Moving right along.
After the salsa, I made half-pint jars of crushed tomatoes in juice.
Why crushed? Because I using big, blousy late-season tomatoes rather than (except for one jar) compact, thick-walled romas. They don’t hold up very well when you scald them (or maybe I’m scalding them for too long – also possible) so I’m opting for “crushed” and just hacking up what I’ve got once it comes out of the scalding pot.
That’s also the reason I’m using tomato juice as a preserving liquid rather than, say, just plain boiling water. It looks better. (The bit where the flavour oomph is also upped a bit isn’t hurting but, yeah, it’s seriously for aesthetic reasons).
Using tomatoes – particularly preserved tomatoes – in my cooking is a fairly recent development, but I’m finding them invaluable. Last year, I made tomato sauce for the first time, and determined that, as long as I’m only using about half a cup at a time, tomato sauce is just dandy for my purposes. I’ve used tinned, diced tomatoes from the store (sometimes flavoured with basil and garlic, frequently not-so-much) frequently enough this past year that, upon being given 132 tomatoes (aka: How many tomatoes can I pack into this bag in three hours? Okay, Go!) to do with as I please, I decided that canning myself a few jars of just-plain-tomatoes was going to be a good plan.
Of course, they aren’t just tomatoes. There’s a tablespoon of red wine vinegar in each pint jar (necessary to lower – acidify – the pH level enough that they’ll be good and safe).
None the less, here’s what I’ve learned:
You need about 1/3 of a cup of tomato juice for every pint jar.
You also need about 3 large tomatoes for every pint jar.
12 pints of crushed tomatoes will eat up about 1L store-bought tomato juice + 36 large tomatoes and get my fridge that much emptier. (All the split ones got stored in my empty crisper drawer, so I’m looking forward to having that back).
In other tomato-related news: Based on the local farmers’ market price of 4 tomatoes for $3, the free tomatoes alone have saved us (see: negabucks) just about $100.
Now, if I hadn’t been given 132 tomatoes, I probably wouldn’t be making so many tomato-based preserves. I’d be making some. But not this many. And, yes, about half of the preserves that I’m making with this free produce are being given back to the people who helped me get ahold of it – the friend who lent us her car, the couple who gave me access to their garden, and the friend who was doing the house-sitting for the couple in the first place.
None the less. I’m looking at getting 4-6 pints of crushed tomatoes plus 3C salsa, 6C (or more) of tomato sauce, and an unknown number of roasted/dried tomatoes out of this deal… on top of pesto, frozen greens, frozen beans, ground cherry jam/curd, dried herbs, beets, turnips, and Heimischer (parsley root – looks like VERY white carrots and smells a bit like them, too). That’s a LOT of groceries. That’s a LOT of dinners that I don’t have to pay for with anything but time and effort. And I’ve got those in spades whereas money is a little harder to come by.
Hell, yeah, this is an awesome deal. 😀
I’ve got (more) tomatoes to pull out of the scalding pot, and more pint jars (only four left) to sterilize after this most-recent batch comes out of the processing pot. So I’m off for the moment.
Meliad the Birch Maiden.
 A pint jar, iirc, calls for 2tbsp lemon juice. You can substitute vinegar for lemon juice in any recipe by cutting the amount in half. So far, this seems to be working. 🙂
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