Seduction by Tomato-and Staying Safe

I didn’t want to do it. We could certainly do without canned tomatoes this winter. I have 12 cans of crushed tomatoes from the grocery store-that’s plenty for the Piper and I. Then one Saturday morning Darling Daughter grabs me and takes me to the Farmers Market and the best little farm stand ever.

I was seduced by a half bushel of the most beautiful Italian Paste style tomatoes I have ever seen. I walked past the box at the farm stand twice…I’m not gonna do it…Well maybe…Darn it! They are gone! Not so, says the nice lady behind the counter-we have lots more. So I took them, and a peck of peppers, and a couple of big sweet onions, and a quart of peaches, and some Poblano peppers, freshly dug garlic -ahh it is a slippery slope for me.

My New Electric Canner
My New Electric Canner

I also felt that I deserved one of those space age electric hot water bath canners-at least I felt I should buy one of those instead of playing “slap the bull” by using my conventional water bath canner on my glass top electric stove. That is a big no-no, although I have been getting away with it for 20 years, I sometimes use a propane cooker out on the deck for the canner and the pressure canner. Big expense it was-and I’m not impressed, but will use it.

The Piper is using the other love of my life-the Kitchenaid to prep for salsa and sauce.
The Piper is using the other love of my life-the Kitchenaid to prep for salsa and sauce.

Now the whole point of this post is to remind all of you home canners to recheck your recipes and methods of canning tomatoes. Most salsa and spaghetti sauces are NOT safe to be water bath canned. That’s right-go to your Ball Blue Book or your local home extension website. You must follow a carefully calibrated recipe for salsa or spaghetti sauce to maintain the acidity and make your water bathed jars safe. You like your salsa strong-so you toss another couple peppers in the mix, and another onion,  and the next thing you know you have messed with the acidity of your product and it is no longer safe to just water bath can it.

Spaghetti sauce is the same deal. If you add too large a percentage of other vegetables and seasonings to your sauce-it is no longer safe to water bath can. I do not make this stuff up!

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The latest information I found suggested adding 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 1 Tablespoon of bottled lemon juice to each pint jar. Bottled lemon juice, not fresh-as lemons will vary greatly in their acidity. This year, I roasted the gorgeous Italian Plum tomatoes on my gas grill-got those skins black and blistered. Then the Piper put them through the grinder on the Kitchenaid.  I brought the puree to boiling and filled and processed my jars. There is no peeling and de-seeding in our method.

Our salsa turns out differently every batch. This year we did several batches by roasting all the ingredients on the gas grill. Even the garlic got put on wooden skewers and roasted. After it all cools a bit, the Piper just grinds up all that goodness, and I put it in clean jars and freezer containers and freeze it. OMG is that roasted salsa good-but it is different from the Pico de Gallo style of our regular salsa. There is not a clear winner here-we love them both. Darling Daughter has pointed out that the Piper is a 5 pepper per batch kinda guy, she is a 4 pepper per batch girl, and Mama is a wussy 3 pepper per batch woman. There are no losers in salsa making-it is all good.

Sure-go ahead and make you mother’s sauce, but do yourself and the ER a favor-freeze it-that’s safe. We have found that the “safe” recipes for salsa are not what we are looking for, so we freeze our salsa in large mouthed jars or special food-safe plastic containers. For spaghetti sauce, we just can the puree and spice it up when we eat it.

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The reason we homestead folks put up canned food is to take control of what goes into our bodies, so why would you risk an awful case of food poisoning? Get yourself a good canning recipe book, and follow it! Double check the processing times and how you handle the lids-things have changed. Now, go grab that bag of chips- I feel a salsa session comin’ on-Out in the Pasture.

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