Wednesday, September 2, 2009

In the meantime have a look at this blurb about canning all those tomatoes!!


Canning Roasted Tomatoes

September 2, 2009

Roasted tomatoes are delectable little gems. Once you have them, you can use them in sauces, salsa, or just as a topping for bread: Voila! Bruschetta! Freezing is the easiest way to preserve their flavor, but if you have limited freezer space, canning is a good option.

There is, however, a catch. I’ve looked and looked and have been unable to find authoritative canning recommendations for straight roasted tomatoes (no onions). The recipe in the Ball Blue Book is close, with only 1 1/2 c. chopped onions for 12 pounds of Roma tomatoes—but for reasons that aren’t clear to me, this recipe recommends a processing time of 1 hour and 25 minutes. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why you would need to do this. As you saw in yesterday’s post, the USDA recommends a 40-minute processing time for regular tomatoes. Why would they require twice as long for tomatoes cooked a different way? Is it because their recipe leave the skins on? Does the prolonged heat of roasting do something to the natural acidity of tomatoes? Is it a typo? I’m flummoxed by this. A couple of people at the Clark Park Farmer’s Market this past weekend told me that they treat them like cooked tomatoes (sauce, etc.) and simply process them for 20 minutes in a boiling water bath. Discussion topics on the internets are also inconclusive, with recommendations of everything from not safe, period (this is simply not true), to 20 minutes, to 40 minutes, to 80 minutes.

I can’t tell you why, exactly, but 20 minutes made me nervous. I did, after all, throw in some garlic and herbs and a little bit of oil. I eventually decided to compromise with 10 minutes in the pressure cooker with 15 pounds of pressure. If you don’t have a pressure cooker, I’m not sure what to tell you. If you have all the time in the world and are of the better-safe-than-sorry camp: sure, try 85 minutes. If you’re slightly more adventurous, you might try the regular tomato guidelines: 40 minutes. And if you like to live on the edge or have problems with authority, try 20 minutes…but you do so at your own risk.
Roasted Tomatoes for Canningtomatoes-in-roasting-pan

About 10 pounds tomatoes
4–6 cloves garlic
a few sprigs of rosemary and thyme
A bit of olive oil

1) Cut the tomatoes in half and arrange them face down in a roasting pan. I was able to fit about 5 pounds in a big roasting pan, 2 1/2 pounds in a regular cake pan. Throw in some herbs and garlic and brush a little oil over the tomatoes.

2) Roast at 450°F for about half an hour (more or less depending on the size of the tomatoes) or, better yet, run them under the broiler for 3–5 minutes. However you do it, you’re cooking them until they’re crinkly with a few black spots.

3) Let them cool. Meanwhile, prepare your jars and lids. If you’re using a water bath, bring your water to a boil and sterilize the jars.

4) You can remove the skins, or not, depending on what you want to do with them (Blue Book leaves them on, which perhaps contributes to the longer processing time?). I remove them. Pack the tomatoes in pint jars and run a spatula around the edges to remove air bubbles. Add more if necessary. You’ll find that they shrink quite a bit. My 10 pounds yielded only 3 pint jars. Add some acid if you’re using a water bath: say, 1 T lemon juice, or balsamic vinegar might be nice. Wipe the rims and adjust the lids.

5) Process as best you see fit, as discussed above. Remember, the well-tested but conservative Blue Book says 85 minutes.

Your thoughts?

Posted in Canning, Condiments, Freezing, Gluten free, Pressure cooker, preserving, vegan, vegetables | Tagged Canning, Condiments, Freezing, Gluten free, local, preserving, pressure cooking, sauces, tomatoes, vegan, vegetables | 1 Comment »
Canning Tomatoes (the basics)

September 1, 2009 by dorisgoat

As you might have guessed given my giant pile of tomatoes, my next few posts will be all about things you can do with them: roasted tomatoes, roasted tomato salsa, tomato sauce, and mixed pepper sales. But first, let’s do the basics. How do you can tomatoes?

Tomatoes are an interesting case because they straddle the line of low-acid/high-acid food. Technically a fruit, we typically think of them as vegetables. Like most other fruits, however, they are sufficiently acidic that you can can them in a water-bath…but this is where it gets tricky. The USDA recommends that you add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per pint, just to make sure that the acid levels are high enough. They also recommend that you process them for 40 minutes, which is much longer than I like to cook my tomatoes. The 40-minute recommendation actually came as a shock to me because for years I’ve been working with instructions that say that you only need 15 minutes for a hot pack (more on that below). Apparently, the USDA updated its guidelines in 1989 to reflect growing concerns about food-borne illness. In the case of tomatoes, the biggest concern is salmonella, not botulism.

Personally, I think this is ridiculous. I have been eating 15-minute processed tomatoes my whole life, to no dire effects. Of course, the canned tomatoes that I eat were usually either grown by someone I know or purchased at a local farmer’s market—not conditions likely to breed salmonella. If you decide to go the 15-minute route, you are doing so at your own risk (I assume no liability for your canning choices). I’m just saying that you should use common sense. Wash your hands, wash your food, remove tomato skins, and don’t purchase industrial produce. If you want to be extra-cautious, you can boil your canned tomatoes for 10 minutes when you open the jars. Or you could just follow the USDA’s advice and process them for 40 minutes.

Now: my flip attitude toward the 40-minute rule is only for hot-packed tomatoes. When you can tomatoes, as when you can most fruit, you have a choice. In a cold or raw pack, you put raw fruit in jars and cover them with some sort of boiling liquid. In a hot pack, you bring the fruit to a boil with the liquid, then transfer them to the jars. If you’re using a raw pack, you need to process your tomatoes for 40 minutes. Period. I find that I get better results with a hot pack when I process in a water-bath canner. Fruit shrinks when you heat it. If you’re doing a raw pack, it shrinks in the jars, meaning that you’ll end up with a lot less fruit than you anticipated. When you hot pack, the fruit shrinks before you put it in the jars, which means that you can use fewer jars for the same amount of produce. And, of course, if you’re worried about salmonella, boiling the tomatoes before you can them should help with that.

The alternative is to process your tomatoes in a pressure cooker. This has been my choice lately, both because it uses less energy and because the heat of the pressure cooker will kill just about anything. You can also skip the lemon juice. The catch is that some people feel that the texture of the tomatoes suffer from the heat of the process. I haven’t found that to be the case, but there is an aesthetic issue. Pressure canning usually results in a significant loss of liquid. That’s what’s going on the photos pictured at the top of this post. The jars were full, with only 1/2″ headspace when I put them in the canner, but a week later, they’ve shrunk. Cold vs. hot pack doesn’t seem to make much of a difference, so I don’t bother with heating up the tomatoes first. This is a perfectly normal side-effect of pressure canning and doesn’t affect the safety of the contents, but it freaks some people out. I wouldn’t necessarily give them as gifts. If you’re comfortable with a pressure cooker, though, this is by far the easiest and fasted method.

Long story short: You’ve got 3 basic options for canning tomatoes in water:

Water-bath raw pack: 40 minutes for pints, 45 minutes for quarts, be sure to add lemon juice
Water-bath hot pack: USDA recommends same time as for raw pack. Older instructions say 15 minutes for pints, 20 minutes for quarts. Use lemon juice.
Pressure-canned, hot or raw: USDA recommends 10 minutes at 10 pounds pressure for pints or quarts. Older instructions (use at your own risk) say 0 minutes for pints, 5 minutes for quarts (”0 minutes” simply means bring it to pressure, then turn off the heat).

You’ll need to process them longer if you’re canning in tomato juice. You can find more details and instructions at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. And if all else fails and you have a big freezer, you can just toss peeled tomatoes in freezer bags and call it a day. If you have strong opinions about tomato processing times, please leave your comments below.

Posted in Canning, Kitchen chemistry, Pressure cooker, vegan, vegetables | Tagged Canning, DIY, frugal, local, preserving, Pressure cooker, science, tomatoes, vegan, vegetables | 1 Comment »
The Cheapskate’s Guide to Food Preservation

August 31, 2009 by dorisandjilly

I’ve had a lot of questions lately about the economics of food preservation. If you have to buy 20 pounds of tomatoes to make it worth your while, and farmer’s market tomatoes cost $3 a pound, how can you afford it? And if you can only afford to can/freeze/dehydrate supermarket tomatoes, why bother? This is an excellent question—it’s also come up in the national media, like this article in Salon by someone who tried to “save money” by making strawberry jam with Union Square Greenmarket berries.

So let’s talk about it.

First, it’s true that, traditionally, food preservation was the province of people who grew their own food. Canning and freezing have long been the default choices of cash-poor farmers with lots of land and time on their hands. This description no longer fits most people who can, but it remains true that the cheapest way to preserve food is to grow it yourself.

Unless you’re living on a small-scale organic farm, though, this isn’t helpful advice. Fortunately, there are other options for city and suburban folks. In order of frugality, your best options are:

1) Pick your own. Prices at Mood’s, my favorite U-pick in South Jersey, range from $0.85 for peaches to $1.15 for blueberries. Hard to beat, but you do need time. And a car.

57-pounds-of-tomatoes2) Buy seconds. “Seconds” are fruits or vegetables that aren’t quite perfect. You have to be careful—sometimes seconds are actively gross. Mostly, though, they’re perfectly serviceable. This photograph shows what someone at my local farmer’s market sold me when I asked her for $20 worth of seconds. She gave me about 57 pounds of slightly cracked (look carefully at the bowl on the left) but otherwise beautiful tomatoes—a steal at about $.40 a pound. If you don’t see any on display, ask. Often a farmer will have bushels of seconds stashed until a table or in a truck, just waiting for someone to ask for them. Other tips: show up early (beat the other canners!) and build a relationship.

50-ears-of-corn3) Buy in bulk. If seconds aren’t an option, at least ask for a discount. To your left, check out the 50 ears of corn I lugged home last weekend. Ordinarily, corn sells at our market for the premium of $0.50 an ear. For a farm girl, this is borderline extortion. So, I simply asked: how much of a discount would you give me for 50 ears? The price dropped to $0.40/ear. Still pricey, but 20% less than advertised (and, incidentally, cheaper than at my grocery store). You can improve your odds by showing up toward the end of the market, especially on rainy days. Look around for whoever has lots of produce left, and make them an offer.

And remember, you don’t need to invest in fancy equipment. If you’ve already got a chest freezer, you’ll only need to invest in a solid stash of freezer bags. If you’d rather can, Mason jars and lids are all you’ll need. Once you’ve bought the jars and rings, you can reuse them indefinitely. You do need to buy new lids every time, but that will only put you back about $2 per dozen lids.

Now, what did I do with my 57 pounds of tomatoes and 50 ears of corn? A dozen pints of canned tomatoes, 9 pints of tomato sauce, 3 pints of roasted tomatoes, 6 half-pints and one pint of roasted tomato salsa, 6 pints of tomato-pepper salsa, 7 pints of corn relish, and about 15 quart bags of corn for the freezer. Not bad for $41.

Posted in Canning, Fermentation, Freezing, Gardening, dehydrating, preserving | Tagged Canning, canvolution, dehydrating, DIY, fermenting, Freezing, frugal, local | 5 Comments »

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Monsanto vs. Nature,1518,611582,00.html

Monday, February 2, 2009

Monday, MARCH 30th.
Melrose Leadership Academy/Bridges Academy

Graffiti Workshop/Mural painting
Self Defense Workshop
Live Music/Barbecue


Thursday, November 13, 2008

JANUARY 19th...
Come and sow the seeds of OBAMA in the Spirit of Martin Luther King Jr.
"This is no time for apathy nor complacency. This is a time for vigorous
and positive action." Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


So we are growing. We are all growing. And as we grow it is important to articulate our needs!!

The MLA kitchen/garden is in need of the following items:

A wood chipper
Functioning hoses that don't kink
Outdoor Steel/Wood Tables for planting
Steel Wheelbarrow
Plant Care Volunteers for school vacation periods-must have some knowledge or interest in plants. We are happy to train you

Mixing bowls
Rice cooker
cutting boards
Steel tongs
Cast Iron skillet

Please contact me at 510.395.5525 or at if you are able to assist us in any way!! THANK YOU AGAIN TO ALL OF THOSE VOLUNTEERS WHO MADE IT LAST SATURDAY. WE HAD OVER 40 volunteers!!