The tomatoes are done! The big order is bottled and safely away. The pantry is groaning.
I’ve been waiting for our co-op to get their tomato order in for weeks. This has been the order I have waited for with eager anticipation. And it didn’t disappoint. 🙂 We use a lot of tomatoes in cooking. Before we went “all hippy” we would buy several tins of tomatoes a week. We used them to make a Napoli style sauce for pasta, for curry bases, to make tomato soup and many other meals. A staple of our pantry. Since buying my Fowlers Vacola unit though I can bottle my own and know what goes in there. So last year I put up 50 bottles of tomatoes. 😀 We’d bought them at $10 a box for seconds (means they’re older or overripe or marked etc) from Laverton Market. I swam in a glut of tomatoes until I had them all diced and bottled. I learned on the fly! 😀 I had a ball. This year I’ve been able to approach it with a bit more wisdom. Instead of dicing them all up I just cut them in my had into eighths and dropped them in a bowl. More juice was saved this way too. Any that were too soft to bottle well went into another bowl and the manky bits with black spots, too soft etc went into a box or other bowl for the chooks. I loaded up my first jars and got them into the preserver before working on the rest. Orik was napping and Jasper and Allegra were in their bedrooms
trashing them playing like angels and so I had my hands and mind free to focus. Brilliant! I didn’t think however about timing and I raced ahead getting bottles filled to bottle with only 1 way to safely process them. 😦 I had Ignisa burning away but sadly she didn’t put out enough heat to can with effectively, not without toasting us all. It wasn’t really cold enough weather to justify cranking her up any hotter. It did however start the process at least. I made it to bed at 3:30. Needless to say I was NOT up and at em at my usual time of 5:30.
So, how to bottle tomatoes.
Tomatoes are an acidic “vegetable” and hence can be safely bottled using the water bath technique and don’t require pressure canning (although you can of course). First things first, sterilise those bottles. 🙂 Then decide in which form you want to bottle your tomatoes. You can peel them although I’ve never bothered and then you can keep them whole, dice them, quarter them, crush them, etc. I opted for 8ths which was kind of a compromise between quartering and dicing. These tomatoes were a bit big for quarters in my opinion. Pack them into your sterile jars, add a squirt of either vinegar or lemon juice (many tomato varieties these days are low acid so it’s safer to add a little more acid just to be sure), top up with tomato juice or boiling water, add your rings, lids and clips then into the Vacola. Pretty simple hey. 🙂 I started with #31 jars of which I could fit 8 into the Vacola. Bung on the heat and bring it up to 90 degrees then keep it there for 1 hour. Done! I removed my jars onto a folded tea towel being careful not to touch the lids or clips as you don’t want to break the seal and leave them there, not touching each other to cool completely. Next run in.
Now, you need to start with cool/cold water again for the next run but I’d had a 2nd run in my pressure canner on Ignisa which hadn’t reached temperature but it HAD heated my bottles sufficiently that I could just transfer them to the already hot water in the Vacola which reduced the bringing it up to temperature time by nearly an hour. I processed nearly 40kg of tomatoes all up. I also made tomato sauce and tomato paste.
Saturday morning I woke up and had a little over 10kgs still to process. Many of them were too soft to chop and so I made more sauce. I’ve now got 5 pints of tomato sauce or ketchup for my overseas followers. 🙂 The remaining soft tomatoes were whizzed up in Thermy, heated to 80 degrees and poured into jars. Crushed tomatoes! 🙂 Into the Vacola they went. I finished processing them all at 2:10pm having started again around 8:45. Marathon effort and I’ve ended up with 32 of the #31’s (1000ml each), 6 of the #27’s (900ml each) 10 of the #20’s (600ml) of chopped tomatoes and 8 of the #20’s of crushed tomatoes. There are also 3 of the #14’s of tomato paste and the 5 pints of sauce. I ended up discarding between 4-7kgs of tomatoes that were the yucky bits or too squashed with which to do anything. Not bad at all. 🙂
I had canned coconut milk/cream the other day and had heaps of leftover coconut to use up if possible so taking a leaf from the book of Serendipity Farm I dehydrated it and then whizzed it up in Hermy the Thermy. I’m not sure if it’s the right texture for coconut flour but it is definitely going to get used now. Having a container of used and still damp coconut in my fridge is an open invitation for mouldy waste unfortunately. I was never going to be able to use all the coconut I had either. Waste not want not. 🙂
Last night we were out for dinner with friends in a nearby town. We were on dessert duty so sticky date pudding and mixed berry fruity dream (soft serve creamy sorbet) were the items on the menu. We headed over for a lovely vegetarian curry and then to aid digestion and enjoy the gardens we went for a walk. Our friends driveway goes through a wonderful grove of walnut and chestnut trees so we scavenged for walnuts on our way up the drive and then stopped to pick blackberries just outside their front gate. Imagine my joy watching both Jasper and Allegra learning about blackberry prickles, how to pick the black ones and how the red ones aren’t ripe. It was just wonderful. It was one of the reasons I wanted to move to the country. Call me a romantic but I was brought up reading Enid Blyton books where children raid raspberry canes and blackberry bushes and russet apples in orchards and that is where my dream of living in the country had its first seeds planted. Willow Farm was always my dream. 🙂 Last night it came to life. 😀
My sauerkraut have been doing their thing and already smell a little sour which is wonderful. I needed to top up the liquid which had bubbled out so I added some more salt water and re-submerged the cabbage. I can’t wait to try some. 🙂
What a productive post! You can grow those walnuts if you want walnut trees. Easy peasy, just put them into a bag with some damp potting mix to cover them (soaked blocks of coir peat are best for this but if you don’t have any it doesn’t matter) and put them into a dark place (we use an old esky with a lid) and just leave them over winter. By spring they start to sprout and our walnuts (the last run) actually germinated 2 weeks after we stratified them and overwintered in the glasshouse. Love all your tomatoes and how exotic you went with them. We just made unctuous Italian style tomato pasta sauce and froze it in serving sized portions. I am feeling particularly happy today because I just spent the last 2 days baking and doing all kinds of things revolving around the weather being cold, rainy and Brunhilda being on. Do you have a warming oven on the bottom of Ignisa? I am going to mess about with incorporating my dehydrated “flours” in sourdough muffins and pancakes to make sure that I don’t waste them. I think (fingers crossed) I may have managed to convert Kid Creole’s coconuts to their intended purpose! They are choofing away converting coconut milk like there is no tomorrow. I started off with small shed grains and they seem to be more acceptable to being converted (;) ). I still haven’t waded through my Rss Feed read this weekend and I seem to have been on the PC all weekend! I keep finding wonderful new blogs to add and if I keep on this way I will have so many to get back from after this coming weekend at my daughters place that I will have a nervous breakdown just looking at them! Hope you are enjoying your sunday and are having a lovely restful one after all that work 🙂
Thank you for the pictures! Now I know what Hermy and ‘Vicki’ the Vacola look like (don’t worry, you don’t have to keep the name; I just felt sorry for her . . . ). It will take me a bit to catch up with you now. Maybe tomorrow, but I can’t promise.
Thanks for the link you put in to Narf’s blog; I’d seen the post, but obviously ran out of time and didn’t get so far as the spoons. She told me about them and I was anxious to see a photo. Gorgeous!
I love Enid Blyton, too (and most of that style of “children’s” books. Weird, I know, but get used to it . . . after decades of effort to change, or at least mask, the weirdness, I don’t think it’s going anywhere . . .
Gotta get off the computer before I’m kicked off . . .
BTW, I was hoping to post some pickling, etc., recipes today, but fate intervened. Soon, though.
‘See’ you soon . . . ~ Linne
Goodness, i think you need a big rest after all that productive work. You are making a great contribution to your families wellbeing. Im sorry i missed all the activity but i think you were up way past my bedtime. Its great when you have spent time dreaming about a future and then one day you realise that it has arrived.
That’s it exactly! The moment of stunning realisation that your dreams of decades have finally come true. It’s so amazingly wonderfully and utterly mindblowing! 😀
And I think I was up past everybody’s bedtime. I was just dozing off when Narf was waking up! I have an email to show that she was up within 30 minutes. lol
What an incredible contribution you’re making to your family’s life and lifestyle. I made passata instead of just canning tomatoes. I don’t have a Vacola and this way I don’t need to add onions when I cook my sauces. I’m loving learning all of these old ways and loving that we’ll be stocked up in winter. Reading your posts makes e feel not so aloe in te adventure.
We are never alone in making it at home it’s just that most people do it quietly and it just hums along. 🙂 I have 2 friends who are brand new Vacola fans, one just bought her kit too. 🙂 It’s exciting. 🙂
Yay for your passata. It’s so wonderful to have what is in effect “cans” of food in the pantry but to know exactly what is in that food and where it came from is brilliant. 🙂 Love to see a photo of your passata. 🙂
Hello, my friend! I have awarded you the “Very Inspiring Blogger” award. Please see my post today for information. (Note that you may use short answers to the seven questions; I just never know when to stop!). You SO deserve this award, for you, like the other recipients, have inspired me many times. 🙂 ~ Linne
Thank you Linne! 😀
Thanks for the info and inspiration. An older friend gave me an orange stovetop unit just like yours and many jars a couple of years ago. Tonight I am researching and tomorrow will be devoted to preserving half a tree full of beurre bosc pears! (I hope!) thanks again.
You lucky thing Christina! 😀 A vacola as a gift AND pears! That is a recipe made in heaven in my books. Make sure you pick up fresh rings and make sure your clips are springy (if they feel looser when they go on, discard them 🙂 ) The other thing that you might find useful is a pear corer although I’ve never used one. Let me know how you go and I would love to see a photo of your jars of pears. 🙂
Loved reading about your mammoth preserving session. The detailed instruction was really helpful.
Thank you. I love reading about your allotments too and your sweet potatoes make me very envious. Not enough growing time here unfortunately.