Posts Tagged ‘canning’
Black, red, orange, and white tomatoes (with a little diced onion) were the base for a salad I made earlier this month. I love the colors though white tomatoes have yet to win me over: it’s weird to eat a tomato that looks like that.
The main issue for August’s Post Produce at Your Small Kitchen Garden is tomatoes! Sure, there are gorgeous purple jalapenos, a few bell peppers finally turning red, more zucchini (frost probably won’t even shut down those plants), carrots, plenty of herbs, and even the last of the cucumbers. But tomatoes usually make my gardening season, and this has been a terrific year.
I bought seeds this year to grow tomatoes of many colors: black, red, orange, yellow, and white. The earliest tomatoes were black followed quickly by white and orange. Actually, we’ve had tomatoes of all the colors (except yellow) from early in August.
For entertainment, I grew a disproportionate number of white tomato plants. The plan was to cook down several pints of sauce using just white tomatoes. I would eventually use the sauce in traditional dishes such as spaghetti, pizza, or lasagna. At best, I figured, this would be a conversation starter. At worst? A conversation starter.
Things couldn’t have gone better (though I’ve yet to use any of the white tomato sauce I preserved). The photos tell the story.
Here’s the tomato that started me dreaming of white tomato sauce. Cream Sausage is a paste tomato that starts greenish white on the vine and ripens to a somewhat reddish white. The vines seem to be determinate which I didn’t know when I planted them. I’ll grow these again, but I’ll support them with tomato cages rather than with a hanging string trellis.
White Queen is a white slicing tomato. You can tell when it’s ready to eat because it looks “warmer” as it ripens. I used a bunch of these in my tomato sauce along with the cream sausage tomatoes.
I filled a 4 gallon pot with cut-up white tomatoes, simmered it for several hours, and put the cooked tomatoes through a food mill. I cooked the milled tomatoes a bit longer until I had just over a gallon of sauce, and then I canned the sauce. If you’d like to see how this all works using red tomatoes, have a look at my video titled Make and Can Tomato Sauce from Your Home Kitchen Garden.
The slightly off-white color of my white tomatoes didn’t hold through cooking and canning. Still, few would guess that these canning jars hold pure tomato sauce. My next batch will be red. Depending on how quickly I get to it, I might follow that up with orange tomato sauce as well. There’s no significant difference in flavor from one sauce to the other, but having different colors from which to choose adds a bit of whimsy whenever I cook with tomato sauce.
Now You Post Produce
What edibles are you consuming from your garden? Write about it on your blog, then use the Linky widget below and link back to your post. Visit other posters’ blogs to see what homegrown goodies they’re consuming.
My pear-and-tomato barbeque sauce begins with equal parts of tomato sauce and pear mash. I created it because I hated composting the mash left over from juicing pears when I made jelly. It will be very satisfying to use tomato sauce cooked down from tomatoes that grew in my own small kitchen garden (didn’t happen this year because I lost my tomato plants to late blight). The sauce has a curious balance of sugar, fruit, and sour so it works well with savory dishes and with sweet ones.
While Your Small Kitchen Garden blog may have seemed quiet for the last few weeks, I have posted! First, I created a new page on the site that lists all the articles I’ve posted—on my web sites or on friends’ sites—about preserving produce. Some of the posts are about things you can find in my book, Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too. Others are recipes or techniques that didn’t make the book or that I’ve only learned about (or created) since the book came out.
Click the Preserving option on this site’s menu to find the list of articles. Once there, scroll down and you’ll also find a few videos about preserving produce.
Where’s the BBQ Sauce?
As I add more articles to Your Small Kitchen Garden, I’ll choose some longer, photo-heavy pieces to place on pages rather than within the blog. I did that recently with an article about canning tomato chunks, and even more recently I added an article about making and canning pear-and-tomato barbeque sauce.
This is a classic tomato and molasses BBQ sauce but with a whole lot of pears included. It’s fruity and sweet, but with noticeable sour. It has no heat, though I once mixed some with cayenne pepper and decided the heat didn’t improve the flavor; it just changed it.
Check out the recipe and procedures on the Pear and Tomato Barbeque Sauce page. Once you make your own sauce, make pizza using the BBQ sauce in place of standard pizza sauce. Then leave a note with your reactions; I’d love to hear you gave it a try—even if you don’t care for it once it’s done.
On my way to canning, I peeled nearly a peck of tomatoes on Sunday. This is the first batch: about 23 tomatoes stacked in a one-gallon food-storage container
Late blight has wiped out the tomato plants in my small kitchen garden. I managed to serve up about six tomato salads and can eleven and a half pints of cut-up tomatoes before the blight shut things down. This wasn’t enough.
I have planted more than 50 plants, hoping to harvest enough fruits to put up three or four dozen pints of cut-up tomatoes along with a dozen or more pints of tomato sauce. Had the plants survived until frost, they’d have produced way more tomatoes than necessary to fill those jars.
Farmers’ Market to Assuage a Kitchen Gardener
I use a lot of cut-up tomatoes in my cooking. So, at the famers’ market last Wednesday, I shopped for tomatoes. I found three options:
- Kobe Beefsteaks—Gorgeous and super-expensive, these tomatoes must have been hand-fed and massaged daily… absolutely perfect-looking and priced way beyond the budgets of mere mortals.
- Romas—Several vendors offered pecks of Roma tomatoes that would be decent for saucing, but sauce is a secondary concern this year. I still have about 24 pint jars of sauce from last season, so this season I want to put up more pints of tomato chunks.
- Canning tomatoes—What, I wondered, is a “canning tomato?” One vendor offered a peck of canning tomatoes for $20 while another offered a peck for $8. The tomatoes looked identical but it didn’t occur to me to ask what variety these were.
After paying $8 and dragging my canning tomatoes home, I decided that they were locally-grown “Vine Ripe” tomatoes. There are, apparently, many tomato varieties the industry calls “vine ripe,” but you’re probably most familiar with the ones you find year-round in grocery stores. They never get soft and they taste bland. My canning tomatoes were firm and they looked perfect—exactly what you’d want to display in a grocery store to impress your customers.
I spent half the day on Sunday canning tomato chunks. Please follow this link for the step-by-step of how to can tomato chunks.
When you can reach a cluster of sour cherries like this in the tree, you can wrap your fingers around the whole bunch and pull them all off the branch at once. Even in the second (and final) day of pick-your-own cherries, there were thousands of such bunches you could reach from the higher rungs of a stepladder.
It’s sour cherry season! Perhaps you’ve heard of sour cherries, but you’ve never seen them? In early summer, dark purple sweet cherries show up in grocery stores everywhere and they’re available for months. Sour cherries, however, ripen about the end of spring and are done two or three weeks later. You never see them in grocery stores.
Sour cherries are bright red and very tart. They’re also very juicy and I suspect most of them end up at manufacturing facilities that bake them into pies, tarts, frozen dinners, and just about any other processed food that lists “cherries” as an ingredient. You may find sour cherries at rural farm stands and farmers’ markets, but arrive early and grab what you’ll use because there are rarely enough sour cherries to supply enthusiasts.
Sour Cherries at Your Small Kitchen Garden
I planted a sour cherry tree a few years ago, but it probably won’t produce for another year or two. So, when sour cherry season arrives, I either buy cherries at the farmers’ market, or my family travels to a u-pick orchard to get out annual fix. We picked on Saturday.
A quart of already-picked sour cherries may cost $4 or more. The you-pick price at Dries Orchard in Paxinos, Pennsylvania this year was $1.20 per pound (about a quart). For an extra 25 cents a pound, Dries put our cherries through a mechanical device that removed nearly all the seeds. And, a Dries employee checked the mechanical pitter’s work, picking out most of the seeds the machine missed.
We picked too many cherries. I’ve canned sour cherry jam and fruit punch jam that includes sour cherries. I’ve also made two sour cherry pies. This morning my wife canned two batches of sour cherry jelly. Thankfully, there are only about 17 quarts of sour cherries left in the fridge.
I tweeted a lot about sour cherry jam while I was making it. I also clicked a bunch of snapshots of the proceedings. If you’re so inclined, follow the instructions in the photo captions and you should be able to make your own sour cherry jam; it’s really easy to do.
Before you start, you’ll need a box of powdered fruit pectin or some bulk pectin such as Dutch Jell. You’ll also need the cherries, of course, a whole bunch of sugar, canning jars, canning lids, and canning bands. The photos reveal what kitchen gear you’ll need to complete a batch.
In my book, Yes, You Can! And Freeze and Dry It, Too from Cool Springs Press, I explain jam- and jelly-making in greater detail. I also explain a lot of other ways to preserve fruit and vegetables. I hope you’ll make some cherry jam and pick up a copy of my book to keep you busy through the rest of the produce season.
You’ll preserve your cherry jam by sealing it hermetically in jars. For this, use jars manufactured specifically for canning; don’t reuse jars that came filled with pickles or jelly from a grocery store. Also, you need canning lids and bands to fit the jars. I encourage you to wash the jars and put them in a deep pot of water to boil before you start cooking your jam. The water should be deep enough that you could stand a canning jar in it and the top of the jar will be at least an inch under water. Also, put the bands and lids in a pot of water and keep the temperature there just below boiling.
Chop the sour cherries, catching the juice along with the chopped pieces. Notice that while chopping, I found a pit. The mechanical pit-remover and the back-up human inspector had missed about one pit per quart of cherries. I use a honking big chef’s knife to chop cherries for jam.
We’re making traditional cooked jam… there are other methods for making low-sugar jams, no-cook jams, and freezer jams. We’re making traditional cooked jam. (Is there an echo in here?) For nearly every brand of powdered fruit pectin, you use four cups of chopped sour cherries per batch of jam. Doubling a batch can result in runny jam or jam that sets up like a rock, so it’s best to make one batch at a time. Measure four level cups of fruit and juice into a medium-sized cookpot (see next photo).
Measure five cups of sugar into a bowl (left) and set it near your stove so you can reach it while stirring a pot. If you’re using bulk pectin (Dutch Gel, for example), measure a heaping 1/3 cup (center), and add it to the fruit (right). If you have pectin in a box, empty the box of pectin onto the chopped cherries. Notice that in my 1.5 gallon sauce pot, the chopped cherries and fruit fill barely a quarter of the pot.
Put the heat on high and stir! Keep stirring! Are you still stirring? Don’t stop. Stir until the mixture boils. Yes: that may take 8 to ten minutes. Pause in your stirring, if you must, to add all the sugar at once to the hot cherries. Stir. Keep stirring. Feel for large lumps of sugar and smear them against the side of the pot to help break them apart so they’ll dissolve. Are you still stirring? At the moment the mixture boils, time one minute and immediately remove the pot from the heat. BEWARE! While cooking jam boils, it can rapidly foam up and overflow even a very deep pot. Stirring helps prevent this, but you may have to lift the pot off the burner and/or turn the heat down a bit to keep the jam from boiling over. When the jam stops boiling, use a spoon to coral foam to one side of the pot and then scrape the foam off. I always put it in a bowl to eat later.
One-by-one, fill jars with jam. Fish a hot jar out of the boiling water, empty the jar, and set it on a plate. I use a canning funnel to help control the jam which you should add until it’s about ¼ of an inch from the top of the jar. Make sure the rim and threads of the jar are clean (wipe them with a damp cloth if they’re not), then set a lid on the jar and add a band.
Tighten the band. I hold the jar in a potholder or a kitchen towel and I twist the band on firmly (it’s hot, but not too hot). It should be at least “finger tight” but don’t work so hard that you tear a muscle. Return the jar to the boiling water and set it up upright in the pot. Keep filling jars until you’ve used up all the jam. When the last jar goes into the boiling water, wait ten minutes, then remove the jars (upright) and place them on a cooling rack or a towel on the counter.
Contrary to what most canning guides tell you, I say do this: After the jars seal (you should hear a “ping” and be able to see that the center of the lid bows down into the jar), invert them and let them cool in this position about 45 minutes until they are very warm, then once again set them upright. If you don’t partially cool them upside down, the cherry bits will float to the top and half the jar will contain jam while the other half contains jelly. You can store sealed jars at room temperature for a year or longer, but I think you should open them and eat the jam instead.
Such beautiful and abundant produce you get from a single cabbage plant. If you plant early and harvest gently, the stalk you leave in the ground can produce many more smaller cabbages.
I’ve never grown cabbage in my small kitchen garden. I imagine cabbage is a very satisfying plant to grow as it produces enormous heads that can feed a family for a week or longer. On the other side of the equation, cabbage is so common in Pennsylvania that it very well might be the official state flower; it is omnipresent at farm stands and farmers’ markets. Here in Pennsylvania Dutch country, there are times when you can buy a human-head-sized cabbage for a dollar or less. It seems silly for me to commit garden space for a plant whose produce I can buy so cheaply.
What happens to all the cabbage in central Pennsylvania? Cole slaw and sauerkraut happen. Cole slaw, I like very much. Sauerkraut, I’ve never cared for. It’s a shame, because as popular as sauerkraut is, I could never write authoritatively about it… and a blog about a home kitchen garden really ought to discuss sauerkraut from time-to-time.
Your Small Kitchen Garden’s Sauerkraut Scoop
I’m fortunate to have a brother who likes sauerkraut. He likes it enough that he decided to make some himself. I’m also fortunate that my brother discovered something about making sauerkraut that all cabbage-enthusiasts should know… and he agreed to share it with readers of this blog. He even sent photos! So… here for cabbage-enthusiasts:
Sauerkraut, a Brewer’s Viewpoint
by Kris Gasteiger
You don’t chop cabbage to make sauerkraut, you slice it. You’ll end up with strips running from several inches down to fractions of an inch.
Cabbage: thinly sliced, pickling salt: not much, time: a few weeks… oh, and an anaerobic environment at the right temperature. You will have Sauerkraut; really good Sauerkraut.
I’ve read a lot of recipes for making Sauerkraut, and they’re all the same: Thinly sliced cabbage, salt, a crock, a plate, weights, skimming the slime and crud, washing the plate, more skimming. Whew, what is wrong with this picture? Well, mostly the lack of a true anaerobic environment.
The Sauerkraut Recipe
The standard recipe for sauerkraut is:
5 Lbs thinly sliced cabbage
3 Tablespoons of canning salt or 3 heaping tablespoons of kosher salt (kosher salt is less dense so you need more to get the same strength brine).
Mix the salt and cabbage in a non reactive bowl.
When you don’t have the traditional earthenware pot in which to ferment your sauerkraut, think creatively. A hefty glass vase provided a non-reactive vessel for this batch of kraut. Plastic wrap held on by a rubber band preserved a clean anaerobic fermentation environment.
Pack the salted cabbage into a stoneware crock big enough to allow at least 4 inches of space above the firmly packed cabbage. (To pack the cabbage firmly, use your hand or a heavy drinking glass or other clean object. Don’t hammer it or you risk breaking the container.) If you don’t have an appropriate stoneware crock, you can use a food grade plastic bucket, or a stainless steel pot. The plastic may leach plasticizers and the stainless may be affected by the acids generated during fermentation so use your own judgment as to container material. I didn’t have a crock, so I used a clear glass vase I bought at Target. It’s a cylinder on a short stem, about 2 gallons capacity.
After packing your salted cabbage into the container, place a clean plate on top of the cabbage and weight it down with a pint or more of water in glass jars with secure lids.
The next day, the brine should have covered the cabbage. If it hasn’t, your cabbage was probably old and had lost moisture. Make up a brine of 4 ½ tsp salt and 4 c. water, boiled and cooled, to cover the cabbage to a depth of at least 2 inches.
In the standard method of making sauerkraut, you cover the crock with a heavy towel and, daily, skim any scum off the top of the brine, remove and wash the plate and weight jars and put it all back together. The scum is a mixture of molds, bacteria and yeasts which grow in an aerobic (oxygenated) environment. While they may add flavors to the kraut, they’re basically spoilage organisms and can ruin a batch of kraut quickly if not removed.
Beer-Brewing Savvy for Sauerkraut
Sauerkraut is high in acid and salt, so you can preserve it in jars by processing them in a boiling water bath canner.
This method lacks one basic principle of anaerobic fermentation. That is, the exclusion of oxygen. In beer brewing and wine making, during the first stage of fermentation when a lot of CO2 is produced, I keep oxygen out by of fastening a plastic sheet over the opening of the fermentation vessel with rubber bands. The rubber bands allow the excess CO2 to escape without letting oxygen in because of the positive pressure in the container caused by the fermentation. Having seen pictures of the molds and scum problems on traditional sauerkraut, I thought that maybe excluding oxygen would be in order, so I used a plastic bag to seal the top of my fermenter, and, to my satisfaction, I never had to skim the kraut.
In about 4 weeks, the fresh sauerkraut was crisp and tangy with no off flavors and probably full of probiotics as well. Ferment your kraut between 65 and 75 degrees F. Higher temps can cause undesirable flavors due to nasty organisms taking hold, and cooler temps will inhibit or stop the fermentation.
Canned, the kraut was softer but still delicious. I use it with sausages and other rich meats. Fried with eggs and sausage is a nice weekend breakfast. My partner Alyson won’t eat it at all, sigh.
Kris consulted the following books as he prepared this post. Click the name of a book to buy your own copy from Amazon.com:
Earthly Pleasures: Tales From a Biologist’s Garden by Roger Swain
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving edited by Judi Kingry and Lauren Devine
Well Preserved: Small Batch Preserving for the New Cook by Eugenia Bone
Here are a few ways to use sauerkraut that sound delicious:
sauerkraut pierogi with mushrooms and tofu pieces – these were the best pierorgi we’ve ever had. the combination was great, and they are really easy to make. serving size: 4. ingredients: for the dough: 2 cups pasta (fine semolina) flour; 1/2 teaspoon salt; 3 tablespoons oil (for this …
potato, sauerkraut and soy cheese casserole – ingredients: 1 can sauerkraut, drained and rinsed; 1 apple, peeled and cut into pieces; 500 grams potatoes, cooked and grated; 100 grams sundried tomatoes, cut in small pieces; 150 grams soy cheese, grated. directions: …
Recipes 2009 April – When I was growing up sauerkraut made an appearance at our family’s table . My Mom made a couple standard sauerkraut dishes which included the classic .