Category Archives: Canning

Tomato Press

Clean tomato press

If you grow tomatoes, you have to get a tomato press (aka food mill). We used to freeze tomatoes, let them defrost a little, then with numb fingers, slip the skins off and chop them up. This method works fine but oh my heck there is a better way! We found this Velox Tomato Press on the clearance rack at an Ace hardware for $15.00! It’s mostly plastic/nylon but appears to be pretty rugged. For $15.00, if it lasted me a season I figured I was way ahead. Anyhow, we attach the vacuum base to the glass stove top (which we hate, btw) and set up a big bowl to catch the good stuff and a plate to catch the skins and seeds. We quarter the tomatoes and drop them in the hopper. I grind them once, then take the skins/seeds/etc and run them through again. There is a ton of juice/pulp to be had on the second processing so don’t miss this part.

1st run tomato press

I suppose that this $15 tool has reduced our tomato-processing-time by 90% plus we can feel our fingers when we are done! We do tend to make a bit of a mess as tomatoes squirt and squish all over but it is no worse then when we did it by hand. If you are on the fence as to whether the $50 (normally) is worth it, I’d say YES!

tomato press after a lot of use

Edit:  Sorry…for some reason, comments were turned off for this post.  That should be fixed now…

Hot peppers


I like hot peppers of various types.  Over time, it seems that my taste buds have become less sensitive.  I remember when jalapenos used to send me over the edge.  Not so much any more.  As a bit of a pepper junkie, I decided that we need tons of peppers to satisfy my cravings.  In the excitement of late winter/early spring seed-starting, we planted hot peppers in sufficient number to feed my entire family for a year.  We planted jalapenos, hungarian wax, cayennes and habaneros.

Canned, pickled jalapenos

I have been drying pepper rings, I have canned peppers by themselves, I have thrown peppers in salsa, pickles, spaghetti sauce, and on everything I eat fresh.  Still, we have millions and millions of peppers.  I had to resort to something extreme and strange to use up some jalapenos.

Drying jalapenos

I made jalapeno jelly last night.  I am not exactly sure how you eat this though I have heard it is good on anything with creamcheese. The recipe is pretty simple so it’s worth a try:

Jalapeno jelly
Jalapeno Jelly
3/4 pound stemmed & de-seeded jalapenos
2 cups vinegar
6 cups sugar
2 pouches of liquid pectin
I de-seeded the peppers for the first batch of jelly but got tired of that so I ground seends and all for the second batch. Anyhow, puree the jalapenos until they are nearly unrecognizable. Boil them with sugar and vinegar for 10 minutes. Make sure you stir constantly and have a big enough pan as this mixture swells a lot and really smokes-and-smells-up-your-house-and-your-wife-has-to-scurry-around-to-deactivate-the-smoke-alarms-since-the-kids-are-sleeping when (I mean if) you boil it over (so I’ve heard). After the 10 minute boil, remove from heat, add pectin and boil again for 1 minute. Powdered pectin does not work very well so do yourself a favor and just use liquid pectin. Ladle into half-pint jars and water bath can for 10 minutes.  You can add green or red food coloring, by the way.  I prefer not to add coloring but you can color it if you’d like.

Some Recipes

Salsa before cooking downWe’ve found a few recipes that we like a lot when we can stuff.  A few folks have asked for our the recipes we use so here they are…I credit the sources I know while others remain anonymous. 


 We can most stuff in pints because that suits our needs but I suppose you could adapt as needed.  These recipes work for us but you use them at your own risk.   Improper recipes, canning methods, etc can be dangerous.  More likely, with a little care, it will be a good time! 


Salsa – from my friend Erin

8 cups tomatoes, peeled, chopped, drained
2 1/2 cups onion, diced medium
1/8 cup canning salt
1 1/2 cups green peppers, small chunks
1 cup jalapeno diced fine
3+ habaneros (to taste…more is better!)
6 cloves minced garlic
2+ tsp pepper
1 small can of tomato paste
1/3 cup vinegar
2 tsp cumin
1/3 cup (or less) sugar
sometimes we add a bunch of cayenne pepper diced fine too…

Mix and boil 10 minutes, put into pint jars and seal in water bath for 10 minutes
Makes 5 pints

Pizza Sauce
12 cups chopped ripe tomatoes (Roma tomatoes give best results)
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves minced garlic
3 tbsp fresh chopped oregano or 1 1/2 tsp dried
1 tbsp fresh basil or 1/2 tsp dried
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/2 tsp salt

Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, oregano, sugar, pepper and bay leaves and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently uncovered until very thick (about 75 minutes), stirring frequently. Add lemon juice and salt, stir and ladle into 1/2 pint jars. Water bath can for 35 minutes. Makes 5 half-pints

Zucchini Pickles Achorn Farm
2 lbs. sliced zucchini
2 medium onions
1/4 cup salt
2 cups white vinegar
1-2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon celery seed
1 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons mustard seed
Place zucchini in a large pot. Add salt and enough water, cover and let stand for 2 hours then drain well. Combine remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Have glass jars prepared filled with the zucchini and onion then fill jars with boiled liquid, seal jars and boil jars for 10 minutes.

We’ve made this with yellow summer squash too…I suppose anything that will take up the flavors would work!


Hot Pepper Spread
28 or so hot peppers
8 regular peppers
1 qrt mustard
1 qrt sugar
1 cup vinegar

Chop peppers, mix ingredients and cook about 20 minutes. Be sure and spray pan with cooking spray as it sticks very easily. Have ready 1/2 cup corn starch. Add just enough water to corn starch to make a thin paste, then add to the pepper mix…let it thicken. Water bath can for 10 minutes in pint jars


Behold...the tomato!

These are some pictures that we’ve taken recently and, for some reason, I just really like them. Tomatoes are going full steam right now so we are making salsa and pizza sauce and debating about making spaghetti sauce. We don’t really have a good spaghetti sauce recipe so we have been hesitant. I sort of have fun just arranging piles of tomatoes and staring at them. I wonder if I have a problem?
Piles of tomatoes!

Tomatoes and zuke pickles!
different types of tomatoes!

Anyhow, we planted around 50 tomato plants that we started from seed this spring. I can’t remember the exact mix but we have some ox hearts, mortgage lifters, romas, WV hillbillies, and yellow amish tomatoes.

I really must do better next year about keeping track of which is which!


Zucchini pickles


We planted only a half row of zucchini fearing the plague of fruit that usually follows.  I think it was a wise move as we haven’t been overrun with the stuff but we had plenty to make a couple of batches of zucchini pickles.  I found the recipe at Achorn Farm’s blog.  Anyhow, we made a dozen pints of the stuff.  They are delicious…but a little potent!  The pickling juice also stains…even clear plastic measuring cups.

Topped with onions

Ready for lids

zucchini pickles!


Tomatoes are starting to ripen so we’re starting to can salsa.  We were given a great recipe by a friend last year and are making it like crazy this year. I didn’t keep track of how much we made last year but I suspect it was 25-30 pints.  We are planning to make a lot more this year.  From last year’s work, we learned a few things that has made the first batches a little easier.  Roma tomatoes seem to peel the easiest for us.  Salsa before cooking down

Salsa after cooking down

We freeze the tomatoes in advance and then let them slightly defrost before peeling them.  In a half-frozen state, the skins just pull right off. We never make double recipes because our recipe requires that we boil the brew for 10 minutes. Boiling something thick for that long splatters all over. Our pot isn’t big enough to even really contain a single recipe. We also hand chop onions and green peppers but use a processor on the hot peppers. Most folks seem to like big chunks of sweet peppers and onions but a big chunk of habanero can bring about a religious experience…usually losing religion actually!

Salsa canned in the jar

Anyhow, we love salsa!  We eat the stuff on tacos, eggs, baked potatoes and with nacho chips.  Typically, we make two varieties, one pretty hot and one mild. Emily is starting to enjoy the hotter variety so we may increase production of that. We usually use a mix of jalapenos, cayennes and habaneros though we haven’t found habaneros for sale yet. Our crop of them failed miserably. Enough about that…the point is, salsa has to be one of my favorite things to can.  Bring on the ‘maters!

The end of blackberries

WV BlackberriesWe seem to have come to the end of the blackberries.  When we started picking at the end of June, we could easily pick until our baskets were full.  I never weighed the berries we picked but we harvested a lot of berries.  All together, we made 54 half pints of jam, 10 pints of syrup, three pies and we froze around 8-10 more quart-sized freezer bags.  We went a few nights ago and the berries have surely dwindled (or else someone else found our spot!).  We got enough to fill a quart freezer bag but no more. Although a little eariler than planned, we had figured on stopping picking sometime around the end of summer. There is an English wives’ tale that goes something like this…

When the Devil was kicked out of Heaven on October 11(the date of Michaelmas though I have seen it posted as September 29 also…one is old Michaelmas and the other modern Michaelmas I guess), he landed, cursing and screaming, on a thorny blackberry bush.

He avenges himself on the same day every year by spitting (or some say, peeing) on the berries, which makes them inedible.

Apparently, there is some truth to leaving blackberries alone in the Fall.  The climatic changes of Autumn apparently are ripe for mold to breed which may make the blackberries unsafe to eat.

There is another English tale regarding blackberries…
Once upon a time, a cormorant (a seabird that dives for fish), a bat, and a blackberry bush entered the wool business together, buying, shipping, and selling wool.  Unfortunately, their ship, loaded with wool, sank on its first voyage, and their business went belly-up.   Ever since, the cormorant dives into the sea looking for the ship. The bat hides from his creditors in a cave, venturing forth only after dark. And the blackberry bush grabs wool from any passing sheep, trying to replace his loss.


I found all sorts of interesting stuff about blackberries here and here.

I also found an interesting site that has some explanations of old traditions associated with the Celtic season/month

More on the pressure canner

We canned a bunch of green beans last night with the new pressure cooker. I really enjoy using the All-American pressure cooker for a number of reasons. It seems to come to temperature very fast. This could really be a perception thing since it has a temperature gauge.

Emily with Beans


With a normal weighted-pressure cooker without a gauge (see pic below), I always watch the pot never knowing if it is almost at pressure, if the heat is actaully climbing, etc…and, of course, a watched pot never boils. With this canner, I can see the temp and pressure as soon as it boils. I also like this canner because it does not have a rubber gasket to break down and fail. The All-American is formed in a shape such that a metal-to-metal seal is formed. It is also American made (of course) which I appreciate.

All American Canner

Now, the bad stuff…you have to get the lid and base of the canner lined up just right or a seal will not form and the canner will not get to pressure. We ran into this problem last night on our second load of green beans. I didn’t realize it was not sealed until it got pretty hot. I couldn’t just open it and try again (it was still very hot, even though not to pressure). We’ll recan the beans tonight since it was almost midnight when we figured it all out. We’ll just put new lids on the jars and try again.

All American Gauge

Most times this canner seals fine but I always have to gently pry the lid from the base after it cools.

It forms a very tight seal. The manual says that a screwdriver placed just right will break the seal (and it does) but I wish I could just pop the lid off every time. It is possible that I am not aligning the lid right when I screw down the bolts that hold the lid and base together. I think that task is nearly impossible though. This is a small issue but an issue nonetheless.

Finally, the All-American is very heavy compared to other canners. This is good and bad. It has a substantial feel to it for sure. The problem is that it is not recommended for glass top stoves and it is heavy to move when full. the price is fairly high but it should last a lifetime. It just has a quiality look-and-feel which I really appreciate.

All American Canner

Pressure Cooker...not a canner


I sort of like the sounds of canning so I recorded some of what we were doing last night with the canner. I hope you enjoy this “sound-seeing tour”.  Click the arrow below to hear it :

Canner sounds


cabbage for kraut

Cabbage was done so we started a batch of sauerkraut yesterday morning.  Emily’s granddad picked the cabbage

Shredded cabbage

and her grandmother and I shredded 6 heads.  Our recipe said to work with 5 lbs of cabbage at a time so we shredded and weighed it head at a time.  Kraut is really simple to make…or at least set up.  We had a few stone crocks into which we packed 1/3 of the 5 lbs of cabbage, followed by 1 tbsp of salt.  I rolled the salt and cabbage together in the crock until it was mixed and the water was drawn out of the cabbage.  We repeated until we had 10 pounds of cabbage in the crock.  It as amazing how much water was stored in the cabbage.  By the time we got 10 lbs in, water covered the cabbage and had allowed the cabbage itself to pack down significantly.  We put a plate on top of the crock of kraut

cabbage and weighed it down with mason jars full of water.  I will check it every day for 3-4 weeks to remove scum that may buildup.  Our basement is 75 degrees which should allow the cabbage to ferment pretty quickly.  We’ll (hopefully) have good kraut to can at the end.weighted kraut

Chanterelle mushrooms!

We decided to venture into the woods a little last night to hunt for some mushrooms.  There are tons of mushrooms growing on the leaf-bed in the forest we wisited.  Some I know are edible like the chanterelles we harvested.  There are some that I know are not safe to eat and there are a lot I don’t know about.  A friend is teaching me about mushrooms because I want to be an old mushroom eater!  I took a bunch more pictures when I went mushroom hunting with her on July 4th.  Anyhow, last night Isaac, Emily and I hiked only a short distance before Isaac found a patch of wild blueberries so he remained occupied with that.  After gathering mushrooms, we found a patch of blackberries so we picked a bunch of them and made 9 more half-pints of jam.  I am amazed, now that I am looking, how much food is growing around us here in the Charleston city-limits…I am also amazed at how poison ivy grows around here!