My biggest gardening adventure this year was to be able to can enough tomatoes to get us through to next years harvest. I was able to harvest 136 lbs of tomatoes, and the majority of those were processed into tomato sauce and canned into jars. I did give some away and we ate some of them but mostly I spent A LOT of time in the kitchen processing the tomatoes. In the picture above you can see the second shelf is full of jars of tomatoes, and we have already used more than 10 jars of tomatoes, that’s a lot of jars!
We chose to only can tomato sauce for a couple of reasons. First is that it’s just plain easier than blanching and peeling 136 lbs of tomatoes and then dicing them up and packing them in jars. Second because we aren’t too fussed about the texture of the tomatoes we cook with. With that decision made I experimented with three slightly different ways of making the sauce.
- Mill them raw then cook them down. I did this with probably over half of the tomatoes, and it works well but it wasn’t my favourite.
- Cut them up throw them in a pot to cook a bit and soften to make it easier to mill them. Then mill them and cook it down a bit more. This was the worst way ever, mainly because I burnt them and now have 7 jars of smoky tomato sauce. It works well in chilli but otherwise I don’t enjoy the smokiness.
- My favourite way is to cut them in half lay them skin side up on cookie sheets and roast them in the oven until the skins are charred. Next mill them into a sauce, depending on your preference and the types of tomatoes you use you may not need to cook the sauce down at all. I found this to make a nice, rich, thick tomato sauce and it was the easiest way I found.
I did some other canning this year as well. Every year Heritage Park here in Calgary, AB has a Harvest Sale with 100% of the proceeds being donated to the Alberta Children’s Hospital Foundation. The produce is often marked down and so it’s a great affordable way to put food by for the winter months and I really love that all my money goes towards charity. I bought a box of apples and pears that were made into Apple Pear Sauce that my toddler takes in his lunches daily and loves. I also bought a box of peaches, they weren’t great peaches, in fact I couldn’t eat them as is but I did find an amazing recipe for Honey Peaches on the Food In Jars blog. The best part is that they don’t need to be peeled (are you sensing a laziness theme here?) and honestly, I am devouring them! I eat them almost daily with plain yogurt and granola. I also did a few jars of peaches packed in fruit juice but haven’t tried those yet. The last thing I canned this year (not pictured) are three large jars of pickled beets which I’m excited to dive into.
It’s been a lot of work to put food into our pantry for the year, but honestly the feeling of providing for my family in this way is amazing. The tomatoes are obviously my pride and joy and I get happy just looking at that shelf of jars.
Did you do any canning this year? I’d love to hear some new recipes, and if you ever want to try your hand at canning next year I highly recommend that peach recipe!