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Tomato lover shares his secrets. (The country kitchen).

COUNTRYSIDE: I love tomatoes, especially the heirloom varieties. My favorite, planted every year, is a variety called Caspian Pink, available from Shumway Seedsman, and Totally Tomatoes. Caspian Pink produces large beefsteak-type fruit, meat, tart-sweet and very flavorful. It is not as prolific as the hybrid varieties and that works out okay, as I plant a lot of it.

I'd like to share my method of canning. I usually can from 30 to 50 quarts. Some are canned in the usual manner, whole or diced for recipes requiring those preparations. Usually more than half of my store are put up differently and are used for numerous recipes and other creations.

Begin with good quality fruit. I try to can at peak season but there is always something to delay the process (as we all know). That means I'm dealing with ripe, over ripe, and sometimes immature fruit if frost is imminent, but all are suitable for this process. Of course don't use rotted fruit. I do cut out soft spots and bad-looking areas, stems and a tough core, but other than a good washing, that's the only prep. No peeling, seeding or coring is needed.

I use a 20-quart stainless steel stock pot, a large 12-quart bowl for strained juice and a 10-quart heavy-bottomed stock pot. A couple of good porcelain canners work well, too. (We all know not to use aluminum.)

Set up your work area with the above items or suitable substitutes. You will also need a good blender, Victorio strainer or Foley food mill, clean jars and fresh lids. I pressure can, so sterilizing jars is not necessary--a trip through the dishwasher on heat dry is more than sufficient. Don't put seals or self-sealing lids through the dishwasher because the rubber seal may get damaged. Instead, drop them into a pot of boiling water, remove from heat and keep warm (so the rubber is soft and seals better) until you are ready for them. You may also wash jars by hand, sterilize, and then can by the hot water bath method. I just like to pressure can because with today's lower-acid varieties, it is the safer method.

Place the larger kettle at a convenient height or on the stove if you prefer, then you don't have to lift a heavy kettle as often. Begin by filling this kettle to within two inches from the top with tomatoes crushed by your impeccably clean hands.

A towel placed partially over the kettle will prevent squirting juices and seeds from flying everywhere, but as the contents increase, simply hold the next fruit under the juice level and there will be no squirting. Continue until the kettle is full.

Place over a high flame and bring to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent scorching. Boil until the fruit is soft, abut 15 minutes, and remove from the heat. Cool to a temperature that is comfortable to handle or store in the refrigerator until the next day if you like. This method followed as above produces 16-17 quarts of pulp and liquid in this first step.

When cool enough, scoop out the solids with a mesh sieve and process in the blender or food mill to a puree consistency one carafe at a time. Transfer this juice to the 10 quart vessel. Once the pulp is processed, strain the remaining liquid through the mesh sieve and discard the seeds that have sunk to the bottom. Add as much of this liquid as is practical to the pulp container and place over high heat and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer to reduce the volume, adding the remainder of the juice until it's used up. Reduce the juice to about seven quarts, enough for an average canner load. The consistency of this reduction is about that of V8 or tomato juice.

Fill jars, seal and process at 10 pounds pressure for 20 minutes for quarts or pints. For the water bath method, place jars in canner, cover with water, bring to a boil and process for 20 minutes.

The resulting product is very useful, and of course, this makes an excellent tomato juice. I am including a couple of other recipes for this product. Happy canning, and enjoy!

Pizza sauce

Enough for 2 or 3 large pies

Place 1 quart of above sauce in a heavy sauce pan and bring to a boil, lowering heat to a simmer and reduce quantity by 1/2 to 2/3. Near the end of reducing, add:
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon onion
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon ground fennel seed
1 teaspoon ground marjoram
2 tablespoons fresh basil
Salt and pepper to taste


This nets about 1-1/4 cups sauce.

Lasagna

Line the bottom of a well-greased 9 x 11 baking pan with a layer of uncooked lasagna noodles. Next add a layer of precooked ground beef, lamb, sausage, pork or turkey seasoned with Italian seasoning, another layer of pasta, another layer of meat, more pasta, cheese mix, and ending with a layer of pasta. Fill the baking dish to within 3/4-inch from the top. Pour over 1 quart of sauce, cover loosely with foil, and bake at 350[degrees]F for about 1-1/2 hours. This is a tasty and quick dish.--Jim Bowers, 200 Co. Rd. 439, New Franklin, MO 65274-9749;

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Author:Bowers, Jim
Publication:Countryside & Small Stock Journal
Date:Nov 1, 2002
Words:908
Previous Article:Festive old-fashioned recipes. (The country kitchen).
Next Article:Canning mincemeat.


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