The Wide Angle: Canning — Reining in the tomato horde

Published 7:10 am Saturday, August 11, 2018

In my continued journey toward some sort of domestic fortitude, I embarked on another first last weekend when I canned for the first time.

In short, we now have 19 jars of tomatoes courtesy of the increasingly tangled web of vegetation that currently meets the lose definition of gardening.

Domesticality! And I don’t care if that’s a word or not.

When I initially forged ahead with my first garden this year, I knew that at some point I would be canning and I was oddly looking forward to it. It’s really the only thing I planned to possibly happen at some point — clearly.

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My first impressions of canning are these however: It’s monotonous and messy. By the end of the process, the counter was smeared with the remains of tomatoes who gave their tasty lives to the pursuit of fresher chili and cheaper grocery supplies. All noble pursuits. I don myself to you, you tasty fruits you.

Despite those two red checks, I was looking forward to this continued act of domestic bliss. However, why I was doing this had changed from the beginning when I realized all I wanted was my counter back.

My mom, who has been a near constant source of information and patience to my barrage of questions, warned me of the outcome early on. She was the first to bring up canning between the two of us, even when I bulked, saying that there didn’t seem to be that many and they were taking forever to turn.

This was my inexperience talking, which she put voice to. I told her that I didn’t think we were going to have enough and that we could pretty much keep up with whatever I picked.

Her answer was to keep her updated and it came with a warning: when they finally start ripening they will ripen quick. I might be surprised.

I’m pretty sure she knew I would be calling back.

And of course, the woman with years of experience turned out to be right over the guy who increasingly proves he doesn’t know what he’s doing and didn’t do his research — much like my approach to my college biology class.

At first I was picking four, maybe five off the vine, but then all of a sudden it was 10 and 15 at a time — often times in successive days. The countertop filled at an abnormal rate as I started to come up with unique ways to store them.

It seemed to me I had crossed some abnormal line from growing tomatoes to breeding them.

The Garden of Dr. Moreau if you will.

We fought the good fight in trying to keep up. We were eating tomatoes every day. I personally started the experiment of just how many successive days I could have BLTs before I got sick of them. As it turns out, I’m not entirely sure yet as I’m out of mayo.

That’s unfortunate, because I was ready to conclude that there was no limit. Mmmmmm. Bacon.

At any rate, I finally called mom and told her that she was right and we were going to need to can.

We made a quick plan and the next weekend they drove from the southwest part of the state.

Mom was like a machine as her and dad quickly unloaded their car with pots and materials we were going to need. We immediately jumped into the work as we went through each each step — scalding the tomatoes, cutting them, boiling them down and filling the jars.

Obviously it was more than that, but honestly, as boring as it is to do, it’s probably not that entertaining to read about.

Suffice to say, after about three hours of boiling and filling, I had the 19 jars that will carry us through the rest of the year.

Naturally, this isn’t the end. The tomatoes are starting to pile up again and I’m looking at more canning, but I’m still looking forward to it. I’m now investigating salsa recipes and even more tomatoes themselves.

There is a fairly good chance I’m setting myself up for some sort of failure. That’s what happens. Like the garden itself, things were growing nicely and I got cocky. Now I’ve got a giant mess.

Maybe that’s my life and how I learn lessons. Allow myself to get cocky, get proven horribly wrong about something and learn my lesson.

It seems brutal and doesn’t make a particle bit of sense. But then again, I made coffee the other morning and forgot the coffee. It’s also how I get to most of my columns, so there’s that.

I think I’ll wait before canning anything else. One step at a time. Of course the only things I really have left to can are beans and cucumbers and I’m already doing the refrigerator pickles so I’m not in a hurry to start that process.

For the time being I’ll be happy with the tomatoes. Soooo, many tomatoes. I wonder how many days in a row you can have chili before you get sick of it.

Challenge accepted.