Over the weekend our niece and her family came to visit. With them they brought two full cases of tomatoes they had just picked from their garden. I love tomatoes but my first question was "What am I supposed to do with that many tomatoes? They'll ruin before we have a chance to eat them." Well their answer to me was "Just put them up."
What? Put them up? What do you mean? I am becoming Suzie Homemaker but I haven't ventured into the canning arena yet. Mostly because I don't have a garden. I don't see the point in buying vegetables to can unless you just find a really great deal. My niece's husband started telling me how easy it was to can tomatoes, and assured me that I could do it. I already had jars and lids. So, why not?
Today I found all of my jars and sterilized them. You are probably asking "Why do you have so many jars if you don't can?" The answer is simple. My mother-in-law, Lethia, was a gardener and canner. She canned everything, and I mean everything. I have catered weddings in the past and we always have food left over. Many times the family doesn't want the left overs. One wedding we had a lot of fruit left and Charlie took it to his Mother. It was an entire pan of various fruits; cantaloupe, watermelon, star fruit, grapes, pineapple, strawberries, etc. She took that fruit and made all-fruit jam. It was the best I've ever had! Before Lethia passed away in 2009 I would give her the jars back after we ate the food. These are all the jars that we've emptied since she died. I've never been able to bring myself to give them away so they've been in various places in my house. Charlie even went to the storage building and brought back a couple of boxes I had stored there.
Back to my story...Today I scoured the internet, looked through cookbooks and called different friends that have canned tomatoes. I am a perfectionist and I didn't want to get it wrong. As I was peeling the tomatoes my mind seemed to be flooded with memories. As a little girl I helped my grandmother can fruits & vegetables. Then as a young married lady I helped Lethia can too. I've just never done it by myself.
It was actually fun to me. I couldn't wait to complete the process and hear the 'ping' of the lids. I canned 4 quarts and 7 pints of tomatoes. I still have about 1/2 case of tomatoes left and tomorrow I am going to attempt to make tomato juice. I didn't think I'd be able to make tomato juice but tonight I borrowed a Food Mill/Strainer from a friend. Tomato Juice was one of my husband's favorite things that his Mother made so I am determined to try my best! I know this is a lot of empty jars but maybe just maybe another gardener will see fit to share their bounty and I can fill them up!
I wish I had the things Lethia used to can; her pressure cooker, her food mill, her funnel, everything! I am a very sentimental person and even the simplest of things are worth millions to me! I don't know who ended up with Lethia's kitchen stuff but I know if it was me I'd be using them today. Charlie came in the kitchen tonight and saw all the jars lined up on the counter and he said "My Mama & Daddy would be proud of you." They always wanted to make me a country girl. I wonder if they know how much they taught me? I hope so!