It was exciting to be at Appleton Farms, a Trustees of Reservation property, and learn about canning while on assignment for Art Throb magazine. I was anxious to try canning at home–I dream about local tomatoes all Winter long. I love New England, but everything about me longs for another climate. I’m always cold, my hair loves the humidity, and I like to eat fresh, local food. Eating tomatoes flown in from California in December is bittersweet when compared to pulling them from my garden in summer, washing and biting right into fruit I wrought from the Earth in my backyard.
Unfortunately, canning tomatoes is not as easy as the terrific hands-on, instructor-led workshop made it seem.
It also helps if you know how to measure, which I suppose I don’t.
The workshop agenda included canning tomatoes following the National Center for Home Food Preservation website instructions and making zesty salsa from the Ball brand cookbook. About 10 of us got to work on the vegetables while our instructors, Becky and Susan, led the class and answered our questions. All the while I took breaks to video Becky’s instructions, talk to Susan, and write down notes.
Appleton Farms has a fantastic new kitchen–a donor’s gift–that will showcase farm-to-table eating as part of year-round public programming. Part of the “Old House” rebuild–the first LEED Platinum-certified renovated building on the East Coast–the commercial kitchen boasts solar hot water and wood-powered heat and flame from the state-of-the-art, smoke- and particulate-free burner outside. Next summer the kitchen is to expand through the dining room outside to a beehive oven and sugar shack. Produce will come fresh from the field to the kitchen, and onto the table. We used produce from the fields in the water bath canning workshop.
About a week later, I was worried about Hurricane Irene, and plucked most of my heirloom tomato harvest a little early. I’m a novice gardener and this was my first tomato crop, so no way would I risk getting it wrecked by Irene. I decided it was a perfect time to give canning at home a try. I got gear–about $60 worth–and thought I was ready to can 9 pint jars. It seemed like I had several pounds of tomatoes.
Lesson one–weigh your tomatoes.