It was 9:09 p.m. Sunday night when I heard the last “pop” on my 13th jar of salsa, signifying another successful seal to a quart of salsa I’ll likely be enjoying when the garden the ingredients grew in is covered with snow.
I was surprised when I looked at the kitchen stove’s green luminous numbers, signifying that it had taken me nearly nine hours to scald, peel, chop, simmer and can two batches of salsa and one batch of spaghetti sauce on what should be considered “the day of rest,” (my feet knew otherwise).
In that moment I couldn’t help but laugh at the girl who, just two weeks ago, was eager to roll up her sleeves and become a canning machine.
I grew up helping Mom can tomatoes. I was the designated scalder — pricking the tomatoes, adding them to boiling water and when cracked, transitioning them to the ice bath in the sink. The difference between then and now is that my mom was waiting on the other end. Only when the last tomato had been scalded would I begin helping peel off the skin — and it was a lame attempt at that, as I spent more time selecting a tomato so ripe that the entire chunk of skin would practically fall off at a slight pinch. I rarely removed the cores and wouldn’t even look at a sunburnt tomato. That option, sadly, didn’t exist Sunday.
At some point between removing all those cores and hacking away at burnt tomatoes, my kitchen began to look unrecognizable. The kitchen undergoes a lot, as the juicy tomatoes move from bowl to chopper to measuring cup to pot. I didn’t get a clear view of the extent of the mess until all three pots had all their ingredients and were left to cook down on the stove. What I saw, I didn’t like. The kitchen that was clean just hours ago now donned tomato guts, onion peel and spice bottles tipped over.
The stovetop may also have a new permanent look (oops), which I’m still upset about. I’ve exhausted about all of my options for removing the residue the canner left on the glass stovetop. I can’t even say I’d been properly warned about canning on a glass stovetop (and that I shouldn’t do it).
After Sunday’s canning event, it’s hard to believe not so long ago I was worried about whether our garden would produce or be a dud, for the sole purpose of wanting to can.
If you read my last column, you’ll remember that my boyfriend and I had a Tordon catastrophe of sorts (what was meant to kill unmanaged brush did its job and then some, killing up to six future tomatoes in its deadly hole).
Well, as it turns out, it was thankfully only a minor misfortune. We managed to get one large and one roma tomato plant to produce. We also have had some success with jalapenos and have more cucumbers than I can consume or give away. That’s been great, but of course does not contribute to my formerly held desire to can more jars of spaghetti and salsa than ever before. I surpassed that goal when the first lid popped, but why stop there?
What has been crucial to stocking our pantry shelves with yummy sauces hasn’t been our garden, but others. It was an oodle of peppers from my mom’s garden and the graciousness of a Worthington couple to spare a liberal share of tomatoes that allowed me triple production from what would have been possible from our garden alone.
With the bulk of our first year of growing and canning behind us, we’ve talked about expanding our garden next year … and using a little less Tordon (ha). We’ve been warned that it may carry over year to year, so we’ll see how that goes.
Although everything didn’t go exactly as planned in the garden this year, it all seemed to work out just fine, as most things in life always do. Besides, life wouldn’t be nearly as gratifying if everything went as it was supposed to the first time.