Thursday, October 6, 2011

Adventures in Domesticity.

I finally did it. I used tomatoes I grew in my own garden to make salsa, and then canned it.

Two whole pints.

Yes. TWO.

For years - YEARS - I have said I am going to learn how to preserve my own produce like my mom did. In summers past I have had bumper crops of various varieties but never had the time or energy to can it. This year I planted only enough vegetables for us to eat, with the possibility of maybe having a few extra tomatoes. Late in the summer I did share a baggy of grape tomatoes with my dad because I just couldn't eat 'em all, but I didn't think enough of the larger ones would ripen at the same time to make canning worth the effort.

Well. I ended up with a bowl full of romas in the kitchen that were screaming to be made into salsa, so last night I decided it was finally time to dust off the canning supplies I purchased last year.

Rachel gleefully served as my sous chef. She gathered ingredients, chopped garlic and cilantro, and measured out spices while I peeled and diced the tomatoes, jalapenos and onion.

We destroyed the kitchen. I fretted that I would miss a step or the timing would be off. The kids stayed up past their bedtime because I was too engrossed in de-ribbing hot peppers to march them off to bed. And I marveled at how the bowl of "stuff" headed for the scrap pile outside (where I will hopefully have a compost bin next spring) was more abundant than the good stuff piling up in the pot.

But oh, it will be so worth it when we pop one o' these babies open in the middle of January.

At least I hope it will be worth it. That's the thing about canning - you don't really know until it's time to try out the finished product, and that could be months down the road.

I can tell you last night my dry, cracked hands were not feeling the love. I'm too ornery to dig out a pair of gloves to wear while chopping jalapenos. Yes, I am one of those people who wrinkles my nose and waves off the warning in the Ball Book. "I don't need no stinking gloves!"

Eh, some advice? When working with hot peppers, find some gloves. Wear them. You can thank me later.

Also? If the activity immediately preceding your canning adventure had anything to do with leaving half your groceries stacked on the countertops, or washing dishes and leaving them stacked on the countertops, or unless your kitchen is the size of the Iron Chef's Kitchen Stadium, empty your sink and clear your countertops first. You're gonna' need the space.

Oh, two pints of salsa does not take up much room; it's the prep work. Washing, peeling, chopping, measuring. All that good stuff.

And don't make any appointments. Give yourself plenty of time. (Yeah, canning on a whim? Probably not my best choice, but it worked out OK.) I'm sure as I gain experience my process will be a little more streamlined, but dang! I was exhausted and in need of a shower by the time I pulled those jars out of the water bath. Since I was so exhausted, I did not take the time to clean up after myself before I shuffled off to bed ... so now it's time to do that. Olé!

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