Tomatoes: What Not to Can

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It is that time of year where tomatoes are abundant.  Perhaps you are growing them in your garden?  Or perhaps you find them by the case at your local farmer’s market? But regardless of where they come from, do you know which tomatoes to avoid for canning purposes?

According to NCHFP, “Select only disease-free, preferably vine-ripened, firm fruit for canning”.  That sounds easy right?  But what if you harvest or buy tomatoes that don’t look picture perfect?

Iowa State University Extension and Outreach offers a little more information with this statement: “Overripe and infected tomatoes may be low enough in acid to support Clostridium botulinum.  Use only firm, ripe tomatoes that have no spoiled parts or mold.  Tomatoes harvested from dead vines are low in acid.  They can be eaten fresh or frozen, but do not can tomatoes from dead vines”.

To give you a better understanding of which tomatoes to skip when it comes to canning, a photo is worth a thousand words (or at the very least a photo with a brief description).

anthracnose infected tomato

anthracnose infected tomato

Anthracnose is a tomato disease (fungus).  Symptoms of this appear on ripe fruit, starting as small, sunken, and water-soaked lesions.  These lesions will then increase in size and the center will darken (and contain a fungal structure from which spores are released) and the tomato begins to soften.

internal black mold

internal black mold

Internal black mold may be caused by a couple of diseases.  The first is anthracnose as listed above.  The second culprit could be blossom end rot.  Mold may simply enter through hole (caused by animal or insect) or a crack in the tomato skin.  If you purchase tomato ‘seconds’ at a market or farm or using ones from your own garden that appear to have some damage, it is prudent to cut open the tomato to make sure the tomato does not have internal black mold like the one in the photo above.  Sunscale may also cause internal black mold, though in this case, the damaged tomato is allowed to stay on the plant too long and the tomato begins to rot.

Sunscald.  Now with this issue, the tomato itself is exposed to direct sunlight during periods of hot weather.  If the damage is just a tan, papery blemish, that can be cut away.  However, if the affected tomato is allowed to stay on the vine, internal mold may develop.

Tomatoes that have an off aroma should not be used.  A healthy tomato should smell like… well… a tomato.  If the fruit smells sour or moldy (even if mold is not visible), discard the tomato.

Diseased tomatoes and those with internal black mold should not be used for canning purposes.  The act of canning will not remove the disease or repair the mold.  These tomatoes could spoil in the jar and ruin your batch regardless if you canned them for juice, stew tomatoes, or even pasta sauce.

For the best possible canning results, use vine-ripened fruit that is firm to the touch.  As the saying goes, “If in doubt, toss it out” should apply when it comes to this summertime fruit.   So keep in mind, what not to can when it comes to tomatoes.  Your health will thank you for it.

A Spicy Pickle: Jalapeños!

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With harvest season well under way, a particular nursery rhyme goes through my head as I begin to fill my basket with a particular type of produce.  I will give you a hint using the words of Mother Goose:

“Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers.

A peck of pickled peppers Peter Piper picked.

If Peter Piper picked a peck of pickled peppers,

Where’s the peck of pickled peppers that Peter Piper picked”?

Yes, we are harvesting some of our hot peppers.  Specifically jalapeños, which are my husband’s favorite when it is canning season.  In fact, he rolls up his sleeves, gets out the water bath canner, mason jars, and takes over canning duty for these little green beauties.

washing jalapeños

washing jalapeños

The recipe is based on the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving (their Hot Pepper recipe).  But darling husband made a few changes based on what he likes.  Without further ado, here is HIS recipe.

Pickled Jalapeño Peppers

  • 5 lbs. jalapeños
  • 10 C. white vinegar
  • 2 C. apple cider vinegar
  • 4 C. water
  • 6 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 10 large garlic cloves, whole  (or one large clove per pint jar used)

Wash peppers to remove any dirt or grit.  Remove stem end.  Slice jalapeños into 1/4″ rings and set aside.  In a large pan combine vinegars, water, and crushed garlic.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes.  Discard the crushed garlic.  Pack the jalapeño rings into hot pint jars and place 1 large whole clove of garlic on top, leaving 1/2″ headspace.  Ladle the hot vinegar/water mixture into jars.  Remove air bubbles from jars.  Place lid and rim (2 piece caps) on each jar.  Process 10 minutes in a boiling water bath canner.  Remove jars from canner and wait for the ‘ping’.  This makes 10 pints.

hot pack jalapeños

hot pack jalapeños

These pickles are great on homemade nachos and have much more flavor than the store-bought variety.  They are also a great topper for burgers, hot dogs, brats, or even placed inside a grilled cheese sandwich.

No matter how you slice it, they are one spicy pickle!

 

 

You Can Recondition a Cast Iron Pan

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Not too long ago I did something terrible to a well-loved cast iron pan.  Believe it or not, I forgot to turn off the stove after I made a meal and the pan sat on the burner.  For hours!  Yes folks, it is time for another true confession.

While I would love to say that everything goes smoothly in my kitchen, that is not always the case.  (And I am sure that is true for many people).  One Saturday, I fried eggs in my cast iron skillet.  After removing the eggs from the skillet, instead of turning the burner off, I accidentally increased the temperature of the burner.  The skillet sat that way on the burner for hours!  Fortunately I was home and noticed an odd aroma coming from the kitchen.  There is was.  My beloved pan with a grayish residue on the stove.  A thin veil of smoke in the kitchen.  Crap!

patina burned off cast iron pan

patina burned off cast iron pan

After turning off the stove, I surveyed the damage.  It turns out that I actually managed to burn off most of ‘season’ I had managed to develop on the pan after years of use.  (You can actually see where the pan sat on the burner as the patina was burned off in a nearly complete circle).  But the good news is that the pan was not warped (and the stove was fine), so other than the seasoned finish, everything was okay.

To start the process, I got a woven metal pot ‘scrubber’.  With scrubber in hand, the skillet got a good scrubbing all over (which included some rust as my hubby washed the skillet and allowed it to air dry).  It is worth noting that the finish was burned off both the bottom of the skillet as well as top.  The lovely, sleek black finish was removed from more than 80% of that cast iron piece.

metal scrubber to remove rust

metal scrubber to remove rust

After removing the rust and wiping it off the skillet with a cloth, the next step was to apply an oil.  I chose to go with peanut oil and apply a thin layer to the skillet (top and bottom) with a cloth.  Just a thin layer of oil was applied and it was rubbed into the cast iron.  In case you are wondering, the oil will help keep rust from returning.  And besides keeping rust at bay, this created a slightly shiny black finish to the metal, but I knew that my work was not done.

peanut oil rubbed into cast iron

peanut oil rubbed into cast iron

The cast iron skillet was placed into an oven set at 350F.  After an hour, the oven was turned off and the pan was allowed to cool.  During this time, the oil works its way into cast iron (as the surface is not entirely smooth).

This process was repeated three more times.  Now while you make think that is overkill, it is necessary to help create the beautiful patina of a well-loved and well-used cast iron pan.  This black finish indicates that the pan has been ‘seasoned’ and it ready to use.

after first pass baking in oven

after first pass baking in oven

So while my beloved cast iron skillet still isn’t back to its original state, it is on its way.  After each use, I will clean it, apply more oil, and ‘bake’ it in an oven.  With time it will regain its original glory.  So folks, don’t worry if you have accidentally removed the patina from your cast iron.  You have not ruined the piece.  With a little time and effort, you can restore your cast iron.  Take it from me and my true confession.