Last weekend, my husband picked enough corn from our garden to fill our wheelbarrow. He and our son sat on the back porch husking the ears while I blanched the cobs and then froze the kernels on trays. We now have about 20 quarts of corn in our freezer.
That part was easy. I wasnâ€™t nervous about freezing corn. But I was nervous about canning.
I knew that we were going to have to can tomatoes. We have 60 tomato plants, and thereâ€™s no way I was going to be able to fit all that sauce in the freezer. Canning made sense, but I had an irrational fear of it. What if I screwed it up? What if I poisoned my family? What if something exploded in the kitchen while I was toiling away?
Turns out, it was a pretty easy process once I got started. Getting started is usually the hardest part of any new adventure, and this was no exception.
We ended up getting a pressure canner last weekend, because it gives me more options than a water bath canner would (and I can use it as a water bath if I ever choose to). We had a whole bunch of jars that my mother in law gave us last month, and they all have rings so the only other thing I had to buy was some new lids (actually, a lot of the jars she gave me had never been used, and still had their lids with them. But the lids were 30+ years old, and I wasnâ€™t sure if the rubber seals would still be good) and a little set of canning gadgets (funnel, jar lifter, and a little gizmo for picking up the lids out of the hot water that they sit in before they go on the jars).
First, we harvested tomatoes. We filled two huge saucepans, although you canâ€™t even tell that we took anything, as the tomato plants are still a sea of tomatoes. I washed them and dumped them straight into my VitaMix (love that thing), skins, seeds, and all. The VitaMix liquefies everything I put in it, and made quick work of the tomatoes. I ended up with about two gallons of fresh pink sauce. I simmered the sauce down for a few hours until it had reduced to about a gallon, gotten nice and thick, and turned a beautiful bright red color.
Then it was time to can. I had read the instructions that came with our canner about 700 times. I also had a book I was referencing and a web browser with an embarrassing number of canning tabs open. I double and triple checked everything. And then I got started. And it was one of the easiest things Iâ€™ve done in a long time. I ended up with four quarts of organic tomato sauce that all sealed perfectly and are ready for the pantry.
Now that I did it once, I am excited to get the rest of the tomatoes harvested and canned. Iâ€™m planning to make most of them into sauce as it takes up less room that way, and we go through a lot of tomato sauce around here. Iâ€™m not adding anything extra to the sauce right now, but it will be easy to add whatever seasonings and veggies we want throughout the winter as we use each jar.
I have no idea how many jars of sauce weâ€™ll end up with, but I imagine that we will not need to buy spaghetti sauce anytime soon. And I am thrilled that I got past my fear of canning and learned something new.