Labor Day Signals the Last Hurrah of Summer

Canning Tomatoes 2009

Labor Day signals the last big hurrah of the summer season. With summer winding down, the ready availability of fresh, local produce is also starting to come to end. But fear not, September and October still provide many opportunities to not only enjoy the last of the season, but also prolong it for use during the winter.

There are several different methods to preserve food to use during the winter. Canning, freezing and drying come immediately to mind, because I’ve been doing a little of all three over the past couple of weeks. I’ve been canning tomatoes and salsa, drying herbs and freezing squash, zucchini, okra and green beans. Today I’m going to talk a little bit about canning.

Canning is one of those old time arts that is seeing a bit of a comeback over the past few years as people try to eat more healthily and locally. Canning scares some people though, because if it is not done properly there can be some issues. Don’t let that keep you from trying it however! The process of canning, while a bit time consuming and yes maybe even a little messy, really is quite easy, and the rewards continue well after the growing season is over.

Canning has always been a part of my life. I remember as child my mother and grandmother canning foods. I also recall lovely, hearty soups and chili through out the winter, made particularly with the tomatoes that had been canned the summer before. Nothing compares to home canned tomatoes, just like nothing compares to a big, juicy, vine ripened tomato.

There are two main methods of canning, pressure canning or canning in a water bath. If you’ve never canned before I recommend starting at the National Center for Home Food Preservation. They have a wealth of information on their website alone, not to mention their various publications to get your started. My mom got me one of their guides last year and the information (and recipes) in the book are amazing!

For my first round of canning I did mostly diced tomatoes. I started out with 40 pounds of tomatoes that we acquired from our CSA and ended up with 17 jars of canned tomatoes. Three of those jars were crushed, two were whole and the remainder were diced. I like to use these in soups and chili.

The next day I headed over to our local orchard and had decided to get 4 or 5 big tomatoes to make a small batch of salsa, not for canning, but for immediate use. When I got there though I could get the bundle of 5 tomatoes for one price or for $4 more I could get 28 pounds. I went with the 28 pounds! With this bunch I made a small batch of salsa plus ended up with 8 1/2 quarts of tomato sauce.

Tomatoes aren’t the only thing you can can either. My also mom cans green beans. You can can everything from potatoes to squash to pickles to fruit jams. The book I have even has recipes and ideas for canning soups, meats, shellfish, the list goes on and on. The key is canning it while it’s fresh to enjoy when winter rolls around and the choices at your local market aren’t as fresh, local, or as appealing.

So I’m curious…Who out there cans? How about freezing or drying? Leave me a comment (and or recipe) below! I love hearing what other people are doing with their summer harvests!

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