Last Tuesday night, my mom called me up to see if I wanted to help her can tomatoes one day or night that week. I wasn’t too sure what I thought about canning. There were a couple of summers growing up that we grew a HUGE garden and we spent the entire summer in that garden. We grew, we picked, we prepped, we canned, and we ate. And we ate like nobodies business. This might have been what convinced me to say “yes”. That and the time I got to spend with my mom. I love spending time with her. She could probably ask me to go sit in a ditch with her and I would go just to spend time with her. Anyways, here is a post I put together on how to can tomatoes and what I learned from my momma:
First off, let me start by saying we were very blessed to stumble upon these tomatoes. There was an abundance of tomatoes left from a local gardener and since they would just go bad if not taken, we jumped on them. Mom and dad loaded multiple boxes up in their van and brought them back to their house the night before we began. The next evening, mom picked up me and Emma and we prepared for a busy night of cooking. I brought food to make dinner (taco night!) to help make the night go faster. When we got there, mom started coring. And let me tell ya, she cores quicker than anyone I’ve ever seen. Mom and her mother, my Mamaw, use to can for days at our old house so she got it honest. Anyways, once she cored the tomatoes she dropped them in her big pot on the stove and let them boil for about 10 minutes. Some of them she let go a little longer but most of them went for 10 minutes. Once they finished, she took them out and poured them in a colander in the sink.
Next was my turn. I spent my time previously cooking the venison for our tacos and trying to keep Emma happy. She was in a foul mood for the first little bit, but luckily straightened up. Once she ate her dinner, she was really going so this helped out a TON. My job was to peel the skin off the tomatoes. Those suckers are HOT, HOT, HOT (and yes, I’m singing while I’m typing that). I borrowed mom’s purple elbow high gloves and peeled away. I loved it. I think that might be just as good of a stress reliever for me as pulling weeds. Once I peeled them, I was able to admire my beautiful work. I quartered them with a pairing knife until I realized how soft they were from sitting together and soaking up heat. At that point, I put the knife away and just pulled them apart. They worked so well that way. I doubt that’s the proper way to do it, but when you’ve got 4 boxes of tomato and a limited time with a baby, you do what you can. Once I cut them up, or pulled them apart, we put them back on the stove to cook some more. This time, we let them boil and cook for about 20-30 minutes. It smelt so wonderful. I felt like a little Italian lady in Sicily making dinner for my family. Except we were eating tacos for dinner. Either way, it all smelt great and tasted great, too.
Once the tomatoes finished cooking, it was time to can. Oh did I forget to mention the cans? When we began this process, mom put the cans in the oven for about 20 minutes at a time (we had multiple batches) at 190 degrees to sterilize them and get them warm. She boiled the lids and rims as well. Apparently you can crack your cans if they’re too hot or too cold. Good gravy, canning isn’t easy. Mom forgot where her large mouth funnel was so we improvised. We used a measuring cup and a lot of towels and poured the tomatoes into their individual cans. Some people use salt and sugar in their tomatoes but we used salt only. Why you make ask? Because that’s how my mamaw did it. That was reason enough for us. We put the lids and rims on next and prayed over them. If those puppies didn’t seal it was going to be a long night and a lot of heartache. Once we finished this process, we started again. And then again. By the time 10:30 rolled around, I had to go home. I had a sleepy baby and I was a sleepy mommy. And we had an early morning. Mom assured me that her and dad could finish the task at hand. I left entrusting her with what I knew she knew well. What I did not expect was that she would be up until 2am working on the rest of the tomatoes. When my mom sets her mind to something, she does it. Even if it involves late nights and burnt fingers. And dad is always willing and ready to help mom do everything so guess what? He was up until 2am, too. Fun times!
At the end of all this, I want to make clear how much I enjoyed this experience. I loved the bonding as usual, but it was really a great time and a wonderful opportunity to learn something from my momma. She learned it from her mom, I learned it from mine, and hopefully Emma will learn it one day from me. I have dreams of having a garden soon with my parents and sitting on the front porch breaking beans with Emma and mom. It’s what I remember from growing up and I love those memories. Anyone who has any extra beans this summer and wants to let us get a head start, let me know. I’ll gladly take you up on the offer! At the end of the day, we had 30 cans of tomatoes. 30 quarts to be exact. That’s like buying 60 cans of tomatoes from the store. With tax and all, that would be about $60 if you get name brand, a little less for store brand. We saved a ton of money by being willing to give a few hours of our time. It will be nice this winter when we want to make chili since we have tomatoes in the basement and venison in the freezer. And if you were wondering, our tacos tasted great and ALL our cans sealed. I count this experience as a win on all levels. Oh, what a night!
What have you learned from your parents that you plan on passing down to your children?