Canapolooza 2016

One might call it a Labor Day tradition: a gathering of many hands, a pitcher of sangria, and an unreasonably large quantity of tomatoes in a Rogers Park kitchen for the annual Canapolooza. In case you missed it, this is what happened:

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Canapolooza 2013

My friend Ann can can.

She might be able to can can too, but trust me, Ann can definitely can.

When I picked up my 40 pounds of tomatoes from Midnight Sun last Sunday for her Labor Day canning party (thinking, “wow, this is a s*#$ ton of tomatoes“), Ann said, “I think we may have different expectations about canning day.”

When two crafty ladies get together with cocktails and 100 pounds of tomatoes, it’s kind of amazing. Aside from the 19 jars of marinara sauce now sit in my pantry ready for the pizza I might make next February, here are some photographic highlights of the day:

Salsa!
Salsa! and, Ann’s extremely enormous pot.
Tomatoes without their skins, waiting to be squished for sauce
Tomatoes without their skins, waiting to be squished for sauce
Ann makes a brontosaurus out of tomato paste
Ann makes a brontosaurus out of tomato paste

Tomatillo Overload!

tumblr_mrsalwwBTk1qmywbko1_500The canning begins…

Just as I’m preparing to go back to school for another semester we are reaching a critical point in the season in which Lauren buys a ridiculous amount of produce in an effort to overstock her pantry with Ball jars full of food for the winter.

It’s about to get crazy in that little kitchen in the city.

On a whim, I bought six quarts of tomatillos at the Andersonville Farmers Market from my friends at Midnight Sun and decided it would be a good idea to have enough salsa verde around to withstand the apocalypse…. this is how I did it:

Tomatillo Salsa

(recipe courtesy of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving)

Ingredients:

  • 5-1/2 cups chopped, cored, husked tomatillos
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped seeded green peppers (your choice of heat… I used a bunch of banana peppers and one jalapeno with a few of the seeds for the whole batch, because I’m not a “burn your face off salsa” kind of  girl.
  • 1/2 cup white vinegar
  • 4 tsp lime juice
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 TB finely chopped cilantro
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes

tumblr_mrsg0rifqb1qmywbko1_500Prepare your canner, jars and lids.*

In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine all ingredients and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to medium-low and boil gently, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes. Transfer to a blender or food processor and puree until semi-smooth.

Ladle or pour hot salsa into hot jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace in the jars. Gently remove air bubbles by poking into the jar with a knife and adding salsa as needed. Wipe rim, center seal on jar, and screw band down until fingertip-tight.

Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes.  Remove canner lid, wait 5 min, then remove jars, cool, and store.

*You’ll need a big soup pot that’s deep enough to submerge your jars in water. Place empty jars in pot and fill with water until jars are covered. Heat over med-high heat while you prepare salsa. This will sterilize the jars and heat them (hot salsa into hot jars to process).  Bands and seals should be gently heated in a small saucepan until ready to use.

Makes about two pint jars.  I, of course, quadrupled the recipe to get the haul you see here…

You Can Can Cranberry Juice!

CranberriesOn the road toward self-sufficiency in the inevitable Zombie Apocalypse, I’ve managed to can and preserve tomatoes, beets, and cucumbers, but I imagine no apocalypse is complete without a Vodka cocktail.

This is one of three reasons I decided to try my hand at making cranberry juice on the 4th or July.

The other two reasons? I had three bags of cranberries in the freezer leftover from a 10 for $10 sale at the grocery store about 10 years ago, and, they’re red.  You know… 4th of July.  I can be patriotic sometimes too.

This recipe comes from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, which has become a dog-earred crusty staple in my household.  The description even mentions the inevitability of adding this juice to cocktails, and after this I may never see another bottle of Ocean Spray.

Cranberry Juice

  • tumblr_mpgss81P2L1qmywbko1_500Cranberries (fresh of frozen)
  • Water
  • Granulated Sugar (to taste*, optional)

Directions:

In a large, deep saucepan, combine equal parts cranberries and water.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to boil gently for about 5 minutes (the berries will burst open… don’t be alarmed).

Transfer to a strainer lined with a few layers of damp cheesecloth.  Let drip, undisturbed, for about two hours.**

In a clean pan, combine juice with sugar, if desired.* Heat to 190-F and hold at 190 for 5 minutes, without letting it boil.

Ladle hot juice into hot, sterilized jars leaving 1/4″ headspace (2.5 bags of cranberries made about 2 quarts of juice). Center the lid and screw band down fingertip-tight. Place in canner completely covered by water and bring to a boil.  Process for 15 minutes. Remove lid and turn heat off, and wait 5 minutes before removing from the canner.  Cool on the counter and store.

* To put your portions into perspective, I used about 1 C. of sugar for my 2.5 bags of cranberries, and it’s a little too sweet for my taste. 

** This is Ball talking and I didn’t have 2 hours to let the juice drain naturally. Though it’s probably the best practice and I’d never dispute the canning Bible, let’s face it, I let it sit about 30 minutes, squeezed a bunch out manually, and everything seemed to turn out fine.

Thirty pounds of tomatoes was not nearly enough

As I climbed the step stool and stored jar after jar of tomato sauce on top of the cupboards in my tiny kitchen, I gave myself a serious pat on the back:

Well, Warnecke, you’ve done it.  You preserved enough tomatoes to make it through the winter, and next spring too.  Well. done.

Not really.

A pasta dish and a couple of homemade pizzas later and I’m about half way through my stash before the first snow.  I’ve been yearning for the full experience of eating and living seasonally, and seriously want to make a pizza in February without buying a mealy tomato from Mexico.  I thought this might be my year, but, alas, it seems not.

I realize that my quest to live like Laura Ingalls Wilder is somewhat impeded by living in a twenty-first century metropolis with 8 cubic feet of outdoor space…

It’s a process, but I’m determined to do it, and this year is apparently part of the learning process in what I actually need to do to get through a winter sans the produce aisle.

Next year I’ll be upping my game.  I’m thinking, instead of thirty, I should really be canning more like 130 pounds of tomatoes.