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Ontario, Canada
I am a wife, mother and grandma who enjoys the many aspects of homemaking. A variety of interests and hobbies combined with travel keep me active. They reflect the importance of family, friends, home and good food.
Cook ingredients that you are used to cooking by other techniques, such as fish, chicken, or hamburgers. In other words be comfortable with the ingredients you are using.
--Bobby Flay

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Starting Tomatoes

[The poll results for the recipes my husband used for the He Said/She Said contest are posted. His winning recipe was the Texas Style Barbeque Chicken Legs. Please take a moment to vote for your favourite recipe in the She Said entries.]

The tomato season is a bit late here by about a week with respect to the hampers of tomatoes I use for canning. My husband brought home 2 hampers of tomatoes Wednesday night for me to process on Thursday. It marked the beginning of tomato processing season for me. However the weather is already threatening to turn much colder At the same time the garden is producing nicely so I've been picking tomatoes daily especially the Sweet Millions cherry tomatoes.

roasted tomato sauceI have mentioned roasted tomato sauce on this blog quite often. It is one of our favourites. There is no recipe only a method and that is to roast the tomatoes on an outdoor grill (1). I add a little fresh garlic, fresh basil, green pepper, onion and drizzle of olive oil. Then the mixture is slow roasted adding more as it cooks down. The tomato mixture is ready when there is a good indication of caramelization (2). This is a must! It is the caramelization process resulting from this slow outdoor grilling that cannot be duplicated in an oven.

Once the caramelization process is completed I use a stick blender to smooth the mixture. Then the sauce is ladled into hot jars and processed in a pressure canner at 10 lb pressure for 20 minutes. When the jars are cooled the rings are removed and the jars washed. The jars are then ready for storage (3). This roasted tomato batch gave a yield of 10 - 500 ml jars.

crushed tomatoesCrushed Tomatoes

Crushed tomatoes are always a useful product on the pantry shelf. Plain and unseasoned, these tomatoes are very versatile for many dishes. I slipped the skins using the boiling water method, cut the tomatoes into quarters then across the strips forming larger chunks. The chunks were raw packed into hot jars. To raw pack simply put the tomatoes into the jars, packing as tightly as possible leaving 1-inch headspace. The tomatoes are then pressure canned at 10 lb pressure for 25 minutes. Pictured are the 13 L of tomatoes as they came from the canner (4). Initially there were 14 L but one of the jars broke (5).

Jar breakage is something every home canner will encounter at one time or another. There is always the chance of breakage due to dropping a jar but dreaded type of jar breakage is in the canner. The primary reason for jar breakage in the canner is themal shock. This happens when a cold jar is placed into the hot water of the canner stressing the glass to the point it breaks. This is why it is important to pack food into hot jars then place in the canner and bring the canner to temperature. This is also why it is important to use mason jars for canning not recycled mayonnaise and similar jars. Mason jars are thicker and tempered to prevent breakage especially under pressure. Another cause of breakage is old age. Glass gets brittle as it ages making it more susceptible to breakage. Using metal utensils in glass jars can cause scratches on the interior surface of the canning jar. This causes a weak spot that may cause the jar to break. Finally some jars have minor flaws such as bubbles that occur during the manufacturing process. If you fail to notice one of these bubbles the jar could break especially if pressure canning. In this case the jar that broke was a Canadian Mason so likely about 30 years old. Breakage was likely due to age and/or interior scratches. It was a clean break yet still a mess to clean-up.

Velveeta DinnerVelveeta Dinner

The month of September always means long canning days. This particular day 2 hampers of tomatoes were cleaned. One was peeled and chopped so that's a fair amount of prep time while the other was turned into a sauce so there was a fair amount of prep work. The canner ran 3 times with one run spanning the dinner hour. These are the days that something quick and easy to prepare for dinner is very much appreciated.

I like to keep Velveeta cheese on hand as part of my pantry stores. Velveeta cheese is a shelf stable, processed cheddar cheese that requires no refrigeration until it has been opened. It won't keep as long as powdered cheeses in the pantry but cuts and looks more like a block of cheese. It also is rather versatile. While the canner was running we made a quick Velveeta dinner. It was nothing fancy but it was easy, tasty and frugal. I used homemade salsa and home canned jalapeno peppers for this dish.

Velveeta Dinner

1 lb extra lean ground beef
2 c elbow macarroni
¾ c Velveeta cheese
½ c chopped onion
½ c salsa
canned jalapeno peppers

Bring water to a boil then add pasta and cook to al dente. While the pasta is cooking, brown the ground beef. Drain beef and pasta. Return pasta to sauce pot. Stir in ground beef and Velveeta cheese. Place lid on pot and let sit 5 minutes until cheese is fully melted. Stir and plate. Top with salsa, onion and jalapeno peppers.

1 food lovers commented:

Garden Gnome said...

Hi hampers and thanks for visiting. Processing 2 hampers of tomatoes per day is a lot of work. The Velveeta dinner might not sound like all that much but I can guarantee after a long day of canning that starts early and ends in the early morning hours the following day there is no time for anything but a quick, easy meal. Is Velveeta cheese available in the UK?