Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Can a Lot

WWII-era poster from the U.S. Office of War Information
Digitized by Northwestern University Libraries

Talk about a blast from the past! Finding an online source of WWII-era posters like this filled me with nostalgia for my youth, when the Chef Mother would have summers off from teaching and spend time teaching me how to cook, bake, and preserve some really good food.

Granted, neither of us were perky blondes in ruffled aprons. By the time our fruits, vegetables, and jams were canned, we usually had damp, limp dark hair plastered on our foreheads, sweat running down our backs, and exhausted muscles.

Still, nothing quite matches the satisfaction of putting up your own canned goods for the winter, and I've been busy lately doing just that.

Following Saturday's tomato extravaganza, I still had two quarts of Roma tomatoes to process, and so I decided after work today to make a small batch of tomato sauce, something I've never done before.

I recently discovered the National Center for Home Food Preservation web site based at the University of Georgia, and as I looked through the new USDA guide for canning tomatoes, I thought I'd better print it out since the guidelines have changed slightly. And since it gave very clear directions for making plain tomato sauce... well, why not try it?

The prep work for making tomato sauce is nothing in comparison to boiling, peeling, and crushing tomatoes for canning on their own. And for once I had the chance to pull out my food mill and work out my frustrations by squeezing every last drop of pulp from the skins before setting the pot back on the stove to reduce the liquid.

It's true, I only ended up with two half-pint jars from all that work, but at least it proved that making the sauce was a fairly simple and trouble-free procedure. I know I'll need some sauce on hand this winter along with the jars of tomatoes, so I'm glad to discover that I can rely on this method as well as on drying and canning.

Sure, this mythical world of happy homemakers in spotless aprons might seem to exist only in propaganda posters. But don't let it be forgot that there is still a spot for preserving the harvest in this day and age.

That spot is happily ever after here in my kitchen... and yes, I do can a lot.


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