Saturday, October 22, 2011

I'm a canning freak!

There are two reasons that I haven't done alot of blog posts lately. First is, my life isn't all that exciting at this point so there's not much to write about, and the second reason is that I can't stop canning! So it's either: write a bunch of blog posts on canning (snooze), or hang up the blog for awhile. I decided that I could do a bit of both; I didn't blog last weekend because all I did was can, and it turns out all I did this weekend is can, too, but I just have to write about it! It's those darn green tomatoes, really, that have taken me completely by surprise, something totally unexpected in the grand scheme of my summer, our gardening effort, and life in general.

In August, when we realized that there were going to be lots (and I mean LOTS!!!) of tomatoes that simply were not going to ripen before the freeze came, I was so disappointed. I wanted ripe tomatoes, darn it (and, turns out, we have more than enough of those, too). But now, I know that there will always be a spot in our garden that I will keep especially for late-growing tomatoes, because I became enamored by them a few weeks ago when I made green tomato salsa verde (see my previous blog post). My salsa verde seems to be a hit, and the green tomato-apple chutney I also made from a recipe I found on the web is simply and elegantly delicious.

Last Saturday, I spent the entire day, from 7:00 a.m. through 5:00 p.m., in the kitchen canning more green tomato salsa and trying out the chutney. It's the preparation of the ingredients and the time it takes to complete the canning bath process that is so time-consuming, but I ended up with pints and half-pints of both, as well as those cute little 4-oz jars of chutney. And it took a bunch of tomatoes, let me tell you.

So when Bruce called me at my office Friday to tell me he picked the last of the green tomatoes, I knew I had to make a run to the store to pick up some fixings to can some more this weekend. He said he had "nearly a box full" of green tomatoes, but I had no idea what size box (shoe box? bigger?). I knew we had a number of tomatoes on the vine, but I figured there was only enough for one batch of something. I thought I'd focus on the salsa, so I picked up ingredients for that at the store. This errand-running included hitting more than one place to find more jars. I'm finding out that not many stores have jars in stock by late October, but I found them at Ace.

Turns out it was a BIG box. Oh my. Definitely way too many tomatoes for just salsa, so more chutney had to be made. Back to the store(s); everything for more salsa and for a batch of chutney as well. Oh, and more jars. 7:00 p.m. on a Friday night and I'm running around picking up jars and apples at the store.

As a result, today, I was in the kitchen making more salsa verde and chutney. I have to say, I am pretty pround of myself! And, as a result of the last two Saturdays of canning, plus past canning weekends, we have lots of jars full of garden goodies. We've given a number of jars away as gifts, we've eaten a couple jars of pickles, one of salsa...but all told as of right now, here is what is on our dining room table:

Pickles: 10 quarts, 5 pints

Dilly beans: 15 pints

Zucchini relish: 18 half-pints

Chutney: 3 pints, 18 half-pints, 14 12-oz jars, and 22 4-oz jars

Salsa: 23 pints, 9 half-pints, 10 12-oz jars

No dining room table is complete unless you have a
furminator next to the salt and pepper shaker...

That's where it stands. I am enamored with canning, and am thrilled that we have food from our summer to share and to eat in the dark depths of winter.

Since I provided the salsa verde recipe in a previous post, why not post the chutney recipe. The original recipe, found on the web and provided by "Gayla" (thank you, whoever you are), called for a relatively small batch of tomatoes, whereas I had a ton. So I at least tripled it, but really, I have no idea of the quantities, I throw them all together until it looks and tastes right, and then add a bunch of apple cider vinegar to make sure it's acidic enough for canning. But you can also make this recipe in a small batch a saucepan and serve it with one meal and keep the remainder in the fridge for awhile, no canning involved:

Green Tomato - Apple Chutney, from "Gayla":

Green tomatoes, chopped
An equal amount of good tart cooking apples, I use Granny Smiths and a big Honey Crisp, chopped
Shallots, diced
Garlic, minced
Ginger, recipe calls for fresh, minced, but I just used the stuff in a jar, so sue me
Raisins (I used a mix of regular, golden, and I also added currants, and in one batch I added some chopped dates I had on hand)
Brown sugar to taste
Hot peppers; I used a half-can of jalapenos per batch, but the batch filled up a large mixing bowl
Salt to taste
Apple cider vinegar

Chop the tomatoes and let them sit over a strainer to drain some of their juices. You may not need to do this if you're just making a stovetop version, but for canning, I wanted to add more vinegar to get the acidity up, but not have it too liquidy, so I drained the tomatoes for a couple hours.

Put the tomatoes in a large bowl. Add the chopped apples, shallots, garlic, ginger, raisins, brown sugar, salt (not much) and hot pepper (don't go heavy on the hot pepper, you just want a bit of a tang). Mix well. Pour into a saucepan, and add cider vinegar until you get a good consistency. For canning, I tend to add quite a bit so there's enough liquid in the jars to reach the top of the solid food. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring often. Either serve as is, or do your canning, and put jars in a canning bath at least 15 minutes (where I am, at 7000 feet elevation, I boil in a bath for more than 30 minutes).

I don't have a picture of the chutney, but the picture of the salsa in my previous entry looks alot like it, only there are brown and gold raisins peeking through. It is simply divine with pork, and would be equally good with grilled chicken. And, I think it'd be great as an ice cream topping, or as a topping for plain Greek yogurt??? I'm open to ideas...I have enough to try it on just about anything!!!

I promise, no more canning posts for the rest of the season, I am done! Next year, though, I'll be looking for new recipes and will likely bore you all again with more canning stories. Thanks for bearing with me!

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