Monday, October 24, 2011

Harvesting and Preserving Our 2011 Garden

Final 2011 Garden Harvest

One of the quincessential Pacific Northwest things to do is have a small garden and spend the summer months growing your own food. This year with our mid-summer wedding we decided we'll still have a vegetable garden, but select vegetables we could harvest at once in the later part of summer. For example we decided to plant an Heirloom Goliath Tomato verses a prolific constant ripening cherry tomato. This beauty grew large over the months of July but only started to bare large green tomatoes in mid-August into late September.

2011 Golith Tomato Plant

As the green fruits grew and grew and grew, but didn't turn red we started to think we'd have 100lbs of green tomatoes to deal with, but with a couple hot September weekends our tomatoes started to turn red and our plan to can and preserve for use in the winter was back on track.

Tomato Harvest

Our decision to attempt canning our tomatoes was solidified with this bad boy. A pressure cooker/canner purchased with some wedding money.

Pressure Cooker

Sure we could have easily purchased a simplier water bath canning pot, but this 23-Quart Pot is also a pressure cooker. We could easily make a pot of beans for a huge group of people in less than an hour or cook a whole chicken in under 40 minutes! We also heard it's the safest way to can tomatoes which was our main objective. We started by sorting our fantastic harvest of tomatoes by size and whether they had an blemishes.

Sorted Tomatoes

We were really surprised by how beautifully round and picture perfect the Goliath variety was. The largest firmest tomatoes were saved, later sliced and dehydrated into little round disc that we reconstitute in broth or water for our spanish rice, soup and flavoring bases for just about anything.

Dehydrated tomatoes

All other tomatoes were then prepped to be skinned and prepared for stewing or tomato sauce.

Stewing Tomatoes

Boiling Set Up

Dunking Tomatoes


We quickly dunked the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water. After 40 seconds most the skins would visibly split and we would scoop them out and immediately dunk them in a bowl of cold iced water. 5 seconds later the skins easily peel off. Half the tomatoes were cut into quarters for stewing and the other half were roughly chopped for tomato sauce.

Stewing Tomatoes for sauce

We cooked the tomato sauce down for two hours and immediately poured the sauce into the canning jars.

Canned Tomatoes

The pressure canner had weights and gauges and initially seemed very scientific and dangerous, with the boiling pressurized air/water situation, so we didn't document watching the pressure build and maintaining the heat so the pressure remains within a certain zone for safe canning.

We can tell you the tomato sauce was alot sweeter than we imagined, the stewed tomatoes had a smokey kick due to some roasted jalapenos we added and we were able to capture a little bit of summer with ingredients grown in our own backyard or within biking distance. We think even our cat Cleo approved.

Cleo in the Strawberry Bed

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