Cooking With Botox! (Part 1)

You guys, I seem to have lost my mind and all semblance of youth: I HAVE TAUGHT MYSELF HOW TO CAN THINGS.

It all started so innocently. A couple of years ago, I started tossing all of my plastic containers in favor of glass. I started buying mason jars for storage of leftovers, freezer items, etc., because they were so much cheaper than my beloved Glasslock containers. Mark started talking about the strawberry jam his mother used to make. Then I started noticing a huge uptick in canning supply sales during my shifts at the store. Finally, on one of my trips to the Cape, my mom made tomato salad with Cape tomatoes, which are spectacular. I dreamed of loading up the car with them and making sauce at home, squirreling it away for dark winter nights. On my next trip up, I did indeed load up with tomatoes, and I did make the most amazing fresh tomato sauce, but I took the easy road (i.e. my usual road) and stuck the jars in the freezer. At that point, though, I resolved to figure this canning thing out, botulism be damned. I bought "Canning for a New Generation" and the Ball Blue Book (tell me my husband is not the only one to snicker at that title).

Between the two books, I was feeling pretty confident that I could figure it out, which was pretty convenient, as my sister called the next day to see if I wanted to split a 25 lb. box of tomato seconds from the farm share that delivers to her office. I said yes and made her promise to do the canning with me, and that was it -- no turning back.

My sister came over on Saturday morning and we got to work. We were working with (unbelievably delicious) Roma tomatoes, and we wanted to do a roasted tomato sauce. We decided to cut the tomatoes into quarters or sixths, depending upon the size, and toss them onto baking sheets with thin wedges of sweet onion and smashed garlic cloves. We kept the seasonings simple -- salt, pepper, and a drizzle of really good olive oil -- and roasted at 400 until everything was caramelized and delicious looking. (Oh my GOD, I wish you all could have smelled my house that day. INSANE.)
Core, slice, slice, slice, slice, slice...
...scoooop and transfer...
...season and grease 'em...
(the first of maaaany batches)
...and then roast. Can you smell this? HEAVEN.
Please try to refrain from eating them straight off the sheet. (This will be harder than you anticipate.)
Once the tomatoes were roasted, we scooped them into a large stockpot. We were staring at the baking sheets, trying to decide whether they were cool enough to lick the caramelized juices right off of them, when it hit us: 
Deglaze that shit, yo.
I grabbed a bottle of wine from the fridge and we threw the baking sheets right on the stove. Each sheet got a nice splash of wine, we scraped up all of the deliciousness, and then into the pot of tomatoes it went. Then it was time to blend:
We used an immersion blender and it was perfect -- quick and easy, with almost no clean up. We blended as we added each batch and it resulted in a really nice, smooth texture. It was so delicious that we really had no choice other than to stop for a lunch break:
Now, we had originally planned to get the whole project done in one day, but life kind of got in the way. My brother in law had made plans for the afternoon, so my sister had a hard stop time of 2:45. We managed to get the sauce completed and started to clean up the spectacular disaster that was my kitchen:
The Aftermath

This was the end of Day 1, though, and being the appallingly bad documentarian I am, I forgot to pack up the camera for canning day. I know, right? USELESS. Here's what we did in a quick run down:
  • Simmered the sauce so it would be hot going into the jars.
  • Brought the canning pot and a small saucepan to a 180 degree simmer. The jars went into the canner and the lids/rings went into the saucepan for 10 minutes to sterilize.
  • We pulled the jars out of the water bath and lined them up on a clean towel. Each jar got a 1/4 tsp. scoop of citric acid powder.
  • Using a large funnel, we ladled the sauce into each jar, leaving 1/2" headroom. 
  • Each jar got a thorough swiping with a wooden skewer to break up any air bubbles and stir up the citric acid, and the rim of each jar was wiped with a clean cloth.
  • Using the little magnet wand tool, we fished the lids out of the water bath and applied them to the tops of each jar. Next we fished out the rings and closed them gently to hold the lids in place. 
  • Finally, the jars were loaded into the canning rack and gently lowered into the water bath. Once the water came back up to a violently rolling boil, we started timing the processing. The tomato sauce recipes called for 35 minutes, but we left them for closer to 40 (better safe than sorry?).
11 out of 12 jars sealed, which is a pretty solid first effort, in my opinion. And! It went so well, in fact, that I decided to try my hand at jam, and I even managed to capture both the cooking AND the canning phases this time. Spoiler alert: the jam did not thicken as I had anticipated, but it's tasty. I'm thinking it might be nice in place of honey on biscuits or spooned over a really piquant blue cheese.
I'll report back soon.


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