I was determined that I was going to can this year. Even if we didn’t have enough produce coming out of our own garden (which I think we probably will in a couple weeks), I wanted to can with local produce. So I swung by Fahrmeier Farms on a trip back from Kansas City to pick up some of their “canners.”
Canners are their tomatoes that have splits, cracks, or otherwise have some minor damage that makes them unsellable to traditional markets. Bret Fahrmeier reminded me that “people buy with their eyes.” Every year massive amounts of food get thrown away across the country because the produce wasn’t perfect. Growing my own food has made me realize how unrealistic it is to expect perfect foods all the time.
In general the tomatoes that most people prefer to can with are sauce-style tomatoes, like Romas, because their lower water content makes it easy to make sauces. The canners I got from the farm were standard slicing tomatoes, but at $10 for a case of local tomatoes (which I weighed later, and it came in at 27 pounds), I wasn’t going to be picky, and it turned out fine.
I am very picky, though, when it comes to following the rules of canning and using only scientifically tested recipes. I’ve taken canning classes through MU Extension, I’ve been trained as a food preservation workshop leader, and I’ve taken an online class through the National Center for Home Food Preservation.
Canning is a valuable tool that should not be feared, but deserves respect. I trust up-to-date information and recipes from the National Center for Home Food Preservation, Extension, and big-name canning companies like Ball. Those are my rules.
Okay, off my soap box.
I made three salsa recipes from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving. All three used jalapenos or cayenne peppers, and all are spicy. Very spicy. I’d probably swap out some of the hot peppers for bell peppers next time. (Swapping peppers for peppers is allowed in tested recipes as long as the total amount doesn’t change.)
I used the Tattler BPA-free reusable canning jar lids. They require an extra step. After you tighten the bands, you have to loosen them 1/4″ before you process the jars. Then, after the jars are processed, you tighten the bands again. Apparently the Tattler lids need a little more room to breathe during processing.
I did the washing, blanching and chopping on one night, then the actual canning on the following night. I was canning until 12:30am. As it turns out, 27 lb of tomatoes is a lot to can 4 pints at a time in the only water bath canner that will fit within my ceramic top stove manufacturer’s regulations. We ended up with 19 pints canned, plus probably a pint or two leftover after I ran out of jars.
One out of 19 jars didn’t seal properly, and it likely was my fault. I realized too late that I hadn’t wiped the rim of one jar before I put the lid on. No worries, though; we put the jar in the fridge and enjoyed our salsa.
For the first time, I have canned.