Sunday

Canning Tomatoes


Easy Home Canned Tomatoes
Tomatoes are one of the first things I canned well over 20 some years ago as a beginner canner.  I read it was one of the easiest things to learn as a newbie canner and they were right.

There is nothing better than a fresh tomato straight off the vine, but I think the second best thing is a jar of home canned tomatoes in the middle of winter!

I use canned tomatoes in chili, spaghetti sauce, soups and casseroles and many different recipes.  If I run out, I also make salsa or tomato juice from the tomatoes I canned. 

I can so I can preserve my garden harvest but also because I can control what's in my food.  I grew it and I grow organic. I know what's in each and every jar. 

Canning is the process in which foods are placed in jars and heated to a temperature that destroys microorganisms and inactivates enzymes. This heating and later cooling forms a vacuum seal. The vacuum seal prevents other microorganisms from recontaminating the food within the jar.

Tomato History
The tomato is actually botanically considered a fruit, but in the USA it’s classified as a vegetable.  Tomatoes are in the nightshade family, and long ago were erroneously thought to be poisonous by Europeans.  In fact, the plant and raw fruit do have low levels of tomatine, but are not generally dangerous.  Tomatine is a toxic glycoalkaloid found in the stems and leaves of tomato plants, which has fungicidal properties.
Until looking up the history of tomatoes for this post I didn't know about the tomatine or glycoalkaloid in tomatoes. 
I have always had really itchy skin after rubbing or touching a tomato plant stem or their leaves so I usually wear long pants and a long sleeve shirt when picking tomatoes in my garden. Now I know why I itch so badly.   Most people however, have no reaction at all.

The tomato species originated in the South American Andes and its use as a food originated in Mexico, then spread throughout the world following the Spanish colonization of the Americas.

Garden Fresh Tomatoes

Canning Methods
It’s important to know your food’s pH level. The food you are going to can is either high-acid pH level or a low-acid pH level.
For an example, tomatoes, a high acid food, fall in a pH level between 4 - 4.6. Some modern tomato varieties are a little less acidic, so the USDA recommends adding extra acid in the form of lemon juice or citric acid as part of safe canning guidelines for tomatoes.
Low-acid foods include many vegetables, soups, stews, red meat, poultry and seafood.
Only use proven processing methods:  boiling-water canner or pressure canner.
I would also recommend purchasing a copy of the “Ball Blue Book” or Ball’s “Complete Book Of Home Canning”, both of which include proven canning recipes and steps.

Canning Safety Tips
  • Always make sure everything clean and sterile, I can’t stress this enough. 
  • Always use fresh, quality food.
  • Keep hot items hot when called for in a recipe
  • Always use the right canning method called for.  I can’t stress this enough either.
  • Use the exact processing time called for in the recipe.
  • When Pressure Canning always use the correct pressure.
  • Allow jars to cool and do not disturb for 24 hours.  Once cool, wipe jars clean.
  • Date and label contents of all jars.
  • Make sure to check all seals before storing in a cool dark place.
  • It is best to not stack jars on top of each other.  Stacking may give a false seal due to weight of jar on top.
  
Things You’ll Need:
 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 lb ripe tomatoes (about 8 to 11 medium) per quart
Citric Acid or bottled lemon juice
Salt, optional
Funnel, bubble stick, measuring spoons, bowls, etc.
Quart jars with lids and bands
A Water Bath Canner
Wash and Sterilize Canning Jars
How To Can Tomatoes:
Wash and sterilize canning jars.
I always boil my canning jars even after washing in the dishwasher.  To pre-sterilize jars, place the clean jars right-side-up on a rack in the canner and fill the jars and canner with water to 1-inch above the tops of the jars.  Boil for approximately 10 minutes, reduce heat and keep jars hot until ready to can.
And by boiling the jars in the canner, the canner will be ready to use, killing two birds with one stone. 
Heat lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil.

Wash and Core Tomatoes

Wash tomatoes, remove stem and core end.
Dip tomatoes in boiling water 30 to 60 seconds. This will loosen the skins.  Immediately dip tomatoes in cold water.
Peel Tomatoes
Slip or peel off the tomato skins.
Trim away any blemishes or green areas. Leave tomatoes whole or cut into halves or quarters.

Fill Jars With Tomatoes
Fill Jars With Tomatoes

Pack tomatoes in hot jars leaving 1/2 inch head space.
Add ½ teaspoon citric acid or 2 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each hot quart jar.
(Add ¼ teaspoon citric acid or 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each hot pint jar).

Add Lemon Juice
Or Use Citric Acid 

Add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart jar, (1/2 teaspoon to each pint jar) if desired.

Add Salt (optional)

Remove air bubbles.
Remove Air Bubbles
Wipe jar rim. Anything left on the jar rim could prevent a good seal.  I use white hand towels to protect my counter tops and white wash rags for wiping the jar rims because I can bleach them when washing, making them a little more sterile in my opinion.

Wipe Rim

Place 2 piece hot lid on jar and adjust until fit is fingertip tight, meaning screw on until you meet resistance.  Lids should be slightly screwed on but not tight.

Apply The Two Piece Lid

Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 45 minutes for quarts (40 minutes for pints) adjusting for altitude.  Water should cover the jars and lid should be on during boiling process.

Place Filled Jars In Water Bath Canner

Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.  Tomatoes will separate from the liquid during the canning process.  Just wait until the jars are completely cool then gently turn or shake the jar to remix.

Let Hot Jars Cool Undisturbed


As my garden winds down I am planting a few things for a fall crop.  Canning is taking up a lot of my time this time of year, but we will reap the rewards of all this preserving work come winter.  
Have a wonderful end of summer,

Elizabeth

Ready For The Pantry

More Canning Information:

Check your local Cooperative Extension Office for local canning classes. 

Simply Canning and  Fresh Preserving and National Center For Home Food Preservation are great websites with a lot of canning information.


Other Canning Recipes

Canning Green Beans

Homemade Chicken Stock

Easy Raspberry Freezer Jam

My Messy Work Area, Yikes!!



Wednesday

Halloween Costume Ideas

Halloween Costumes: Part 1

Who doesn't love fall and Halloween? 
Around our house, we get really excited thinking about the coming pumpkin recipes, fall leaves, corn stalks, stews, college football and all things autumn. 

We host a Fall Party every year and encourage everyone to come in costume, it's great fun. 
We also wear our costumes to Fall Festivals and our local Circleville Pumpkin Show, no really, we do.

Every year since the kids were little,  I have made their Halloween costumes, and every year I started in August. 
Now I know some people are not very organized, or don’t want to think about Halloween costumes in August.  But for us we have found it is less stressful to decide on a costume in August. We then spend the next few weeks gathering together the needed items or props.

A Zombie, Abdominal Snowman, Cat and me, a Gypsy
Was I especially crafty?  No not especially, not really.  I taught myself as I went along, learning from a lot of mistakes.  But as the kids got older, I started looking for parts and pieces to use with the Halloween costumes.  Buying a skirt, dress or cape instead of sewing them made it much easier and saved lots of time, money and sewing. 
Many of the first costumes were made completely from scratch with patterns and material, but as time went by, just as many were pieced together from homemade and purchased items.

Even non artsy-crafty moms can put together costumes from things around the house or found at thrift stores, yard sales or discount stores. We are on the look out for items that can be used for costumes all year long. 
I am not against store bought costumes; they have actually improved quite a bit, (minus the trampy ones, I really dislike the trampy ones).
But store purchased costumes can be quite pricey, are not really high quality and you run the risk of you or your child having a costume just like everyone else.  Who wants that?

Depending on where you live, remember it can be chilly in October.  Choose costumes that are warm or ones you can wear clothes or thermal wear underneath. 

Please overlook that a few of these photos were taken years ago and/ or taken with a film camera. 

Here's a few we have done.  

Indiana Jones:  My nephew Adam wore a leather jacket, an across-the-body leather bag and carried a whip.  The key costume prop that set this off was the hat.  Everyone knows Indy's hat. 
Indiana Jones

Katniss Everdeen:  This one was also easy.  My daughter Alexis found a jacket at a second hand store that looks really close to Katniss’s in the movie.  She also wore her hair in braids, wore black boots and carried a bow.  One of the key props was the mocking jay pin purchased at a costume store. Every once in a while she would stop and hold up  three fingers, she does get into the costume role every year.
Hunger Games:  "I volunteer as tribute!"

Indiana Jones meets Katniss Everdeen at the Circleville Pumpkin Show in Ohio

Cowboy or Cowgirl: Start by looking for second hand cowboy boots, purchase a bandanna for .99 cents at a local craft store, buy a toy holster and gun or use a squirt gun. Wear a plain white shirt or plaid shirt,  blue jeans, and you’ll definitely need a cowboy hat.  Sometimes you can find a muslin shirt (gauze type material), brown leather skirt (girls) or chaps at a second hand store.
Cowgirl and Court Jester (minus her hat with bells)

Mummy:  Purchase white bandage gauze and wrap up you or your child.  I used markers to add smudge marks to the gauze to give it an aged appearance.  I also dressed my son in a white sweat shirt and pants before wrapping.  You can pin the gauze in place or sew onto the sweat pants and shirt. Leave a few pieces hanging for the aged effect. Face paint works great for a long dead appearance.
 
My son as a Mummy  (He is now 22!)
Cave Girl or Boy.  Purchase animal print material at a local fabric store.  Lay the fabric in half, cut out a circle for your head. Cut the bottom and arm areas to make it appear rugged.  Pull the material over your head; tie with a rope around your waist. Put smudge marks on your face, black out a tooth, rat your hair and add bone earrings, necklace and a rough stick for a club, done!  Barefoot is optional.
 
My daughter Jami as a Cave Woman, that face!, haha
Huntsman or Mountain Man:   This is great costume and easy to put together too.  Find or purchase a muslin shirt (it’s an off white gauzy type material), add a leather sash tied around the waist and sew or pin furs around the shoulders.  Furs can be purchased at a local craft store.  Wear brown pants and carry an old (unloaded) rifle or carry a buck knife.  A coonskin cap and small leather pouch or beads around the neck are great additions.  A man with a beard really sets this costume off.
Mountain Man at a campout

Mountain Man and Skeleton

Skeleton:  Purchase a black sweat shirt and pants.  Using white paint, paint skeleton bones onto the sweat outfit.  Either freehand or stencil the skeleton, it just depends on how much time you want to put into it. Don't forget to paint a little red (or orange for fall) heart.  Adding bone jewelry or accessories, and face makeup helps too.
Couldn't someone tell me my shirt was crooked? 

Beauty Queen:  Any prom dress or formal gown will work.  Add high heels, a tiara, jewelry and sash. Curl your hair or pin it up in a formal style. Practice a rolling stiff hand wave and large smile.  You got it!
 
Autumn Beauty Queen
Viking/ Dark Ages:  This is a combination of different layered clothing, all in shades of brown, black or cream.  A vest is usually always used with this costume. Extras like boots, an ax, cloak, bones, furs, gloves, leather belt, a bow or similar props are optional but make the costume awesome!
Viking or Dark Ages costume
 
Viking or Dark Ages costume
Nerd: A pair of glasses, a dress shirt with a pocket for pencils and a bow tie or neck tie. High waist-ed pants or short pants and a crew cut hair style work great too.  Wrap a piece of tape around the nose piece of the glasses for added effect. 

Geisha Girl:  Pin your hair into a bun with chop sticks and purchase a geisha style dress from a second hand store. Paint your face with white face paint and heavy makeup or just use a black eyeliner to shape the eyes. 
 
Geisha Girl without the white face makeup


And don’t forget your pets!

Bumble-wiener
Stinky-wiener

I will add another post or two with more costumes ideas when I get time. 30 plus years of costumes and multiple kids add up to lots of costumes!

I hope you enjoy fall and have as much fun as I do! 

Elizabeth






My sister Kathy's South Jersey Pumpkin Show

Me, with 3 of my sisters, 2 of my daughters and 1 grand-daughter at the Circleville Pumpkin Show, Ohio


Monday

Easy Banana Cream Pie

I usually keep bananas on hand just to snack on and as one of my staple food items.  Besides just eating them, bananas can also be added to fresh fruit salad, cereal, yogurt, on a sandwich with peanut butter and added to ice cream.  
When they start getting a little too ripe I use them in homemade Banana Nut Bread or Banana Cream Pie.  
(I have the best Banana Nut Bread recipe ever, and will post that at a later date!)

I love easy recipes that taste fabulous and look as if you spent a lot of time on preparation! And this is one of those recipes. It also comes in handy for last minute company or if you need to take a dessert to a dinner party, book club or church pot luck.

Wednesday

Canning Green Beans

It’s great to preserve some of your garden's bounty to use during the cold winter months.  There is nothing like pulling a jar of preserves from the pantry shelf while the snow’s falling and the wind’s howling and getting a little whiff that takes you right back to summer.

For the best green beans, pick fresh tender pods first thing in the morning. Growing and picking from your own garden is always best, but purchasing from a local farm market will be just as good.
You will need about 1 pound of green beans for each pint jar and 2 pounds of beans for each quart jar.

Please Note: 
When canning green beans you must process them in a pressure canner.  There is a higher risk of botulism when canning low acid foods, such as green beans.  Pressure canning is the only recognized safe option. Dilly Beans, which are pickled green beans, are preserved in vinegar so can be water bathed. 

Thursday

Restoration of Original Chicken Coop

Tobacco Barn July 2014, exterior repairs finished
Restoring The Original Farm Coop
Our little farm was once a much bigger property with a white clapboard farm house, a hand well pump and many outbuildings and barns.  The original old farmhouse burnt down in the 1950’s and the property set neglected for many years. 

In 1967 the property was divided up and sold at auction.  A builder bought the current property and built a custom brick ranch on the exact spot where the old white clapboard farm house used to be.

The new house overlooked a large pond and pastures. He also built a large pole barn and raised cattle.
After 25 years, the builder divided up the property a little more and sold more land and then sold the house too.

Saturday

Sauerkraut In Mason Jars


Homemade Sauerkraut In Mason Jars

Cabbage History
Cabbage is one of the oldest vegetables and is believed to have been grown in gardens for 3000 years. 

The Roman writers Cato and Columella are the first to mention preserving cabbages and turnips with salt. 
It is believed to have been introduced to Europe in its present form 1,000 years later by Genghis Khan after invading China.

Sauerkraut (sour rout) is chopped cabbage that is salted and then fermented in its own juice. The word, which in German means "sour cabbage," was first mentioned in American English in 1776.  
The dish has long been associated with German communities in the United States.

Monday

Canning Rabbit Meat

Canning Rabbit 
Rabbit is quickly becoming the new white meat.  Prices in stores vary greatly but I have seen prices range between $10.00 to $18.00 per pound!
Rabbits are efficient meat producers meaning they provide good meat without high cost or much waste.  Also efficient in that rabbits, using the same amount of food and water that a cow needs to produce a pound of meat, can produce six pounds of rabbit meat.

Rabbit meat is mild flavored, tender, high in protein, low in fat, low in cholesterol, low in sodium and low in saturated fatty acids. 
And, comparing it to beef, pork, lamb, turkey, veal and chicken, rabbit has the highest percentage of protein, the lowest percentage of fat and has the fewest calories per pound, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.