This past week our family has been busy picking, processing, and EATING Tomatoes! Yum!!
With Jamie working in our local Canning Plant this summer, our family is getting a lot of exposure to some of the hidden joys of Summer. Meeting new people as we core tomatoes and shell peas together while enjoying the sweet smells of a days hard work! We have worked in a similar facility in years past and carry those good memories with us; but there is something special that makes one proud to be splattered with tomato pulp working along side a member of your own community!
For those of you wondering what a canning plant is…..
Our local canning plant is a facility that houses all of the necessary equipment to process vegetables and fruits. They have pea shellers, juicers, pressure cookers, giant cooking kettles, industrial size sinks, sealers (which place the lid and seal the actual can), and more! There is plenty of work space on the stainless steel tables for you to sort through your freshly shelled peas or lay out all the secret ingredients that go into your Salsa!
So who can go to the canning plant?
Anyone! The canning plant is open to the public. On a regular basis you may also meet people from surrounding counties who have come to process their food there! There is no age limit. On our last visit, an 88 year old lady was putting up tomatoes close by to our almost 3 year old son! It is great fun for the whole family!!!
How do I ‘put up’ food?
In the south, we call it ‘putting up’ but technically it would be called processing. Depending on the type of food you want to put up, (i.e Squash, Butter beans, Okra, Peaches, Potatoes, Tomatoes, Peanuts, etc.) will determine how to process it. The canning plant staff are trained and knowledgeable on how to properly process your food and will gladly help you though the process.
Or if your an ol’ pro and have been canning for years, its nice to be able to come in and use commercial size equipment to get the job done much quicker than one would at home!!!
Where does the food come from?
A garden of course! Some people bring in their own home-grown vegetables and fruits; some bring in fresh crops from a “U-Pick” farm; and some purchase fresh produce from a local farmer’s market. Anyway it comes, when it leaves the canning plant you can expect to be able to enjoy it through the following months!
When can I use the canning plant?
The plant is open throughout the summer break and is also available by appointment in the fall!
Do I have to store all my food in cans?
No! There are other alternatives to preserving food besides a can. We, personally, like to use jars. They are reusable and look so pretty on a shelf! We also bag our peas and beans in freezer quality Ziplock bags. Having a chest freezer makes it easier for us store our peas this way. (Canning is just the general term used).
Canning is a continual process of learning in which we are actively living the FFA motto:
Learning to Do, Doing to Learn, Earning to Live, Living to Serve.
Here is a few pictures I was able to get during our “Puttin’ Up” adventure this past week!
This is our Salsa cooking in the enormous kettle! We had what looked like a stainless steel boat paddle to stir it with!
We purchased some additional jars for the salsa and tomato base. (We have a lot still at home filled with last fall’s Pear crop!)
Jamie is really the brains of our whole operation! He knows how the whole process works and loves helping others!
Even our younger boys ages 4 and (almost) 3 had work to do!
Our older two children and their cousin also got a little creative with their cooking! As we waited for the flavors of the salsa to cook together, these three were making soup with the scraps from the onions, Jalapeño tops, and cilantro stalks. They had almost as much fun as they had taste-testing the salsa!
At the end of the day, we safely put up 48 quarts + 9 pints of tomatoes!
Here’s the salsa recipe we used…
(3) 5 gallon buckets of vine ripe tomatoes
26 Jalapeno peppers, finely chopped
5 lbs. sweet onions, finely chopped
2 bunches of cilantro, finely chopped- no stems
9 0z. jar of minced garlic
2/3 c. granulated sugar
1/3 box salt
1/4 c. black pepper
16 oz. lime juice
8 oz. lemon juice
1/3 c. cornstarch
Steam and peel tomatoes
(save skins and cores for juicing- makes for great tomato soup base!)
Add all ingredients to large pot and mix well.
Cook salsa on medium heat for 30-45 minutes.
Stir occasionally and taste often until flavor and consistency are Perfect!