Saturday, September 18, 2010

Gardening as a Form of Optimism, part two.


This summer, I developed something called Oral Allergy Syndrome. This is some kind of freaky uber-allergy, where I am apparently unable to eat anything but cabbage. All other foods make my tongue sizzle and some foods -- the really yummy ones -- make my throat and ears close up.

I've been living in a Benadryl haze, and worrying about scurvy. (Okay I'm -- mostly -- kidding about the scurvy.)

The summer's tomato harvest was coming to a close, and I decided that even if I couldn't eat tomatoes at the moment, I would preserve the tomatoes for another time. Hopefully, this allergy nonsense is a passing phase, and I'll be able to eat like a normal person again.

I made two recipes: fresh packed tomatoes, and a tomato sauce.

Here's what I did for the fresh tomatoes. I plunged the tomatoes into boiling water for just an instant.

And then I dropped them into ice water. The recipes say to put the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds, but I think that's too long. It turns the tomato flesh to mush.

I peeled and cored the tomatoes, and pressed them into sterilized jars. (Why do they call this "canning" anyway? We're using jars, for goodness sake!) I smooshed them down as much as I could, and added a half a teaspoon of salt and two tablespoons of lemon juice from our backyard lemons.

The I set the closed-up jars in a bath of boiling water for an hour and forty minutes. When I took the jars out, the tomatoes had expressed a significant amount of liquid, and were floating at the top of a watery broth. I was not prepared for how this looked, and spent a few frantic moments checking photos on the internet. I wish the recipes would mention the final appearance to calm nervous beginners like myself!

The sauce was even simpler. I washed and cored the tomatoes, and cut them in eighths. Then I stuck them in a big stockpot and let them cook down.

When they were nice and mooshy, I ladled everything into the chinoise that I had bought for ten bucks at the Oakland Museum's White Elephant Sale. Love those antiquated kitchen tools!

This tool is fantastic in its simplicity and efficiency. Roll the pestle around the inside of the sieve, and all the juices are expressed through the holes. All the skins and seeds stay behind.

After I strained the tomatoes, I returned them to the stockpot, and let them cook down until they had reduced to half their original volume. Then I ladled them into sterilized jars added lemon juice and set them in boiling water for forty minutes.

This was what our kitchen looked like this morning.

Nicely sealed up tomatoes. And fresh bread and an omelet that Robb had made.

It's satisfying to make things for ourselves. Now, I just hope that the time will come when I'm able to eat those tomatoes.


Anonymous said...

That looks delicious! I'll be right over for a meal! I remember learning to can tomatoes a few years ago- my 92 year old neghbor showed me how- and I loved it. I pour the canned tomatoes into soup in the winter for flavor and it is GOOD.


Anonymous said...

The tomatoes floating int he juice is perfectly normal...mine do this every time. We call it "canning" because originally, it was done in cans. The material was soft and often unreliable, additionally, it contained lead and contaminated the food. Eventually a mathod of sealing a glass jar was developed, and the food preservation was continued, but bu habit was still called canning.

now you know. :-)


AmyMarieR said...

Mmm, looks yummy. Is a chinoise really antiquated these days? I remember helping my mom make applesauce with one. Just this week I was thinking of getting one for such things (but I don't recall ever seeing one in a store).

. . . Lisa and Robb . . . said...

AmyMarie -- I know that my Chinoise is a legitimate vintage tool. I'm sure you can still buy them from Williams-Sonoma or wherever. And I'll bet that the new ones cost significantly more than mine.

Anonymous said...

Made tomato paste myself today. First time I've ever done it; took a long time and made very little. But it was successful!
Hope you are well -

Kurious Jo said...

A Squeezo makes canning tomato sauce/paste/salsa really a breeze. You just run them through and it takes out the seed and the skin. They are expensive, or were years ago.

In England they call them "tinned" tomatoes.

Anonymous said...

Regarding your allergy to eating, I also spent about 6 weeks unable to eat anything. My hubby had to force me to drink Ensure. Because I also had surgery, and not eating, I lost about 40 pounds during this time (not such a bad thing for me). However, the reason I mention this, is that the reason I couldn't eat was a reaction to a new medicine my doc put me on. Did you start any new medicines about the time your food allergy started that may be causing this? Check the medicines you are on to see if this is a side-effect.


Curbstone Valley Farm said...

We were just at the Santa Cruz County Fair yesterday, and one of the exhibits was a sort of 'canning through ages' display. The early home canning systems, in metal cans were, well, clearly not up to par. I was drooling over some of the early mason jars though. I wish they still made them in the pretty amber and blue glass. The jars are quite boring these days. I hope your allergies subside soon so that you can enjoy your canning efforts. I think I'd go crazy if I couldn't eat tomatoes!

beth said...

Perfect! One of my favorite things is cracking open a jar of summer tomatoes in the dead of winter :) It tastes magical! I hope you find you can enjoy them later on, some rainy dreary day :) Great job.

camissonia said...

Looks so fresh & delish! My hubby and I have been experimenting with home canning for the past year and found it to be a great bonding experience (he's an unga bunga kind of guy, so it's hilarious to see him so serious about boiling the mason jars, bands, etc.) So far, we've made grape jelly, peach jam and applesauce with the leftover produce from our garden. We've got a food mill, but I really like the idea of using a chinoise. But for only $10 bucks girl? Now that's a great investment, 'cause they usually cost about 5 times as much!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Lisa,
It is good to see you writing again!

I was just visiting with a friend who has the same reaction to fresh fruits and veggies that you have. Her lips and tongue feel tingly and her throat swells dangerously. She did say that she can eat the foods if they are cooked. Have you tried eating the canned products?

I agree with your assessment of gardening as a form of optimism. We planted our first this year with a ridicuosly large bean teepee (like your tomato high rise) but behold, it is now too small for the plants. Who knew?

Hope you will be able to enjoy your produce again soon!

--Leah in Centralia, WA

Christine said...

gracious, should the blog name change to "how's Lisa, Robb seems to be able to at least eat?" Those tomatoes look gorgeous. I'm sure there was satisfaction in making something so pretty, even if you couldn't partake. (for now! I'm crossing my fingers for you!)

MamaKin said...

Your canned tomatoes look terrific! When you can eat them, and I hope that's soon, you'll be thrilled with the taste. There's nothing like home grown veggies. My kids got so spoiled from being able to go to the garden and pick fresh veggies that the ones in the store were a shock to them - they're like cardboard they say, and they'd rather not have it at all if they can't have the home grown. So you're in for a treat!

Anonymous said...

I found your blog via AQ a few years ago. I've enjoyed following your art, home, pets, etc. I feel compelled to respond now in your time of ill health with a heart felt suggestion to see a naturopath. If you don't have anyone to suggest one for you, I'd suggest calling around and looking for one that specializes in allergies. Maybe ask for a consultation with 2-3.

When it comes to allergies, fighting with your body does more harm, working with your body is the way to go.

Good health.

(If you can spend money on the cat, you can spend money on yourself - the tomatoes look worth it!)

lkw said...

They look great. I hope you'll be over your allergic reactions to fresh and cooked tomatoes sometime soon.

That's not a good thing!

All the best,


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