Tiffany, brings 30 pounds of tomatoes.
“I have just as many at home,” she says. “They were free. Can you help me use them?”
“Good grief!” I respond. “This looks like a home canning project.”
I get my pressure cooker/canner from its storage place in the garage and gather my tools in preparation to begin work early the next morning.
Tiffany sometimes helps me with these activities but isn’t available this time. “Sorry, Mom, you’re on your own because I’m working next week. I have to go home today to make spaghetti sauce out of my portion–not canning, though. I’m going to freeze it.”
“Spaghetti sauce sounds good,” I affirm while nodding my head.
So the next day, I find an oft-used recipe from Presto, the manufacturer of my pressure canner: “Spaghetti Sauce without Meat.” http://www.gopresto.com/recipes/canning/recipeindex.php
I only use tested recipes from
trusted sources because home
canning is the number-one cause
of botulism in the United States.
Before beginning, I take a quick trip to the garden to pick peppers for the recipe. Then I wash everything. The tomatoes look lovely with sparkling water droplets clinging to shiny red spheres.
To loosen the skins, I drop each tomato into a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds. Then I move it to a pot of cold water.
The pots hold six small fruit at a time. I watch as they bob around in hot swirling bubbles. Then I move them to the cold-water pan where I’ve added several handfuls of ice. “It won’t take that long to melt,” I say aloud.
After another 30 seconds, the jewels go into a third pot that’s set on the counter. I remove the skins with my hands and a small paring knife. By now, the water is boiling again, so I drop six new little red balls into the first pot to start another cycle.
It takes a while, but the stack of tomatoes eventually disappears. Next, I quarter each one and squeeze out the water. After one juicy fruit squirts on my shirt, I realize I’ve forgotten to wear an apron. So I take a break to find it.
The tomatoes must boil until tender, so I wash and chop the peppers, onions, and mushrooms while waiting. After the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, they are pressed through a hand-cranked food mill, spoonful at a time, which creates a smooth, but watery, paste.
The day progresses slowly–too busy to stop for lunch, but I manage to eat a banana and drink a glass of milk.
Finally, the yummy stuff is ladled into clear glass canning jars and then those are arranged in the pressure cooker.
I’m washing dishes when the weighted regulator begins to hiss and rock, telling me that the internal compression of the cooker has reached its proper poundage. “Click, hiss, click hiss.” I set the kitchen timer for the recommended processing time for my elevation.
I plop down in a nearby chair, exhausted, as the clock strikes four o’clock. Jimmy will be coming home from work soon, expecting dinner. “Thank goodness, I’ve saved back some spaghetti sauce for tonight’s meal,” I say aloud.
The pressure cooker answers with “click, hiss.”
I smile weakly while my stomach growls.
* * *
USDA’s Complete Guide to Home Canning