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Location: DownByTheRiver, Central Iowa, United States

Husband of the world's most wonderful wife, father of the world's four most brilliant children, grandfather to the world's eight most beautiful granddaughters and two handsomest grandsons

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Politically Correct Tomatoes

Today was a red letter day at the RRR's house. 1st was health news. Regular Ranger Readers know that I struggle with Hepatitis C brought home from Vietnam 35 years ago. Last April my virus count was over 1,800,000 IU/ml. After the program of heat applications, prayer for healing, visualization, and striding about the deep desert in Texas, the count was down to 583,000 IU/ml, more than a 2/3rds decrease. Very Good News!

Also this was tomato canning day. There used to be three ways to can tomatoes. Open kettle, water bath, and pressure cooker. About 30 years ago, the powers that be in the Nanny State decided that open kettle was too dangerous and dropped the name water bath and began calling it open kettle. Does this all sound strange? Too true. But the old, original way of canning is disappearing simply by renaming. Let me explain. Pressure canning is done by cooking up the tomatoes, packing them in jars and cooking under high pressure which raises the temperature of boiling. It's very necessary for meat and low acid vegetables, but silly for tomatoes and fruit. Water bath is cooking them up, placing in jars which are placed in a pot of water that covers them and boiling for a long time. The U.S. Department of Agriculture reluctantly approves it, but has changed the name to Open Kettle to stop the practice of doing it as Mrs. RRR and I do. Here I will give you the way it's been done since canning was developed on the orders of Napoleon for the French Army in the 1800's


Go to the garden and pick all the ripe tomatoes: Two 5 gallon buckets full today, plus another 2 1/2 gallons donated by Elder Raymond.

Put a large kettle on the stove with one quart (just under a liter for those of you in Malaysia) of water and turn up the flame to start the water boiling.

Cut the stems and bad spots off the tomatoes, cut them in halves or quarters based on size and dump into the boiling water. (The water keeps them from burning and sticking to the kettle)

Stir now and then and keep adding tomato quarters till the pot is almost full. When it is, start another pot. By the time all the tomatoes are cut up and simmering the skins will be loose and everything will be getting mushy.

Take the kettles of cooked tomatoes off the stove and run them through a Victorio or Squeezo Strainer. These are wonderful magical machines made in Italy (often available used on Ebay) which let you pour the cooked food into a hopper and turn a crank and the juice and pulp run into a pot and the seeds and skins out into another one. When you have a full pot of juice, put it back on the stove and bring to a boil and then let the juice simmer.

Meanwhile, in our household, Mrs. RRR has placed a roasting pan across two burners and is boiling a couple inches of water in it and has canning jars, lids, and rings "sterilizing". She takes a jar out with tongs and sets it on an old towel by the kettle of boiling juice. I put the initially boiled canning funnel into the mouth of the jar, add a heaping 1/2 teaspoon (my international readers will have to figure that measurement out for themselves) of sea salt and ladle the jar full of boiling juice. The ladle has been in the boiling juice to sterilize it.

Mrs. RRR fishes a canning lid and ring out of the boiling water with the tongs and lays it on the jar after I set the funnel aside. I hold the jar with a hot pad and screw on the ring and lid. "Presto!", a quart of canned tomatoes. Today, 26 quarts, and a few liters as we slowly accumulate Mexican jars. The most fun is hearing them seal. "Ping, ping, ping" as the jars cool and the lids pop down. There is an eclectic collection of jars. A couple of old blue glass ones over a hundred years old that my great grandmother used. Newer round clear glass from the WWI era, then the newer square dating clear up to the U.S. Bicentennial ones Mrs. RRR and I bought in 1976. And also old mayonnaise jars from when they were made of glass. Now also, Mexican 1 liter jars from Mexican goat's milk caramel.

The U.S.D.A. germ police are throwing up their hands in horror. But tomatoes are high acid and very forgiving, as is fruit. I've never known a jar that sealed properly to go bad. You do this at your own risk, of course. Today one of the jars didn't seal because I'd cross-threaded the ring, but that one just went into the refrigerator to be the first one used.

Mrs. RRR and I each have a half cup of home made tomato juice each morning. I also have one each night. It also makes wonderful tomato soup and I use it for making The World's Best Chili.


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