Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Because I Can

Ask anyone who does home canning to describe the feeling when the kitchen is finally clean and the hot gleaming jars filled with jam or tomatoes or pears are cooling on a tea towel and you can her the faint click of the lids sealing. It's a great feeling, which I'm almost embarrassed to admit. Does this mean I need to get a life? Do I need to get off my sanctimonious canning pot? Does it mean I'm an idiot because I can get pears at Wal-Mart cheaper and faster? Maybe. Canning is time-consuming, messy, and tiring. Why bother?

My mom and dad have been canning like crazy, putting up their famous chili sauce, tomato soup, salsa, pickles and pickled beets. While unloading some of their surplus tomatoes they were commenting on how much canning is becoming a thing of the past. Back in the day, you couldn't walk into a grocery store in August or September without seeing huge canning displays and promotions. Now, you usually have to ask were it's all hiding.

I guess there is much to be said for simply knowing how to do something. I can sleep at night, knowing that what I grow won't rot on the vine and that I can preserve food for my family. I know what's in those jars - no weird ingredients, no preservatives, no junk.

And it keeps me honest because it connects me with the past and reminds me of the true price that was once paid to keep food on the table. Sure, I still get dollar menu, drink Diet Coke and know that the vast majority of what I make will fall short of the pinnacle of food purity and virtue. But every once in a while, make something from scratch. You will feel oddly redeemed.

Canned Tomato Soup

1 peck ripe tomatoes (about 8 quarts)
4 onion sliced
12 sprigs parsley
2 bay leaves
1 tsp peppercorns
1 tsp celery seed
1 tsp cloves
2 TB salt
1 TB sugar

Skin, seed, and quarter tomatoes. Tie spices in a bag. Combine all ingredients and heat very slowly; simmer for 1/2 hour. (You may want to simmer longer if you want a thick soup.) Strain, reheat and bring to the boiling point. Pour into sterilized air-tight jars leaving 1/2 inch head space. Process in boiling water bath; 40 minutes for quarts.

*Note: I added 1 t. red pepper flakes to the spice bag and 10 mintues to process time for high altitude
This makes a thin soup that would be an excellent base for any vegetable or creamed tomato soup.


Jessica said...

I have just been doing salsa, so I will have to try that soup. It looks yummy!

Jill said...

Hey I hear congratulations are in order for you! I am so glad you got your way :)

Only 6 more days at the most for me. I'd really love to see your cute family sooner than later!

Alison said...

I like to leave my jars on my kitchen counter for days because I am so proud of my canning accomplishments. I just finished up my salsa and have lots of tomatoes left. If I am feeling adventurous, I just might try your soup.