Well. I had quite the productive day today. I don't think I've ever canned so much in one day before.
I started off with 20 pounds of tomatoes (mostly San Marzano and Amish Paste), which became 10 pints of sauce. I actually started the tomatoes last night but ran out of energy when I got to the straining and canning stage. So they sat on the stove overnight and I finished this morning.
I made another kitchen gadget purchase this week... a Victorio food strainer. I have much ambivalence about kitchen gadgets. One one hand, gadgets are fun. On the other hand, they take up space.
But gadgets have their place. Having the right tool for the job makes things so much easier, saves time, and makes the task enjoyable.
I have my mom's Foley food mill (seen here in the last tomato post), and it does a great job. It removes the seeds and skins, gives a nice consistency to the pulp, and is easy to use. I think it's also older than I am, so it's obviously sturdy. However, it is very time-consuming for anything other than small to medium quantities. Each 20-pound batch of tomatoes took about 45 minutes to an hour to strain, since I'm picky about getting allllll the goodness out of the tomatoes.
After the third large batch of tomato sauce, I cried uncle. The Foley mill works, but it takes a long time and is tiring. So I got a Victorio. It's not too pricey- no local stores in La Grande had one, but only $48 on Amazon.
It. Is. AWESOME.
I ran that 20-pound batch of tomatoes through the Victorio in 10 minutes, including putting the seeds and skins back through a second time to get all the goodness out. The final waste product after two passes was nearly dry. TEN minutes! Awesome.
So I simmered down the tomato pulp for couple hours while we ran errands and had lunch, and then canned it up. What's next? Peaches!
My second 20-pound box of peaches for the year got peeled, sliced, and canned. I got 9 quarts from this box, plus two quarts of "peach nectar". This was the water/citric acid solution that all the peaches were soaking in to prevent browning while I was prepping everything, plus the leftover simple syrup (water plus sugar). The peach slices give off too much flavor to the acidulated water to waste it. It's good in tea or just on its own.
Tomatoes and peaches down, next up is apples!
I had 25 pounds of Jonagolds and 8 pounds of Granny Smiths that I got at the Farmer's Market last Tuesday. I sliced up a big bowl of both the Grannies and Jonagolds, about half and half, and did up eight quarts of pie filling. I've never canned pie filling before so that was an adventure. It was pretty easy, just peel/core/slice the apples (using another great kitchen gadget which is totally worth the money and space) and hold them in a bowl of water with some citric acid to prevent browning while preparing the sauce. The sauce was water, sugar, spices, lemon juice, and ThermFlo. (I normally use flour or cornstarch to thicken a pie, but neither of those is safe to can. ThermFlo is just a modified cornstarch product that according to Ball is safe to can. I found it at the local Mennonite-owned market.) Mix the apples into the sauce and heat through, put it into jars, and process in a water bath. Easy peasy but very sticky.
Since my canner holds seven quart jars and I had eight, I was forced to make a pie for dessert. Oh darn, we had to eat pie. I actually did that on purpose, so that I could try out the mixture and see how it tasted. I'm happy to report that it's a success. One quart of filling made a scantly filled pie. I think a quart plus a pint would be a perfectly filled pie. Or to put it another way, three quarts for two pies. I may not use my nifty slicer next time though, because the thin slices (while perfect for dehydrating apples) pretty much lost all shape in the pie. Larger chunks would hold up better though the processing and baking. Emma likes that almost-applesauce consistency in a pie, though, so maybe I'll leave well enough alone. The ThermFlo worked well, giving a thick clear sauce that wasn't too gloopy.
Ok... tomato sauce, peach slices, apple pie filling, apple pie. Check. What's next? More apples.
I took the rest of the apples (18 pounds, Granny Smiths and Jonagolds together) and sauced them while the pie was baking. I did this the easy way, just like the tomatoes. I washed and quartered the apples, and threw them in a pot with a cup and a half of the acidulated water I soaked the apples in when I was making the pie filling, and steamed them for 20 minutes to soften them. I put the apples in the pot skins, stems, cores, and all.
Then I ran them through the Victorio. In ten minutes. Did I mention that I really like this gadget? Perfectly smooth and seedless apple sauce. Back into the stock pot to heat to boiling, then jarred up and into the water bath. The 18 pounds of apples gave six quarts of wonderfully flavored applesauce, naturally sweet with no added sugar..
OK... tomatoes, peaches, apple filling, apple pie, applesauce. Next up: grapes!
I picked the last few grapes and was surprised at how many there were. I got six more pounds! And Emma's still been eating them daily since we picked the first batch. I think this vine approached 60 pounds of grapes for the year! But that's all, the vine is now bare. Sorry, squirrels.
I pulled out my steamer juicer again for this. I put the grapes in, along with all the apple cores and peels from the pie apples and the leftover seed/skin mash from the applesauce. It pretty much filled the juicer. I let it do its thing for about 45 minutes, then combined the resulting juice with the last bit of acidulated water from soaking the pie apples. (I pretty much wrung every drop of flavor out of those apples.) The juice is deeelicious, and you can taste both the apples and the grapes. I canned the whole shebang and got nine and a half pints of apple/grape juice.
And then I was done for the day. Whew.
While I was finishing off the grape juice, Emma made us dinner (!!), a very yummy combination of sausages, cheesy shells, and steamed green beans from the garden. And then we ate pie and had some grape juice. And life was good.