Too Many Tomatoes, Too Little Time | Health, Love & Fire

Too Many Tomatoes, Too Little Time

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

I've mentioned a few times that Dan and I belong to a community garden in our area. Now when we first started talking about joining one of these, in my head I started thinking that it would be this random plot of blank land with a wooden fence around it and planters inside, that different people could wander in and out of, spend time pulling weeds and planting things and take whatever they wanted. I'm not sure where that image came from, but that's definitely not how it works.

Our garden is part of a larger farm a couple miles from our house. That same farm supplies organic produce to most of the local grocery stores and health food markets in our area. To become a member of the garden you can either choose to just do a subscription pick up (a CSA) where you get produce once a week. It is determined for you, and you only get a certain allotment each week. To be a part of the CSA, it costs $420 for a summer share and $250 for a winter share. And while the fresh produce is definitely worth that price to us, we wanted something where could get a large quantity of food and for a lesser cost, if possible.

Luckily, the same farm has a community garden option as well.  With the community garden membership, it costs $12 per adult, plus 12 hours worth of work to be a part of the summer share. So for $24 and 24 hours worth of work at the farm, we are able to get as much local organic produce as we want. I definitely recommend looking in to any local farms in your area to see if they have any similar programs available. It's so awesome to get so much fresh produce all summer long, that is until you have too much!

Wednesday, Dan was working at the farm when they told him our tomatoes were ready. On the application every year you can specify if you want large quantities of anything for canning, and I always check the box for tomatoes. (And they always seem to end up ready during a week that I'm crazy busy!) So Friday night we got to work canning tomatoes. I decided on a garden fresh salsa and just a basic seasoned tomato. We had made so much tomato sauce last year, that we decided to keep it a little simpler this year. Here's the final product and the awesome recipes we used.

Garden Fresh Salsa: 
This recipe is taken and slightly altered from the Ball canning recipes. I decided to double the batch because I had so many tomatoes, but feel free to make as much or as little as you want. Mine turned out fairly spicy, due to the extra chili pepper sauce I added. 

10 cups chopped cored peeled tomatoes (about 25 medium) 
5 cups chopped seeded green bell peppers (about 4 large)
5 cups chopped onions (about 6 to 8 medium)
2 1/2 cups chopped seened chilli peppers - I used a mixture of jalapeƱos & anaheim peppers (about 13 medium)
1 1/4 cups cider vinegar
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 tbs finely chopped cilantro
1 tbs salt
1 tsp hot pepper sauce (optional) - I know I put more of this in . . . oops
6 (16oz) pint or 12 (8oz) half pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands

1. Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use
2. Combine tomatoes (already peeled, corded and blanched), green peppers, pinions, chili peppers, vinegar, garlic, cilantro, salt and hot pepper sauce in late sauce pan. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and boil until thickened slightly, about 10 minutes.
3. Ladle hot salsa into hot jars leaving 1/2 in headspace. Make sure to remove air bubbles. Wipe rim and center lid on jar. Apply band and seal tightly.
4. Process in boiling water canner for 15 minutes. Remove jars and let cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours.

Seasoned Tomatoes: 
12 cups halved, cored and peeled tomatoes (about 24 medium, or 8 pounds) 
Spices blend
Lemon juice
Salt, optional
6 (16oz) pint glass preserving jars

Spices Blend - the blend I used was for an italian blend, since I figured I would probably be using those tomatoes mostly for italian recipes. 
4 tsp basi
2 tsp thyme
2-1/2 tsp oregano
1-1/2 tsp rosemary
1-1/2 tsp sage
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp hot pepper flakes, optional (I didn't include these in mine) 
ADD 2-1/4 tsp of spice blend to each pint jar. If omitting hot pepper flakes, use only 2 tsp.

1. Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2. Combine tomatoes with just enough water to cover in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and boil gently for 5 minutes.
3. Add specified quantity of your chosen spice blend, ¼ tsp Ball® Citric Acid or 1 Tbsp bottled lemon juice and 1/4 tsp salt, if using, to each hot jar. 
4. Pack tomatoes into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Ladle hot cooking liquid over tomatoes leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight. 
5. Process filled jars in a boiling water canner 40 minutes for pints and quarts, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. 

So while the timing might not have been fabulous for canning, I am excited to have all these tomatoes to eat over the next year. If any of you would like to join me in my kitchen the next time I can, please come on over! Just bring your fun apron and some wine! And as always, feel free to share your favorite canning recipes! 
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