Tara Bone, contributing writer
Juicy peaches, crisp apples and plump tomatoes are abundant — it’s harvest time! Whether you’re reaping the benefits of a garden, noticing produce stands popping up, or enjoying produce from neighbors, ‘tis the season to preserve the flavors of summer.
For many, the season triggers memories of hours spent in cozy kitchens with mothers, sisters and grandmothers canning, freezing or drying the harvest. It’s those Norman Rockwell-portrait memories where everyone is smiling and working side-by-side. Fast forward to reality. Over the years, I tried to keep the canning tradition going, but busy schedules and living far away from family made it tough. Two years ago, around midnight, I found myself hunched over the kitchen sink peeling beets alone, missing my grandma like crazy, and in misery wondering “why am I doing this?”
I had to re-evaluate. If I was going to continue canning, I needed to make some changes. Last year, our family did a “family first.” I made a conscious effort to include my boys in the process. I hadn’t included them before because I was always in a hurry, and well, they were active boys. It took more time to teach them, and I had to attempt less, but it worked. They learned life skills and learned where their food comes from. The picture wasn’t perfect, but we were keeping the tradition alive. And after all, they love to eat.
I did something else: I reached out to friends. I spent days canning applesauce, tomatoes and salsa with friends. Sometimes in my kitchen, sometimes in theirs. It was an enriching experience where I learned from others and deepened relationships. We may not all have family close by, but we all have neighbors.
So why the effort? Food preservation is not just about food, it’s about preserving and building relationships. Besides the obvious benefits of economy and nutrition, every time that lid pops open, you feel instant satisfaction of your hard work. Finally, that goodness from a mason jar can get you through a long Idaho winter!
The mouthwatering flavors of summer are ready to be enjoyed; preserve them with people you love.
Food Preservation Resources:
- Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving
- 1 bushel of a variety of sweet apples (e.g. 40 percent Jonathan, 40 percent Cortland and 20 percent Mollie)
- Cinnamon to taste – optional
- Core and cut apples. Leave the skin intact but cut off any bad spots. This is where an apple corer/slicer comes in handy – makes it very quick to fill your pot.
- Fill the bottom of your pot with one inch of water, add a lid and bring to a boil.
- Once the water begins to boil, stir, reduce heat to medium and let the apples soften for approximately one hour. (The lid should remain on during the heating process). Stir occasionally to prevent burning.
- Remove from heat once apples are soft. Note: If there is a lot of extra liquid, remove the liquid to prevent your applesauce from being too runny. Save the juice to be used in later recipes.
- While the apples are warm, run them through your food mill and return the applesauce to the stove on medium heat (no need for a lid).
- Add cinnamon to taste and return to a light simmer.
- Add to sterilized and heated quart jars. Place a warm lid and ring on the jar and place into your canner. Water bath jars by placing water at least one inch above the tops of the jars and wait until the water begins to boil. Boil for 20 minutes.
- Once your time is up, remove canner from the heat source and let the jars sit in the warm water for 10-15 minutes.
- Remove jars and let cool on a towel in a cool place, away from drafts. You should begin to hear that wonderful “pop” sound of the jars sealing. Let cool for 24 hours, then check by pushing down on the lids to make sure the jars have sealed. If you can’t press in the lid, store in a cool dark place for up to one year. If the jar did not seal properly, immediately place in the refrigerator and eat within four weeks.
*Recipe courtesy of Our Best Bites by Sara Wells and Kate Jones
- Several tomatoes, any variety
- Extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- Fresh cracked pepper
- Several garlic cloves
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Cut tomatoes. Note: If you’re using small Romas, just cut them in half. Anything larger, quarter them. Half grape tomatoes.
- Place tomatoes in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil (enough to coat everything) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Lightly toss together, coating everything.
- Arrange tomatoes in a single layer, skins down, on a cookie sheet lined with foil or parchment paper. Mince garlic and sprinkle over tomatoes, letting most of it drop directly on the tomatoes. Optionally, you can also put whole cloves in the skin right on the pan, but I definitely prefer it minced on top. Give it one more generous drizzle of olive oil.
- Place in oven and cook for 2 1/2-3 hours, depending on the size of your tomatoes. It usually takes about three hours for Romas that are halved. If you quarter them they will get done a little faster. You want to keep an eye on them after about 2 -2 1/2 hours. You’ll see the juices have dried up and some of the tomatoes will start to darken around the edges. Freeze them in Ziploc bags and use all winter long! Use in sandwiches, sauces or soups.