Yes, we can

Blanch peel seed quarter

A couple Sundays ago (Sunday, September 13, to be precise), Holly and Anastasia and I got together with some of our friends and shared the work of processing and canning 130 pounds of gorgeous tomatoes.

Last year we started the tradition of an annual Tomato ExtravaCanza so that we could all put up enough tomatoes to last us until next summer. A few years ago, I was fine with canning a bunch of tomatoes and then filling in the blanks with Muir Glen when we ran out in the spring. But then we found out that Muir Glen is owned by General Mills, and, well, not to assume that all super-huge mega-corps are evil (well, why not?), but we thought we would try to put our money where it mattered — in this case, Oregon family farms. And there are plenty of small farms around Portland that are happy to sell as many tomatoes as we can blanch/peel/seed/hot-pack. It’s up to us to put up enough to last until next harvest season. We’ll see if we did it.

Setup and first batch in

We canned three varieties of tomatoes, all Roma or paste varieties, and I did a small batch of sauce from another variety later in the week. Some notes on the various types:

Roma (exact variety unknown), from Deep Roots. This was 100 of the 130 pounds we canned. They give a price break with the bulk and so we only paid .85 per pound. I don’t know the exact variety of these but they are a basic Roma. They were easy to peel and seed, and having eaten them all last winter I can testify to their fine flavor.

San Marzano, from Square Peg. We bought 30 pounds total from Square Peg, a mix of the San Marzano and the below-described Amish Paste. San Marzanos are one of my favorite canning tomatoes. They are a slender, shapely Roma type. They are very easy to work with, have good thick flesh, and taste great. They are a little smaller than the basic Roma, so there is a little more work involved but I think they are worth it.

Amish Paste, from Square Peg. These look like overweight Romas, wide and plump and heavy. I had high hopes for this type because of their size and heft, but they were a bear to work with. The skins didn’t come off very easily, and the core was big and woody. Most of these got pretty mauled in the peeling/seeding process. I didn’t get a taste of them, though I’m told they have a good flavor. But next year we’ll avoid them because of their poor workability.

Costoluto Genovese, from Square Peg. I got a few pounds of these beautiful tomatoes to try out. They are squat and deeply ridged, like a pimiento pepper, and it looked like they would be nothing but trouble to peel due to the ridges. I kept them aside to do separately at home, so that I could taste them as well as assess their workability. It turns out that they peel very easily, but like the Amish Paste, their cores present a problem in that they are large and hard to remove without a bit of a mess. I made a pint of tomato coulis, which was very good indeed, but working with this variety is too time-consuming for canning.

Just for the record (because last year we lost this data, so I am putting it everywhere I can think of), the 130 pounds of tomatoes yielded 94 pints, or about 1.4 pounds of tomatoes per pint. Holly and I are taking 28 of those pints for our pantry. Will it be enough? Only time will tell.

tomato prep

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