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. 🙂