i hate canning. i know i know, i’m supposed to be into it cause i’m all like into growing my own food and cooking and stuff like that, but i hate canning.
i feel a lot better now having gotten that out.
one of ma and i’s really serious fights was in late august while we were trying to can a ton of tomatoes and we had 4 pots of water boiling on the stove, it was hot as hell out, we were both tired and felt rushed. i keep that memory in my mind when someone talks about canning.
part of the reason i’ve come to hate canning is because i’ve always been under the impression that if you are canning you have to can a lot of stuff, like 3o quarts of tomatoes at a time. and then you have gone though all this work to can all this food you feel like maybe you should save them for a special occasion. i stare at all the canned goods in the larder rationing them out, thinking i don’t want to peak to early, what if nuclear winter comes this year. then i feel like because so much work went into them they should taste really good, but well, they are just canned tomatoes, how good can they be?
two things in the last couple of years have made me rethink my canning hatred: small batches and hot packing.
the hot packing was introduced to us when we had an audit of our jam making methods by a professional jam maker from northern michigan. they pointed out that hot packing rather than hot water bath processing would make much more sense for us. and i can’t begin to tell you what a relief it was and how much easier i find it.
small batches was ma’s innovation, cause she is not nearly so stubborn as i. the concept is simple – you don’t want to eat a lot of the same thing, and canning big batches is big work, so stress less, eat more variety and go small batch. no need to fill up a whole canner worth of stuff if you don’t want that.
tomato paste works perfect for hot packing and small batches, as it is plenty high in acid and you want a small batch. ma had been saving up tomatoes from the garden and throwing them in the freezer. this was especially good foresight as her bout with pneumonia made it very hard to do any canning and with the tomatoes safely in the freezer there was no real rush.
after pulling the tomatoes out of the freezer we put them on a cookie sheet with whole cloves of garlic, drizzled with olive oil and kosher salt, put them in an oven at 400° for about an hour and a half. the roasting adds more complexity to the flavor cameralized some of the sugars and adding some roasty favor. with that done they go though the food mill to remove seeds and skins and then dumped in the crock pot.
in the crook pot on high with the lid off they can take a day or so to cook down and remove moisture. stir every so often, like in the middle of the night when you get up to use the bathroom (make sure to wash yr hands), and once it gets to the right consistency put it on low and put the cover on.
with the sauce hot and ready, put your clean jars (we use 1/4 pints) in the oven at 250° for 15 minutes to sanitize. while they are heating up, put a pan of water on to boil, clean off yr work area, put down a clean towel, sanitize a ladle by putting it in boiling water and move yr crock pot over to yr work area.
it’s party time – gonna have to work fast.
take the jars out of the oven. take the ladle out of the water. use the ladle to fill the jars up to about a 1/4 inch to the rim. dip the new lids in the boiling water, put them on the top of the jar, screw on the ring down pretty tight and move on until you have them all filled.
when they are all filled, start flipping them over, so the top is down and leave them for four minutes. them flip them upright. if they leak as you can see the one in the lower right hand corner of this photo did, no big deal. take the lid off, dip a clean rag in boiling water, clean everything off, dip the lid in hot water, screw the lid on, flip for four minutes, and flip back upright.
once they are flipped upright wait until they are cool to move them to the larder. they should all be well sealed, if not use immediately. and don’t forgot to label and date them!