Friday, August 12, 2011


Over the years we've done a lot of group canning events. In 2007 we worked with a TON of apples. Can you believe how little Reese is? In 2008 we made applesauce and jam. I also made pear butter with Kyle's grandmom and mom. In 2009 we did nectarines, this was Gus' first time. In 2010 there was just so much going on with new babies and moving I had no canning dates. :(
This year we joined forces with the Monroe Family at the Picha Farm for strawberry picking. My friend and I and our combined 8 kids picked for approximately 2 hours. That included walking from the pay place to the berry patch, so probably 1.5 hours of picking. Let's just say we are happy, oh so happy we are not professional pickers. But the sunburn and achy muscles netted us a pretty good haul. I picked a 10 pound box and got a box of "jammers" free...probably also about 10 pounds. The Monroe's picked I think 30 pounds, plus the jammer box and a box of raspberries.
That clump of twiggy, weed looking stuff is Gus' contribution to the box.

Then we made freezer jam:
plus those 2 cases of jars! That was just my share! It went on forever!! We're stocked up until next year for sure.

A couple of weeks later we made pickles. We made 12 quarts of Dill Pickles each and a bunch of Bread & Butter pickles. We decided we didn't get enough pickles to last us ALL YEAR, so we needed more.
The second time around we decided to make spears.
And we thought since we have so much jam and any new berries would just produce more jam we needed to branch out. We figured we'd try our hand at ketchup. Oh, what a mistake! Except for the hilarity it provided in the lives of others, this was not a worthwhile endeavor. Well, unless you count the life experience and friendship memories. We had fun, sort of.
I went to Cash and Carry where I paid $27 for 50 pounds of Roma tomatoes. Everywhere else was $1.49-$2.99 a pound so this was a bargain! Which is why I decided to go for the gusto and get 2 boxes of 25 pounds. We wanted to make sure we actually got a reasonable amount.
First of all the recipe was a big fat lie. It said dip the tomato in boiling water for 60 seconds until the skin split. Well that took about 15 minutes for each batch. Then we plunged it into ice water and removed the skin. Yes the skin came off easily, but pretty instantly the water was hot, we ran out of ice and boiling tomato juice was squirting out at us!
Then we moved onto quartering and de-seeding...endless!! Finally we got to the cook it until it reduces by half. "This should take 1-2 hours." LIES! LIES!! LIES!!! Big fat lies, I tell you. After about 2 hours on the Monroe stove we had to pack it in. I was afraid it would spill in my sparkling new-ish van, so I raced in after work traffic to pick up Kyle on his walk home from work and raced back to pick up the boiling pot of tomatoes. Kyle held it on his lap to take it back to our house. It cooked for 6 hours at my house, was off for 5 hours, then back on from 5:30AM until I gave up on reducing and thickening and processed it at 2:30pm.
I ladled it into a sieve and collected the "juice" since it never got to the point where the liquids don't separate. I had enough to make 12 pints.

Twelve lovely, hard earned pints of ketchup. Six for the Monroes and six for the Benzas. I suspect in the future as long as it's less than $8 we'll happily fork over cash for gourmet, organic, chemical free ketchup.
I also processed 6 half pints of ketchup juice, but since that sounds revolting I'm calling it spicy tomato stock. We'll use it in chili, stew, soups and the like.

I'm hoping we get enough pears on our tree to can some slices and pear butter this fall. We're looking forward (I'm pretty sure it's not just me) Canning 2012, but we'll make some more informed choices.

***update: I forgot to mention that Kyle was surprised at how little 50 pounds of tomatoes looked in a gigantic stock pot and he was even more shocked at how that gigantic stock pot full of tomatoes became 12 little pints.

Check out Anya's take on our splendid experience.


anya* said...

Omg.omg omg omg. I just read this outloud to pamela and we are dying. Seriously dying over here.
When I post our screen shots of text messages on my blog, I will be sure to Iink over here. memories.......

Our Homeschool Fun said...

Your canning is out of this world amazing, Heather!

Now, the ketchup, like I told you in email, is hilarious!! I would have loved to be there to see it :-).