Sunday, June 26, 2011

Then and Now: Canning Report

My pantry last summer, half-way through canning season (pre-tomatoes).
My pantry tonight.
I am so sad to see just two jars of tomatoes left on my shelves, but so, so, SO proud of our family for 

1.) deciding that we didn't want anything to do with commercial tomato cans containing BPA* and,

2.) acting on that choice by growing and preserving our own to last through the year. (We didn't quite make it through the year, since these two quarts won't last until tomato harvest this year, but I think we came pretty darn close.)

Growing/Canning/Preserving 2010 Review:

• I spent WAY too much time processing a bunch of our tomatoes into sauce for the freezer. We don't use sauce nearly as much as we use whole/diced/chopped tomatoes and I'm struggling now to find ways to use it up (we're not big pasta people). I did find this great use for sauce though--it's even more super awesome if you add oven-dried cherry tomatoes from the garden/freezer.

--> This year, all tomatoes will be preserved water-pack style for "the sky is the limit cooking" throughout the year. (Those that aren't eaten immediately off the vine, that is.)

• We invested too much time/space/energy growing things that we either didn't care very much about or that just didn't produce last year. (What's up, carrots? Don't like our awesomesauce compost-full raised beds? p-sha...)

-->We belong to an awesome CSA again this year and we're going to let them do the work regarding vegetable varieties. We, on the other hand, are growing tomatoes.

• Way too many pickles.

--> Less pickles this year. (Though we still planted some cucumber seeds because they are fun to grow!)

• It was fun to experiment with some canning recipes like Spiced Red Cabbage and Corn Relish, but the cabbage tasted terrible (in fairness, I did forget the cinnamon...), and how many jars of relish does a family need?

--> There won't be as much time for experimentation this year anyway, so that's solved. (I have always wanted to try making Watermelon Rind Pickles though...does that go against my "less pickles" rule above?)

• We ROCKED it on the jam production and are pleased with the remainders. The cherry jam bombed texture-wise since it didn't set up, but it's delightful as a sauce on yogurt or ice cream.

--> If only I had the time this year to create another year's supply... Guess we'll have to spread a little less on each piece of toast to make it last longer!
Photos from my Facebook page

Being back to school has definitely made me refine my domestic diva activities a lot this year, so growing/preserving will take a hit too. My goal is to focus on the tomatoes since that experiment worked SO well last year and just be happy with whatever other few jars I can put by here and there between exams. 

"Exams in the summer?" you ask? Yes, my "summer" doesn't begin until August 5 when summer session II ends and lasts until August 22 when fall semester begins. I'm REALLY hoping that my toms will cooperate with my schedule and ripen in time to be canned during those two weeks!

In the meantime, I'm still cooking and baking as often as I can because our CSA really is awesome and I refuse to waste good food. This weekend alone I made:

Mediterranean Macaroni & Cheese--I doubled the amount of tomatoes (I REALLY love tomatoes) and added artichokes.
• Quiche--family recipe, added oven-dried cherry toms from last year (freezer) plus basil and chives fresh from the garden
Vegan Banana Bread--a staple around here
• Salad, salad and more salad, since the CSA provided three glorious heads of lettuce this week (plus French breakfast radishes, cucumbers and garlic shoots...)
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp--warning, link opens a PDF, but it's well worth it
Chana Saag--I added potatoes, so I think that changes the name of this dish, but a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet (taste as good).

...and lastly:

Cherry Rhubarb Pie--My first ever fruit pie and for the life of me I don't know why I've waited this long to try making them. I used Earth Balance Buttery Sticks for the crust instead of real butter since the Mister is watching his cholesterol these days, but the first taste test (the one where you nab a bite of the crust fresh out of the oven) confirms that the substitution didn't affect the quality. YUM! Flakey! I need to finish this post pronto so I can go slice it up.

Oh, right. I also need to close here because this is calling me:
-->More on why I'm taking algebra another time. Right now, I have a train to catch.
*There are too many links regarding the issue of BPA in cans from which to choose. Google it yourself. Some reports indicate that some companies are no longer using BPA in their tomato cans, but it still feels awesome to grow our own!


Purple Purl Girl said...

Good for you for going can free on your tomatoes.

I am avoiding canned foods as much as possible until the FDA does the job they are charged with and forbids BPA in all canned goods.

This reminds me I've been meaning to contact Seward Co-op to ask them to list all the canned goods that do and do not have BPA.

I hope your harvest cooperates with your schedule. I planted cukes, peas and green beans this year. For me that is huge!

Lisa said...

SO funny reading your post and clicking on the oven-roasted tomato link out of curiosity. Suffice to say it is the EXACT same web page that I found a month ago when I fell into COMPLETE and TOTAL love with oven roasted tomatoes after making her recipe. I have made 7 batches since then and am do I freeze them to use later in the year?
Can you help me out with this?