|Who Put These in my Sink?|
And so it begins. It's that daily ritual when the summer garden that you've worked so hard to plant and nurture finally begins to pay off with....More work.
WTF? Who signed me up for this?
It's that time in the summer when every green tomato plant is showing several different shades of summer color. When you start to notice big rigs on the highway loaded down with paste tomatoes headed to the nearest cannery, you know that treasured season has arrived at last. Heirloom tomato season is here.
|Oh, Dear Lord...|
It announced itself with a proverbial bang this past weekend. Both the wife that is Venus and I knew that we would probably be required to do a bit of early-season canning based upon the ripe tomatoes we could spot growing near the base of each plant.
But when we discovered that those one or two ripened tomatoes held a treasure trove of five to six or ten more? We knew we were in for a job. When just the chore of harvesting leaves you grasping for the nearest bottle of cold water and perhaps a little relief from a fan lined up in front of the air conditioner, you've got a job on your hands.
And what a job it was.
|The Lush Queen Tomato|
Venus and I had been expecting to can about seven to ten quarts of whole tomatoes when we first surveyed the garden that Saturday morning. We badly underestimated. Twenty quarts wasn't going to hold what we took from the garden that morning -- and the tomatoes just continue to ripen at a rather maddening pace.
So this is what overload means.
Venus and I normally can a variety of heirloom tomato dish options during our home-canning adventures. There's the famous and always-in-demand Roasted Garlic, Pepper and Heirloom Tomato Salsa and the equally scrumptious Herbed Tomato Sauce.
|Venus Peels Skins Off Whole Tomatoes|
But we had a problem. The tomatoes came a little earlier than normal this year. I'm not sure if it's that spell of 100-degree heat that caused the early ripening, or the pains we took at plant out last April. Whatever it was, it spelled a boatload of tomatoes and the kind of harvest one would expect in mid-August -- not July.
Since the peppers weren't quite ready for large scale harvest just yet -- and salsa depends wide varieties and numbers of peppers -- salsa was out. As for the Herbed Tomato Sauce? We still have a jar or two of that stuff leftover from last year's harvest. Why make more?
|Skins Off! Time for Canning!|
But whole tomatoes? We use that stuff all the time and ran through the last quart from last year's harvest back in March. And so? The project for this day? Can whole tomatoes for winter. Because there's nothing quite like popping open a can of home-canned, vine-ripened tomatoes from your own garden during the dead of winter. It springs the smell of a summer garden into your kitchen -- which is nice -- because the calendar says December and it's damn cold outside.
Canning whole tomatoes also happens to be one of the easier home canning projects. Simply wash the fruit, remove the cores, peel the skins, stick them in jars, add a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice or two plus a dab of salt and you're day is done after you process the completed haul in a pressure or water-bath canner. Some growers even prefer to leave the skins on. More power to them. That's one less step for us to take.
|Whole Tomatoes? Or Monster Brains???|
Jars of home-canned tomatoes look positively funky because the water inside the fruit tends to separate during the canning process. No matter how many tomatoes one jam packs into that one-quart jar -- it's going to come out half tomatoes and half water -- tomatoes at the top and tomato liquid at the bottom.
Yes -- you're right -- it does look a little like something out of Frankenstein's monster. But it's one dish that Baron Victor von Frankenstein would approve of.
Even mad scientists gotta eat sometime. Think about it!