I planted 4 tomato plants this year. It seemed like the thing to do. Every gardener seems to pride themselves on their tomato plants.
But here’s the thing: I really don’t like tomatoes.
So what to do with the bushels of fruit I harvest?
I have no idea how much a “bushel” is, so I don’t know if I’ve really harvested a whole “bushel” let alone more than one. I have picked “a lot.” Wish I had taken a picture of how many I had before I canned, but the above picture contains all the tomatoes I picked in one day.
There are a lot of good things to do with tomatoes, like giving them to others. But as much as I do like giving things away, I actually want to take advantage of my bountiful harvest to save on my grocery bill for the rest of the year. With this in mind, I made 3 things with my tomato harvest:
I don’t really use crushed tomatoes in recipes that much, preferring the diced kind when I buy canned. After doing some research, however, I found out that it’s difficult to get diced tomatoes to hold their “diced-ness” when you can them at home (apparently the tomatoes in those metal cans are really tough before they process them). So, you might as well make crushed!
I followed the instructions for making crushed tomatoes on this website. It also goes in detail all the steps you’d need to take if you were actually going to can them, but again, I didn’t bother. I bought these freezable Bell jars, filled them as shown, and let them sit out until room temperature. Since my “room temperature” on a mid-July afternoon is around 90 degrees, I followed that with about an hour in the fridge before sticking them in the freezer.
I’ll be able to use these cans in recipes of all sorts, particularly casseroles.
I love making chili with fresh veggies. But, in winter, how “fresh” are these veggies, really? And they’re not particularly cheap for all that. Since my tomatoes weren’t the only thing in abundance, I decided to also make up cans of “chili vegetables”, or a mixture of tomatoes and bell peppers from my garden along with store-bought onion. If I had planted my onions earlier, I could have possibly made this entirely with homegrown vegetables. I’ll try to plan better next year.
As far as proportions, I put in one part onion, one part bell pepper, and two parts tomatoes. The jars are of the right side to throw in with a handful of beans and spices in the crockpot all day, and I’ll have two portions of chili. Cheap and healthy!
I also made a large batch of salsa to can. I have no idea how good it will be after thawing, but I think it’ll be alright. If it’s not, it too can be made into a Mexican-style chili.
I make my salsa “pico de gallo” style, so I dice the onion and tomato really small. This is very easy with my Pamper Chef chopper. Along with tomato and onion, I put cilantro, lime juice, and garlic powder in my salsa.
From what I’ve read, if you’re going to freeze or can salsa, it’s best to make it more like this and less chunky, as the chunks are likely to loose their chunkiness. Wow, that doesn’t sound pleasant at all.
Between these three things, I have a whole layer of cans in my freezer. If I used it more often, I’d probably have also wanted to make spaghetti and pizza sauce. I still might, as I’m still harvesting tomatoes, though I am running out of freezer space. Besides, I couldn’t tell you the last time I actually used spaghetti or pizza sauce, so it’s perhaps not worth the effort. I think if I had a family I was cooking for, I’d definitely want to though!
Are you doing any canning this year?