Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tomato Canning Begins

A friend is coming over in a few hours to can roasted tomato sauce with me.  I don't bother with canning whole or chopped tomatoes.  The roasted sauce serves equally well for pizza or pasta; we don't seem to miss store-bought canned tomatoes, so I don't see the need.  If you'd like to see how the roasted tomato sauce is made, check out my post on it from last year.  For the record, I pressure can this sauce at ten pounds of pressure for 25 minutes in quart jars.  But please consult a reliable canning guide rather than taking any anecdotal canning recommendations you find in the blogosphere.

My canning goal for this year with regards to tomatoes is to get enough sauce into jars to see us through two years.  I'm still traumatized by last year's late blight which left us with hardly any tomato crop to speak of.  I canned only three quarts of sauce, which we soon ran through.  I resolved to make a big effort this year if we had a good crop.  If blight rears its ugly head again next year, I'll be able to coast through with what I put up now.  If next year is a good tomato year, I can put up just one year's supply and still have a year's supply in reserve.  So far it looks like June and July's blistering heat and little rain have protected us from blight and set us up for a good tomato harvest.  My estimate for a two-year supply of tomato sauce is somewhere between 30 and 40 quarts.  I'm going to try my best to put that much up in the next three to four weeks as the tomatoes come in.  Extra quarts are always good to have for gifting.  If our own supply of tomatoes is insufficient, I may resort to buying locally grown.  But first I'm going to see how we fare on our own production.

Much of our cherry tomato crop is going to be smoked in our homemade trash can smoker.  We're still slowly working our way through the apple wood chips we made ourselves from the first pruning of our apple tree after we move in three years ago.  These are excellent material for smoking, and homegrown too.  After smoking, I dehydrate the cherry tomatoes until they are shelf-stable.  We then keep them on hand for adding to winter stews, pasta dishes, and polenta.  Super-sweet cherry tomatoes smoked over our own apple wood give a marvelous flavor boost to winter meals. 

Speaking of growing tomatoes, I have to gush a bit about the Speckled Roman tomato.  My last few posts have included pictures of this beauty if you want to see what it looks like.  I'm more and more impressed with it as time goes on.  This variety is a stabilized hybrid of Banana Legs and Antique Roman tomatoes.  "Stabilized hybrid" means that someone worked on the cross of the two parent varieties until they had a genetic line that breeds true.  In other words, it's now open pollinated.  In other other words, it's possible to save seeds from Speckled Roman tomatoes and reliably get Speckled Roman tomatoes from those seeds.  I like the fact that it's open pollinated.  I love their unusual and beautiful appearance.  I like both the texture and flavor - meaty and solid enough to make a good slicing tomato, but full of well balanced tang and sweetness.  I love the fact that they very rarely split; this characteristic redeems the only moderate production from each plant, since I can count on harvesting just about every fruit that forms.  And I really appreciate the Speckled Roman's ability to resist late blight, which I saw first hand last year.  This is only my second year growing this variety, but I'm definitely sold on it over other paste tomato varieties.  In fact, I'm strongly considering making it my primary tomato in future years and planting only a couple of beefsteaks and cherries. 


Tree Huggin Momma said...

Wow - sounds yummy and busy! Hopefully this will be the year I finish clearing the land and am ready to go for next year with plantings.
I picked up a ton of High Mowing Seeds (non-GMO) and have seeled them in a vacum bag and put them in the freezer...

Aimee said...

Smoked cherry tomatoes sounds like a fabulous idea! I have a fruit tree orchard so prunings are abundant but I have to check out that garbage can smoker link. Good luck!
And happy canning!

Wendy said...

You're a couple of weeks ahead of us, but like you, I'm looking forward to this year's tomato crop. I ran out of tomato sauce too soon last year, and I don't buy canned tomatoes from the grocery. It's a bummer when we can't have chili anymore ;).

Tamar@StarvingofftheLand said...

40 quarts? Yowza. How many tomato plants do you have?

Reading that you're canning already makes me think our garden is WAY behind. We've been getting cherry tomatoes for almost 2 weeks, but none of the full-size tomatoes are even close.

Our growing season is late, because the water all around us keeps us cool in the spring and warm in the fall, but that can't explain everything. I'm going to try sending soil samples for testing over the winter so I can have some idea how to fix the problems, and maybe I'll be able to keep up with you next year.

Anonymous said...

I haven't yet tried canning, and we got rid of our old, inefficient freezer, so my tomato crop will have to be eaten up or given away. I can live with eating fresh tomatoes.
Last week I broke a total of 4 toes on both feet, and I empathise with your pain and the accompanying emotions. It's very humbling to be disabled when you're used to rude good health. Probably good for me.

el said...

I grow a Striped Roma and it's very similar; the skin is super thick though so...I warn people if I serve it fresh. Otherwise, it peels easily after a boil. Like you, Kate, I love the way they look; who cares if it's not the most prolific.

And yeah you're earlier than me. I am a full week out from being overwhelmed, which is just fine!

Robin said...

Oh how I wish my tomatoes were producing! They're all still green and I fear that I won't get enough to can and freeze this year since we had a very cold June and have had a summer way below normal temps (bay area ca). I may have to resort to the farmers market to get my paste tomatoes for canning :(

Rachel said...

Wow - enough tomato sauce to get you through 2 years will certainly be a lot! I must admit I've never canned tomato sauce before; just whole tomatoes.

Sounds yummy though!

Sense of Home said...

I will begin canning tomatoes in the next week or two and I like the idea of roasting tomatoes for sauce. I will be checking your blog for how that is done. There is nothing like home canned tomatoes. We used ours up by May and have been missing it, I hope to can more this year.


cityhippyfarmgirl said...

In time to come I would love to be doing this. I have images of rows and rows of my own bottled tomatoes...one day one day.

Anonymous said...

I was going to ask what Tamar asked- how many plants do you put in?

I've never canned before. I was going to try tomatoes last year, but as I even had to buy green tomatoes for our annual chutney because of blight, it didn't happen.
(I make lots of chutneys, but we always have to have Green Tomato Chutney. It's about the one thing other than everyday meals I can remember my mum making when I was a child- I didn't inherit my love of cooking and baking from her!- and my granny used to make it before her, so it's a tradition!)


Kate said...

THM, hope next year's crop is bountiful. I have my extra seeds frozen as well.

Aimee, the garbage can smoker is really easy to make. If you don't want to power it with an electric burner, do a bit of googling. I know I've seen pictures of a pit fire with a covered trench that fed into the garbage can.

Wendy, oddly, we almost never eat chili, which is strange since we grow our own dried beans. I must try that this winter.

Tamar, 40 is my stretch number, for sure. That would give me plenty to gift away. I've got 14 plants, 11 of which are either beefsteak or paste, so that's what I'll be relying on for the canning goal. I think temperature counts for a LOT where tomatoes are concerned, but a soil test is always a good idea. Do you know what it is you're looking for?

Jenny, I hope your toes heal quickly. It's terrible to be incapacitated, especially when the garden is in full swing.

El, I wouldn't say that the skin is notably thick on the Speckled Romans. It seems normal to me, and the skin on Brandywines abnormally thin. Actually I suspected it was the shape of the tomato that helped prevent cracking, but I could be all wrong on that theory.

Robin, that was us last year, and even before the blight hit. It's a hot year here, so I'm trying to take advantage of it. Bay area gardening, well...been there, done that. Bay area whether varies enormously from city to city as you well know, I'm sure. Tomatoes are just hard to do in some of them. I found that a potted cherry tomato on the edge of a paved driveway did well, provided you water assiduously. And then there are all the tricks to conserve heat in order to coax tomatoes along. Good luck.

Rachel, yeah I'm ambitious enough to qualify as mildly insane.

Brenda, I like the roasted sauce recipe. If you want it thick, don't add the pan drippings in, but save them for some other purpose. They're too delicious to throw away. But if you like a thin sauce, add it in with the puree. Hope your canning goes well.

cityhippyfarmgirl, those rows of canned anything really do make the heart swell with pride of a job accomplished, I can tell you. Hope you have that satisfaction one day soon.

Hazel, now you and Tamar are making me think this is a crazy goal. But on a bit of reflection, 25 pounds of tomato picked yesterday gave me over 6 quarts of sauce. And 25 pounds of tomato per plant doesn't seem at all a stretch to me. So that would work out to 275 pounds of tomatoes, not counting the cherries. Even if we eat a LOT of them fresh, that still leaves me with, say, 175 pounds of tomatoes to can, which should give me at least 42 quarts of sauce. Okay - now I've reassured myself...somewhat.

Green tomato chutney sounds marvelous - family heirloom recipe? Why, why do you not have blog, Hazel?

Anonymous said...

I don't think you're insane! That's the kind of goal I set myself. And then admit to DH, who says "right...".
I've probably got the same number of plants spread around the garden and allotment, but I'm sure I'm not going to get the same crop per plant.
They've been fed and watered, so not sure if it's me or them? Some plants went in a bit late, so they may keep cropping later if I'm lucky and the weather stays good.

If you have any tomatoes left (!) I can give you the recipe. It's not very exotic (as I said, my mum doesn't do fancy cooking!) and there are probably hundreds of similar recipes on the net, but it smells of Autumn to me when it's cooking and it's also the first sauce/condiment I got my vinegar-hating husband to try (and like!).


Robin said...

Please post the green tomato chutney publicly! Mmmmmmmm!

We live in the East Bay so at least we get warmer weather and more sun than in SF but I'm still waiting for some good blistering days to get the tomatoes, peppers and eggplants going. :)

BTW - I turned my husband onto your blog and he's enjoying it!

maggie said...

Speckled Romans. I've been wondering what those lovely tomatoes were and am so glad you did this mini review on them. I will have to look for seed for next year. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I spoke to my mum and we think our family's been making this recipe for 60 or 70 years, so we must like it!

Green Tomato Chutney
3lbs green tomatoes
2 small cucumbers
6oz sultanas
2 tbsp English mustard powder
1 level tsp cayenne
3 1/2 gill vinegar*
4 large apples, peeled and cored
3 large onions
3/4 lb demerara sugar
1 1/2 tsp ginger
1 1/2 tsp salt

Chop fruit and vegetables. Simmer very gently for several hours uncovered. Pot when thick. Being English I fly by the seat of my pants and open kettle can (?) this into sterilised jars! Otherwise process as for any other chutney. Best after maturing for a couple of months, especially if you use malt vinegar. Very nice in a Cheddar Cheese sandwich...

* This is an archaic measurement in the UK, not sure if you use it in the US? 1 gill is 1/2 cup, so I make it 1 3/4 cups. This is 7/8 Imperial pint, so 1 US pint.
I use malt vinegar usually, occasionally commercial cider vinegar.
Can you get all these ingredients in the US?

Kate said...

Maggie, you're quite welcome. I hope you enjoy growing them.

Hazel, thanks for the recipe! It sounds delicious. We call sultanas golden raisins. Demerara sugar is available here, but not widely. Light brown sugar is probably the substitute that's most widely available, though it's really not the same thing. Turbinado would be the closest match, and cane sugar after that. Malt vinegar can be found though it's not as common as in the UK. I may try this in late summer or early fall with any late tomatoes that aren't going to ripen. Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

Kate, I looked up Turbinado sugar and that would be virtually the same, I think, but the article I read said that wasn't widely/commonly available either.
I think I'd substitute half light brown (soft) sugar and half ordinary white sugar or just all white sugar myself.

Glad you like it :-)