Monday, August 29, 2011

You Say Tornado? I Say Tomato. Learning To Can Tomato Sauce As Irene Blew Into Town

The nut calling Harris Teeter during the state of emergency to ask whether they sell Ball canning jars?  That was me.  So sorry.  I just used the quart ones that I already owned.

Gorman Produce Farm had $25 boxes of tomatoes when I picked up the CSA on Thursday.  Maybe 28-30 pounds of tomatoes.  A second chance at learning to make tomato sauce after Larriland had been picked clean of the regular size on our visit earlier this month.

So I grabbed the box.  Then I panicked Friday night when I realized the storm could leave me with no power and rotting tomatoes.  It was a race to preserve.
First step, roast tomatoes on Friday night.  Cut the stem end at the top, then slice them in half and place them face-down on parchment paper.  Seven cookie sheets shriveled in the 350 oven.  The tomatoes give off juice, which I poured into a bowl.

Once the tomatoes cool, the skin slipped off.  I let the tomato flesh drain in a colander and collected that juice as well.  Then I dumped the drained tomatoes into a pot, put that in the fridge and went to bed.

Saturday morning, I raced the hurricane.  I sautéed some onions in two pots, then cooked down the tomatoes with the onions, salt and pepper.  Two pots meant quicker evaporation.  At the same time, I ran my canning jars through the "anti-bacterial" setting on the dish washer.  By the time that was done, I had simple, thick tomato sauce in both pots.

I canned four quarts.  That was just my second time following the canning instructions from PickYourOwn.Com.  Mrs. HowChow has a professional skepticism about botulism, but I added lemon juice and boiled those jars for 43 minutes.  By the time the rain began, we were cleaned up.

It's strange to spend so much time cooking, but have nothing to taste at the end.  Those jars are meant to carry summer flavors into the cold.  One is destined for a snowstorm.  Made in a hurricane.  Eaten in a blizzard.

Anyone recommend a good book of canning recipes?  Or a good place to buy the canning jars?  I'd like to buy two dozen pint and/or half-pint jars, then can up some interesting stuff.  I found the Food in Jars blog.  I want to can pickles, relishes and vegetables.

I would really like to try Larriland's pick-your-own tomatoes because 49 cents a pound would make tomato sauce into a bargain.  This was $25 for the box.  That made four canned quarts, plus another three cups that I froze.  I also got almost three quarts of tomato juice, one of which became the basis for risotto on Saturday night.

Tomato Risotto
This is risotto made with tomato juice.  The roasted tomatoes give off flavorful juices.  I used five cups, along with a half-cup of the red wine that we opened on Saturday night.  You could use almost any wine -- or just use more juice.  Almost all the other flavor came from Harris Teeter chicken sausages, which have become a staple in our freezer.

5 cups tomato juice
2 tbl. butter, olive oil or mixture
1 med onion or 1-2 leeks (white section), chopped
1 1/2 cups arborio rice or similar short-grain
1/2 c. wine
2 spicy chicken sausages, uncooked
1 c. chopped tomatoes (or less)
parmesan cheese, grated

Heat the tomato juice in a small pot.  Let it simmer while you make the rice.

Melt the butter/oil in a heavy pot over medium heat.  Add the onion or leeks and sauté until the vegetable softens, maybe 2-4 minutes.  Add the rice and stir for a minute.  You should see the rice get light on the edges with a dark spot in the center.

Add the wine and stir.  For the rest of the cooking, you're going to add small amounts of liquid and let the rice absorb each batch.  You can always turn down the heat to slow the process.

Crumble the sausage into little pieces and add it to the rice.  Harris Teeter's sausage comes in a casing, so you just squeeze the sausage out and trash the casings.  Break the sausage into small pieces.

Add a ladle of tomato juice to the rice.  Stir and watch.  Draw a line through the risotto with a wooden spoon.  Right after you ladle in juice, the liquid will fill the hole that you make.  When the hole stays briefly dry, you're ready to add more juice.

Keep adding ladles of juice.  That's about a half-cup each time.  Keep tasting a few grains of rice.  You're done when the rice has the texture that you want.  I like it soft, but with a firm center.  Go with what works for you.  I was shocked in Italy to find that they serve risotto soft and soupy.  I didn't love it.

When the rice is almost done, toss in those chopped tomatoes and add salt and pepper to taste.  Let the rice finish, then serve in bowls.  Maybe top with a handful of chopped tomato as a garnish  Definitley top with Parmesan cheese.  Go 3 TBL per bowl, with more if it has been a particularly bad day.


Foodgeek said...

Best modern canning book: Put'em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton. Currently on sale at Amazon, although I picked mine up at Nest in Clarksville.

The Ace hardware store on Rt. 40 East has a nice stock of canning supplies towards the back.

Marcia said...

The hardware store out on Rt. 108 next to the Wendys & Roots has a good stock of canning supplies, too.

Lisa said...

That tomato sauce sounds gooood.

I second the recommendation of Put'em Up. My second go-to canning book is the Ball Complete Guide to Home Canning (or something like that.)

Jen said...

My mom always called it the "Blue" book by Ball. I have her copy which also includes how to put up squirrel and other game if you are so inclined. Not fancy but a good basic primer which gives a lot of info on canning safely. Hats off to you, canning in the face of Irene bearing down on us.

K8teebug said...

Next time, try using a Squeezo! You can get them fairly cheap on ebay, and it really cuts down on the prep time. There's pics of making tomato and applesauce with it on my blog.

Congrats on your first batch of sauce!