Gluttons for punishment, we are. As I mentioned a couple weeks ago, we undertook our greatest processing and canning feat to date, dispatching with 200 pounds of tomatoes across two weeks. Thanks to our experiences over the past couple years, we've learned a few things that help speed the process and move things along.
For our purposes, as we were looking to get as much sauce out of the fruit as possible, two extremely large stock pots were of the essence. In addition, 23-quart pressure canners* were required so we could process multiple batches in parallel. A 36" range helped, but was not strictly necessary. Snacks and wine, however, were.
Whereas last year we merely scored the bottoms of the tomatoes and then blanched and cored them, this year we had an epiphany: If we cored the tomatoes first, then blanched them, the skins came away more easily, and we didn't need to handle the slippery devils with a paring knife in one hand. Good-quality rubber gloves prevented our skin from cracking from the constant exposure to acid. Our ducks were in a row.
Our first day of canning by the numbers:
- 100 lbs of tomatoes
- 2 large stockpots and 2 23-quart pressure canners
- 42 quart jars, lids and rings
- 12 hours
- 4 grown men
- 3 underfoot dogs
- 2 flaming kitchen towels
On the second Saturday, at our friends Nick & Russ's place in the East Bay, Nick mused on how we all enjoy this activity, and wondered how we as a society moved away from such labors. The answer, of course, is World War II.
The war effort was so great that, for more or less the first time in American history, women flooded the workplace. Postwar, many women continued to work out of the home, yet of course were still saddled with the full responsibility of maintaining a home and caring for a family. Convenience was the new black in the kitchen and around the house, and time-intensive chores like putting up food fell out of vogue, overshadowed by the TV dinner and other ready-to-eat foods. Home canning as a craft began to die a slow death.
The times, they are a-changin' (again). Home canning has once again come into vogue, and punk domestics like us have taken it up like nobody's business, turning to it not only as a way to preserve our own culinary creations, but as a social occasion, like a quilting bee. For labor-intensive though it is, I can attest that many hands do in fact make light work, and a day of canning with friends is time and effort well spent indeed.
Join the Canvolution! Canning Across America (CAA) is a collective of cooks and writers who are dedicated to inspiring people like you to can, today.
Shauna recounts a CAA canning party in Seattle.
Marisa's blog is wholly dedicated to the art of Food in Jars.
Apply the fruits of your labor on Lydia's luscious cioppino.
* Tomatoes are insufficiently acidic for water-bath canning, or at least would require exceedingly long processing times. In addition, as we made a base of sweated onions and garlic in olive oil for our sauce, there is the risk of anaerobic bacteria. Pressure canning is the only safe method under these circumstances: 15 minutes at 11 pounds of pressure, to be precise. Refer to the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning for full information.