a pressure canner because hubs wanted to can deer meat. I tried my hand at pickles, pickled peppers, and canned tomatoes. I made a batch of Apple Pie Jam. Tomato Butter. Simple things that could be processed in a water bath canner. Only enough to take up just one shelf in the basement food storage shelves. The pressure canner sat for almost a year, unused while I attempted to get over my irrational fear of it exploding and blasting me in the face with molten hot deer meat and shards of glass. The hubs used it the first time around January 2012 to cold pack a few jars of deer meat. It didn’t explode. I got over my fear and jumped into canning a whole 23qt canner full of jars of deer meat. I survived. I was in deep.

This year, I went balls out on canning – take no prisoners. I canned 100+ jars of stuff, a variety – pasta sauce (tomato basil and spicy tomato), tomato jam, bruschetta mix, strawberry jam, apple pie jam, pinto beans, cannellini beans, greek style butter beans, potatoes, and my very first batch of chicken stock. And I’m not done. I plan on canning another canner full of deer meat with some potatoes and carrots for a kind of hunters stew. I want to do more potatoes because it’s lovely being able to pop open a jar and have almost instant home fries for breakfast. I’m going to can ground beef so we can have quick nachos, or chili. That Thanksgiving turkey carcass will be turned into turkey stock (I’ll have an upcoming post on how to make this soon!) This is just the tip of the iceberg for me.

Now, onto WHY I can and preserve. It’s for a variety of reasons, none of which have to do with the zombie apocalypse. Yes, I’m obsessed with all things zombie, but I’m not preserving mass quantities of food because of some potential viral outbreak that turns us into brain eating undead. I do it because it’s cheaper than purchasing it from the grocery store – I even beat the discount stores. But I’d still can even if doing it myself wasn’t cheaper. Because – onto the second reason I can – canning my own food means I have control over what is going into my body. I can recite the exact ingredients that went into all of those items I listed earlier, because the list of ingredients is small. I am canning veggies from my own garden, as well as local farms. For a little investment of my time, I can fill shelves with food that has no preservatives, except maybe a little salt, vinegar or lemon juice. I can take that surplus from our garden and turn it into pasta sauce that we can eat and share for a whole year. The third reason I can? Because I enjoy it. I love cooking. You have got to love cooking in order to be a food preserver. It is time consuming, and it can get hectic, because you have to process the veggies and fruits when they are ready. They do not wait until it is convenient for you. My August and September each year are now pretty much consumed with canning and freezing. That means the house is a mess, because between work and canning there is certainly no time for things like running the sweeper or dusting. The laundry gets done sporadically. I force myself to clean the bathrooms because well, they’re bathrooms and they get gross. And at times I do get frazzled and feel overwhelmed because I am living and breathing food preservation. After work, on the weekends. Yep, I live and breathe it for those 2 months. This year, when I was all done, I wiped the sweat from my brow and said whew! All done till next year! And then a couple weekends later, I canned potatoes. In the coming weeks I’ll can that deer meat “stew”. Why? Because I had a breather from Canapalooza 2012 and I want my new canning shelf to be FULL of jars, no empty spaces. And because I love to cook. And the last  reason why I can? It’s kind of a side effect, but I want to inspire other  people, both young and old to start canning or to restart canning. To be more mindful of what they are eating. I am only 32, and people are always surprised that someone so young is so deeply interested in something as old fashioned as canning. Hearing people say that makes me smile. My own mom wanted me to teach her to can before she passed away, because she loved the thought of controlling her food. And it would give her a hobby. If I can inspire just one person to take up canning from my talking about, or gifting them something I’ve made, it makes this whole food love/food preservation experience even more worthwhile.

The DIY Life: Homemade Bruschetta Mix

31 Oct

Round 3 of tomatopalooza resulted in 14 jars of this loveliness called bruschetta. The house smelled amazing. The jars looked gorgeous. I was going to mince and chop the tomatoes so fine that I wouldn’t mind eating it, but decided against that. I rough chopped them and thought hey, if I want to eat it, I can take the immersion blender to it so it’s a little smoother and less chunky for my liking. I love everything tomato but the actual tomatoes – so I don’t like them in chunks either. Salsa for me has to be fairly smooth. I know I know. It’s the texture. That firm mushiness just gives me the heeby jeebies. I can’t help it.

I did this with fresh tomatoes because I had some around. I have tons in the freezer too but think recipes like this are better suited for the fresh kind. I got this recipe straight off of the ball canning and preserving website. I didn’t have dry white wine, so I used a dry red. Instead of the dried oregano, I used dried chives. Instead of plum tomatoes I used Roma’s. Everything else I followed, because in the canning world, you don’t mess with acid ratios. Nope, no way no how. I doubled the recipe because I had so many tomatoes on hand that it didn’t make sense not to. I will certainly be gifting some of this loveliness come the holidays. And we will be enjoying it come the holidays.

For the recipe, click HERE.

For photos, look no further than below this sentence. Gorgeous!

Garden Bounty – When you are over-run with tomatoes, make some Tomato Jam!

17 Sep

I’m not gonna lie. This year, gardening kind of sucked. With the really dry start and the hot as balls temperatures, things were REALLY slow going. Our corn turned out like feed corn and ended up being fed to the chickens – at least I’ll have free corn stalks to decorate the house with for fall. The single surviving zucchini plant only gave us ONE stinking zuke. The 4 yellow squash plants did a little better and gave us about 10 squash, which we ate sautéed as a side dish and I breaded and froze up a big batch so we can enjoy it in the winter months. Our pepper plants are loaded with peppers, but they just started getting crazy, and I’m not sure how many we’ll get from them before the frost hits. Basil was a total bust. The bugs attacked the leaves, making them look like an ugly green snowflake. Green onions are still growing like wild, but not yet big enough to harvest and eat. But tomatoes? Ya, we are rolling in those. I’ve got over 100lbs in the freezer (for sauce, ketchup and bruschetta) and am averaging about 1 gallon sized freezer bag ever other day – as long as I can harvest them before the chickens attack them. So you could say I have a plethora of tomatoes. I was feeling greedy and scared the garden wouldn’t give me enough tomatoes to make all the tomato goodness I had in mind, so I did go out and purchase a bushel of Roma’s from a local farm. Just in case. Because you never know. So, um, ya.

And with all 3 freezers having been stuffed to the gills with tomatoes, I needed to think of something to do with the 10lbs I had ripening on the counter. I could have made tomato butter, but  we still had a jar left from the last batch I canned. So I decided upon tomato jam. Yes, you read that right – JAM. I don’t know why you’re so freaked out. Tomatoes after all are fruits. Except now it sounds weird calling it a fruit when you think about pasta sauce. And having one on a burger. And chili. Anyways….I had no idea what it tasted like and frankly, I didn’t care at this point. I just didn’t want those tomatoes to go to waste and with the busy weekend I had I couldn’t make anything that required much hands on time since I would be at home very little over the next two days, so tomato jam seemed like a great idea, and something I could put in the crock pot to cook down! Yay!

Once it was all said and done, this was pretty easy to do and the taste is really good. It’s like a sweet hot barbecue sauce. I think it’s less like a jam and more like a chutney but that could be because of how I used an immersion blender to break the tomato halves down. It will be great on chicken, fish, even on a ham as a glaze or dipping sauce. Pretty universal stuff!

As with canning any type of sauce, jam or chutney, your yield will vary. It depends upon the cook time, type of tomato used, how high the sun is in the sky (kidding!) so if you don’t get 10 + 2 jars worth or you get more, don’t fret. I could only fit 10 jam jars into the pot I was using, so I ended up filling two pint jars. One went into the fridge for me to use, the other went to my sister-in-law. And as a side note, this is GLUTEN FREE.

Enjoy!

Tomato Jam

Adapted from Food in Jars

yield: 10 8oz jam jars plus 2 16oz pint jars

10 lbs Roma tomatoes, stem end trimmed off, cut in half

6 cups sugar

2 tablespoons kosher salt

1 cup lime juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon ginger

2 tablespoons red pepper flakes

Add your chopped tomatoes, sugar and salt to your crock pot. Using an immersion blender, pulse through the tomato halves to break them down some and get them nice and juicy. Stir to combine everything. Set your crock pot to low and place the lid on where it is slightly vented to allow the liquid to evaporate. Cooking times will vary depending upon how juicy your romas are or if you sub in a different type of tomato – I cooked mine for 18 hours. Once your tomatoes have reduced by half and are a nice, dark burgundy transfer them to a large stainless sauce pot. Add the lime juice, ginger and red pepper flakes. Cook for 15 minutes until hot and bubbling. If you desire a thicker consistency, cook until you reach that.

***While your jam is heating up, prep your mason jars, lids and water bath canner***

Once your jam reaches the desired consistency, remove from heat and fill your jars, leaving 1/4 inch head space. Wipe rims with a white vinegar dipped cloth, apply lids, and secure bands to finger tight. Process your jars in your boiling water batch canner for 20 minutes.

After 20 minutes, remove the jars from the water bath and allow them to cool for 24 hours. Test the seals – any jars that did not seal can be reprocessed or put in the fridge to use. Label jam and store in a cool dark place for up to 1 year.

Canning bliss, Autumn Harvest: Apple Pie Filling

31 Oct

Mmm, Apple Pie. One of the best sweet comfort foods out there. But it does require some preparation and time to make a pie from scratch. So, why not can some of the Autumn apple harvest and make Apple Pie Filling? It’s worth the effort!

Now, the Ball canning recipe calls for the use of Clear Jel to thicken the filling, as cornstarch is not always stable enough to withstand the required canning time as well as may not let the heat penetrate the apple filling to properly heat it. The Tasty Kitchen recipe calls for plain old cornstarch. That being said, I use plain old cornstarch to thicken my filling, and have not had any problems on either recipe. Clear Jel is not readily available in my area so I substituted the cornstarch and had lovely results.

Whatever you use, do so at your discretion. I recommend following the directions and using the Clear Jel, even though I myself don’t follow the directions. Just make sure to keep the filling very hot and to have your water bath already at a boil when you add the jars to minimize any issue.

And lastly, enjoy the preserving process!  The links below will take you to 2 different recipes. I have tried both and think they are both awesome, however I add more cinnamon than called for as well as some nutmeg. Do NOT deviate from the amount of lemon juice called out!

Apple Pie Filling Recipe from Ball Canning

Apple Pie Filling from Tasty Kitchen

Homemade Ketchup

19 Sep

There is a certain big named company that has been producing ketchup for like, ever in my neck of the woods. But they better look out. Because there is a new kid in town. Busting out some ketchup that also starts with an H – Heather’s Ketchup. Ya. I said it.

Now that we got all that out of the way, this recipe is a fabulous way to use up the very last of your garden tomatoes. My tomatoes are starting to look a little sad and are either splitting, falling off the vines before they’re ripe, or being pilfered by the local bugs. So, I went through the garden and was able to save enough of the Roma’s to make this ketchup. You can use whatever type of tomatoes you like, but if using something like the”Big Boy” variety, your cooking time will be longer since they have a lot of water and seedy pulp. This took me about 2hrs total to make this and since I got such a large yield it was worth every second!

This recipe yielded me with 3 small ketchup sized jars, 3 jelly jars, and 4 pint mason jars. So, it’s a lot of ketchup. But it keeps well and will be a great item to gift at the holidays or just enjoy next summer!

Homemade Ketchup

Adapted from Jamie Oliver

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 large Vidalia onions, diced
  • 1 tablespoon ginger
  • 6 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon all spice
  • large pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1/4 cup bottled lemon juice
  • 2 jalapeno, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup fresh chives, roughly chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 6 quarts of fresh Roma tomatoes, roughly diced
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
Instructions
  1. In a large stock pot, add olive oil and all the ingredients through to the jalapeno pepper. Cook over medium to low heat, stirring occasionally, until onions have softened and browned.
  2. Stir in the water and tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and continue to cook until tomatoes have reduced by half.
  3. Remove pot from heat, add the basil and chives, and using either an immersion blender or a regular blender, pulse until mixture becomes smooth. Pass this smoothed out mixture through a food mill to get rid of the seeds and tomato skins. (add the leftover skins and seeds to your compost pile!)
  4. Add in white vinegar and brown sugar and simmer until the sauce reduces to a thicker version. Taste and add additional seasonings as needed.
  5. To preserve, process sterilized hot mason jars in a water bath canner for 10 minutes, letting cool and seal overnight. Check jars for sealing, if any jars have not sealed they can be put in the fridge to use!

Note: this ketchup will NOT be thick like what you are used to seeing in the stores. It’s thicker than tomato sauce, but not as thick as Heinz or Hunts. If you feel like you must have it be thick like those versions, make a cornstarch slurry and add it in tablespoon increments until you reach your achieved thickness.

It’s almost apple season…why not use up some of that bounty with this recipe? Apple Pie Jam

2 Sep

I love fall. It’s one of my favorite seasons. The leaves change. The air takes on that crisp earthy smell. You can truly enjoy sitting around a campfire. It’s the start of soup/stew/chili Sundays at my house. And fall flavors – pumpkin, apple, spice. Yummo.

In comes this recipe. It’s so easy to make. It’s fall in a mason jar. It’s fabulous on a piece of warm crusty bread. It’s sinfully good in yogurt or cottage cheese. It can become an appetizer by mixing one jar of with some room temp cream cheese and spreading it on whole grain crackers. Drool.

For those of you new to canning, this is a great recipe to start with because jams are so simple and have a soft “set”, which means they are not firmly jelled like jellies, but are a soft set which makes them what I call runny in comparison. And this doesn’t require any special equipment other than canning jars. You can water batch can them in your stock pot lined with a piece of foil on the bottom (this keeps the jars from bouncing around and possible cracking).

Happy Canning!

Apple Pie Jam

 

Ingredients

  • 6 cups peeled and diced apples (I like Fuji and Gala)
  • ½ cups water
  • ½ teaspoons Butter
  • 3 cups regular granulated sugar
  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1 -2 small boxes powdered fruit pectin (see note)
  • 1 tbsp bottled lemon juice

Cook apples, water, lemon juice and butter over low heat, stirring until apples are soft – avoid letting them get mushy! You don’t want applesauce.

Stir in ONE box pectin and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Add the sugars and cinnamon and bring back to a boil, stirring constantly, for one minute.

Remove from heat and skim off foam (there may not be any). If you feel the jam is not thick enough for your taste, add the other box pectin. Add half to start, and then if it is still not thick enough, add the last of the second box and stir.

Pour into hot sterilized jelly jars, leaving ¼ in headspace. Wipe rims of jars with a clean damp cloth. Place canning lid and band on till finger tight.

Process jars in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes. Remove from pot carefully, the jam will be very hot! Place on counter overnight to allow jars to cool and seal. In the morning, test the lids – they should not make any noise when you press on them. If they move (they’re not sucked in and indented) just put that jar of jam in the fridge and enjoy!

Makes 5-7 jelly jars worth.

Note: I generally have to use 2 whole boxes of pectin when I make this. Otherwise the jam is super runny, more like a sauce than a jam with only one. This will all depend upon the types of apples you use and the pectin itself. I recently just made this and could have gotten away with using only 1 1/2 boxes but I used both completely and it was a little thicker than i’d have liked. Use your best judgement.