Sunday, April 12, 2009

So close to canning season!

Mid-April in Northern California, and the vegetable starts, berry canes, and fruit trees are going in, waiting, waiting for summer canning season.

I bought tomato starts today—yeah, even after last year's tomato disaster. Sungolds do well, so I got more of those, and since the green tomato pickles were so well received, I figured why not plant a few full-size tomatoes? Either they ripen and we have fresh tomatoes (and more canned sauce), or they don't, and we have a new batch of pickles.

The green tomato pickle recipe we like best is one I adapted from a recipe off the Internet; here it is:

Green Tomato Pickles

4 quarts green tomatoes, quartered
1 quart sliced yellow onion
1 quart sliced red (or yellow or orange) bell pepper
2 cups serrano chiles
1 cup pickling salt

Put the pieces of tomato, onion, and pepper in a non-reactive bowl, cover with the salt and let sit for 4-6 hours (to remove excess moisture). Drain off and discard the salty water. In a pan, combine:

2 lbs brown sugar
6 cups vinegar
1/3 cup mustard seed
1 tsp black pepper

Bring it all to a boil then simmer for another 10 minutes. Pack the tomatoes, onions, and peppers into sterilized glass jars, with 1 or 2 or 3 or more chiles per jar for an extra kick. Fill the jars with the hot vinegar solution, and process in a hot-water bath for 10 minutes. Let the jars cool, then store in your pantry to enjoy throughout the year.

Speaking of pantries, I organized mine not too long ago. You can see from the list on the left that I canned about 142 pints of food last year. We have 50 left. And like I said, I'm getting ready for summer: I joined a fruit CSA. I'm scouring thrift stores for used jars. I got a bulk order of Pomona's Pectin. I tripled the amount of strawberries in the yard, and expanded the number of raised beds. Sadly, I don't think I'll get to clearing enough of the yard to put in any fruit trees.

But there's always next year.

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