Reflections on Canning Tomatoes, A Year Later
Canning season is upon us. We can tell because every time around this year, we start getting comments and notes from readers who are gearing up for their own canning projects. That's one of the things that thrills us most about sharing kitchen stories with you -- when you in turn tell us about your own experiences.
Last year we canned tomatoes. It was our third time to do full-scale tomato canning, yielding about 30 quarts in one (very long) night's worth of work. We followed the same hot-packing method that we outlined in a 2010 video we think is pretty humorous.
Well it looks like the timing of everything worked out pretty well: Just as canning season has come back around, we also happen to have eaten through almost all of the jars we canned last year. In fact, there are only 3 small pints left, the rest lost to soups, sauces, stews and any number of dishes that called for canned tomatoes. If a recipe this year called for tomatoes, we reached for a jar of our own handiwork.
We often look at cooking in terms of, "Was this worth it?" We don't mean in terms of expense (though we try to watch that, too). We mean whether the end result justifies the time and effort involved. And just as we do with everything else, we think it's fair to ask: Is canning tomatoes worth it?
Every time we pop open one of those jars of tomatoes from our cupboard, we smile. Is it that they're local and organic? Is it because we picked them ourselves, from a farm that we love? Or is it the memory of a very fun night we spent together, splattered and sweating, our kitchen counters dripping with tomato juice? Or is it just the smell of what's inside, every jar scented like a tomato fresh off the vine?
It's all of the above. We fully own up to the fact that our tomatoes don't taste much different than tomatoes we buy from the supermarket. In a blind taste test, we're not sure we could tell a difference. But those anonymous tins of tomatoes from the store don't conjure any good feelings when we crack them open. We don't know where those tomatoes came from, or who picked them, and we have no fond memories of plucking them from the grocery store shelves.
So was it worth it to spend those hours over boiling pots of water, in order to have these jars of tomatoes to use for a year?
It was -- and is -- to us. And we hope to do it again in a few weeks.
After all, now we have all these empty jars sitting around just waiting to be filled.
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