Daily Archives: October 15, 2008

Gone are the days…

...when I will take a jar of spaghetti sauce for granted.

Yesterday I spent more than 16 hours in the kitchen dealing with tomatoes (and there were about 4 hours the previous day donated to tomato prep). Because I didn’t have a harvest of tomatoes to speak of, but knowing I didn’t want to live without spaghetti sauce for the winter, a friend and I decided to buy 150 lbs of tomatoes from our sole supermarket, and make salsa and spaghetti sauce together. The friend got waylaid an extra couple of days and some of the tomatoes began to go off. Over the weekend, I threw the worst of them out and put up the-ones-that-couldn’t-wait by myself: drying, roasting and making lasagna with on-the-spot-sauce. I got through about 20 lbs.

Over the course of the weekend, I managed to prepare for saucing another thirty pounds of the tomatoes: blanching, peeling, coring, chopping and otherwise getting ready for saucing. Yesterday, at 8:00 am in the morning, I began cooking the prepared tomatoes. While they were boiling, as it was my ‘maiden voyage’ into the land of Back-to-Basics food strainer and sauce maker, I read the instructions, put it together, and began saucing the cooked tomatoes.

My friend joined me at about 10:30 am, to take over the saucing job while I set to making the rest of the first pot of spaghetti sauce: washing, chopping, slicing, dicing and then sauteing the veggies. Once we got the first pot on the stove, we set to dealing with the other three, 25 pound cases of tomatoes: wash, blanch, peel, core, slice, boil, strain through saucing contraption.

Several hours later, with two pots of spaghetti sauce on the boil and reducing on the stove, we had come full circle and were once again facing the last box and a half of tomatoes: blanch, chop, core, slice, blanch, chop, core, slice, breathe in, breathe out, blanch, chop, core, slice, etc. These last boxes were to be made into salsa, so the saucing step was gratefully omitted.

By 8:30 pm, I was exhausted and we still had not started the canning process. My friend made two double batches of the salsa mixture, still uncooked, put it in to pots and went home to finish the processing job herself. Meanwhile, I put a double batch of salsa on to boil and turned back to the spaghetti sauce, which was finally reduced enough to be transferred to jars and processed in the pressure canner.

Fast forward to midnight: I had one lot of spaghetti sauce processed and one double batch of salsa water-bath canned, all now cooling on the counter. The second lot of spaghetti sauce, sufficiently reduce finally, was still waiting to be processed; so I put it in the pressure canner and put the timer on the stove. At 3:00 am (when the canner had cooled sufficiently to be opened), I took the second batch out and set it on the counter beside the other batch. I did manage to sleep between midnight and 3am, on the couch, hands still on fire from the mountains of jalapeno pepper chopping. Mental note to self: use gloves next time!

This morning, I still have a single batch of salsa in the fridge waiting to be cooked and canned, and the dehydrator is still working away noisily on the kitchen table. However, the uncooked salsa has been put on the proverbial ‘back burner’ because I’ve had to deal with the fresh milk from Sunday (pasteurize and turn into cheese because I still have enough yogurt from last week), and get ready for a group of high school children coming to tour the farm at 11am. They are eager to see the animals and want to pet a goat or maybe catch a chicken.

Tally-oh

All up, I have seven 750 ml jars of spaghetti sauce (and seven for my friend) and eight 650 ml jars of salsa sitting on my counter (she will have the equivalent), and I still have to process 3 more jars of salsa.  In addition, I have 3 quart jars of dehydrated ‘sun-dried’ tomatoes, and two quart jars of slow roasted tomatoes in olive oil in the fridge. I have made one batch of fresh spaghetti sauce that I used to make lasagna and… that’s it: the grand total of what 150 pounds of tomatoes is reduced to!

Economics

So. The 30 lbs of tomatoes turned into seven 750 ml jars of spaghetti sauce. The tomatoes cost me nearly $1.00/lb, so when you look at paying $3-4.00 per jar of fancy spaghetti sauce at the store, those 7 jars on my counter are only ‘worth’ $21-28.00 yet I spent $30 on the ingredients; so I haven’t broken even in the economic sense, and I have not yet considered the cost of the other ingredients, or the propane used in the cooking process–let alone the hours of labour put in to the job!

Conclusions

As I look at my seven beautiful jars of spaghetti sauce and contemplate what it would take to grow sufficient tomatoes to keep us in sauce alone, I’m overwhelmed. Not only do I probably not have enough land to do the job, nor the growing conditions where I live to produce decent tomatoes; I certainly don’t have the energy to keep that kind of canning marathon up in order to look after our  tomato sauce needs for a year, year in year out.

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Filed under Food Security, Preserving the harvest, Sustainable Farming, Vegetable gardening

Salsa

Makes about 5 pint jars

Might have an Old El Paso lid, but inside it's Kristeva's Kitchen.

Might have an Old El Paso lid, but inside it's all Kristeva's Kitchen.

8 jalapeno peppers

7 cups prepared tomatoes

2 cups chopped onion

1 cup chopped green pepper

3 cloves chopped garlic

1 can tomato paste (156 ml)

3/4 cup vinegar

1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro

1/2 tsp cumin, fresh ground

Directions:

Remove seeds and finely chop jalapeno peppers. Blanch, peel and chop tomatoes. Combine 7 cups tomatoes with jalapeno peppers, onions, green peppers, vinegar, cilantro and cumin in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil for approximately 30 minutes or until the salsa is the desired consistency.

Canning method:

Hot water bath. Ladle salsa into jars leaving a 1/2 inch head space, place in canner. Cover canner & return to boil. Process 20 minutes at altitudes up to 1000 feet. Remove jars. Cool 24 hours, check seals.

NOTE: to make a hotter salsa, add 1-2 tsp cayenne pepper to ingredient mixture before cooking.

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Spaghetti sauce–pressure canning

Makes about 9 pint jars or 7 750 ml jars

One of seven spaghetti sauces made yesterday.

One of seven spaghetti sauces made yesterday.

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 cup chopped onions

1 cup chopped green peppers

2-3 tbsp oregano

2-3 tsbp basil

2 tsp ground pepper

4-5 tsp salt

1/2 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup olive oil

30 pounds whole tomatoes

Directions: remove skins on tomatoes. To do this, blanch in boiling water for 60 seconds and then place in cold water, slip off skins. Remove any blemished parts. Cut into quarters and place in large uncovered pot. Boil at least 20 minutes, if not longer (I usually boil for 30-45 mins). Press through a sieve or food mill.

In a heavy sauce pan, saute onions, garlic, and peppers in olive oil until tender. Add sauced tomatoes and remaining spices and sugar and bring to a boil. Simmer uncovered until thick enough for serving. This may take a couple of hours, volume should reduce by nearly on-half. Stir often to prevent sticking/burning.

Pack hot jars with hot sauce, leaving 1-inch head space. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rims and adjust lids and screw bands in place.

Pressure Canning Process:

Weighted guage type @ 10 pounds pressure.

Pints: 20 minutes

Quarts: 25 minutes

After processing, remove jars and place on a rack to cool. Test for seal.

NOTE: Do not increase the amounts of vegetables.

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Filed under Food preservation, Food Security, Preserving the harvest