It’s almost canning time

As usual, my week was busy, but it was also, at times, a fun week. Several of us in the Hospital Auxiliary took a trip into San Antonio with fabric and other things we couldn’t use in our workshop or gift shop, to the Convent that is at the former Blessed Sacrament Academy. It is now a Charter School, rather than a private school and they always find a use for the things we bring. What they can’t use is sent on to another place that can use it.
This week, in addition to working in the gift shop, I had the pleasure of helping at our library with the annual book sale. That was truly a fun afternoon, because of course, I didn’t just sell books, there were some that I found and bought for myself! However, I managed to not buy any cookbooks for a change.
The weather has been cool enough that gardens aren’t producing as prolifically just yet as they soon will be if the weather will just warm up a little bit. Several years ago, I planted one tomato plant in a five-gallon bucket and had all the tomatoes I wanted to eat. At the same time, I used one of those “topsy turvy” planters that you can buy, put a tomato plant into it and then hung it upside down from a strong hook. That also produced well. This year, I’ve gotten several hanging baskets and fastened “shepherds hooks” to my fence and hung the baskets from them. These hooks were made to be pushed into the ground, with decorating things being hung from them, but when you hang a basket with flowers and dirt, from them, they bend over, so, I used zip ties to fasten them to the fence. Next, since I found one of the “topsy turvy” planters for a really good price, I am going to try my luck with that again!
It is probably a little early for an article on canning, but as I said above, the gardens will be producing pretty soon and you will be busy canning!
In the 30s, 40s and into the 50s, tomatoes were a noted crop in Yoakum, being commercially raised and shipped by several hundred boxcar loads per day, to various locations in the United States. (In 1931, 764 boxcar loads of tomatoes were shipped.) Most of the tomato sheds, where they were sorted (by hand), are long gone, but many of the foundations remain to this day. They even had a festival, begun in 1928 and called the “Tomato Tom Tom” in honor of the product. The festival is still active, but now is known by a different name, however natives still say, “Are you going to Tom Tom, this year?” The festival includes a cook off of various things, craft show booths, rodeo, dance and last but not least, a couple of parades, similar to Devine’s Fall Festival. It is always the first weekend in June!
Here are a few tips for canning tomatoes however your best bet for canning information is to purchase one of the Ball Blue Books of Canning, put out by the manufacturers of Ball lids and jars. The books have a list of timetables to use for water bath canning as well as for pressure cooker canning and they tell you what pressure your particular food needs and the length of time you are supposed to keep this pressure up. It is a very comprehensive list. My books are outdated, but if I had to, I would still use them.
Green beans, corn, beets or any type of low-acid vegetable need to be canned using a pressure canner. Foods higher in acid, (tomatoes or anything with vinegar as a major ingredient), can be canned using the water bath method. Just be sure to read the instructions very carefully and follow them explicitly.
Always be sure to use jars made specifically for canning. This means no mayonnaise, pickle or picante sauce jars. Of course, most mayonnaise now comes in plastic jars, so that sort of leaves them out, doesn’t it? Be certain that there are no chips or nicks in the top edge of the jar, as this could prevent sealing. Use new metal tops and rings that are not rusted. Anyone who has canned for years has used the rings more than one time, and as long as they are in good condition, this is fine.
Canning tomatoes are one of the easiest canning tasks there is. Heat a large pot of water to a rolling boil. While you are waiting for the water to boil, pick out nice, firm, ripe tomatoes and place them in the sink with the stopper in place or in a large dishpan. When the water reaches boiling, carefully pour over the tomatoes. Allow to stand in the water about 30 seconds to one minute. Drain the water off or empty out of the container and cover with cold water. The skins should slip right off. (While you are peeling the tomatoes, place the flat tops into a pot of water and heat on stove. At this same time, fill a large pot with water and bring it to a boil, to be poured over the bottles in the canner. Cut the tomatoes into halves; remove stem and core if necessary. Cut into quarters or a little smaller, pack into clean, hot jars, leaving ½ to 1-inch headroom. This is called “cold pack”. For the “hot pack” method, you follow the basic instructions for peeling, coring and cutting up, but place the tomatoes into a large pot and bring to a boil. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat and pack into jars, leaving ½ to 1-inch headroom Add ½ teaspoon canning salt to each jar. Wipe off rim of jars with clean, damp paper towel, remove flat lids from water one at a time as you are ready to use them and dry them also, put them in place and fasten with ring. Have water in canner boiling, and carefully lower jars into canner. Cover with additional boiling water to a depth of 1 to 2 inches over the tops of the jars. Process, begin the timing when the water again begins to boil. Process pints for 35 to 40 minutes and quarts for 45 to 50 minutes. Carefully remove jars from canner using jar lifter and tighten lids. (I do not have a jar lifter, so I generally use a ladle to dip out enough water to allow me to reach the rims of the jars and lift them out, using a heavy potholder.) Allow jars to cool at room temperature away from drafts.
A thing to remember if you use the cold pack method is that you have to pack the tomatoes really tightly into the jars, as they are going to shrink during the processing. If you use the hot pack method, it is not as important to pack tightly as they have already shrunk all they are going to. Happy canning!
Squash Casserole
4 yellow squash
3 or 4 zucchini squash
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup picante sauce (mild, medium or hot)
24 saltine crackers, crushed
Shredded cheese
Cook squash and onion in a small amount of water for about 8 to 10 minutes. Drain. Stir in picante sauce. Pour into lightly greased 2-quart casserole dish; sprinkle crackers and then cheese on top. Bake at 350ºF. for about 20 minutes. This can also be made using about 2½ pounds of zucchini only and increasing the picante sauce to 1½ cups. Follow remaining directions.
Calabasas con Pollo
2 or 3 medium zucchini
1 small onion, chopped
1 small can, whole kernel corn (or kernels cut from 1 ear of fresh corn)
1 can tomatoes, chopped (or 1 or 2 fresh tomatoes, peeled and cut into pieces)
2 cups cooked chicken
Salt and pepper
Chili powder (if desired)
Combine zucchini, onion, corn and tomatoes. Cook until zucchini is tender. Add seasonings and chicken and cook 15 to 20 minutes longer.
Tomato Glazed Green Beans
1 can stewed tomatoes
½ cup vinegar
1/2 cup sugar
3 or Tbs. cornstarch
2 cans green beans
Combine tomatoes, vinegar, sugar and cornstarch, bring to a boil and stir until it thickens slightly. Open green beans and drain; add to thickened mixture and serve hot or cold.