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“Why can vegetables?”

UPDATE: We did more canning in 2009. Click here for an easy recipe for homemade pickles!

Well, we’ve finally put our tomatoes where are mouths are – or rather, where our mouths will be in about 6 to 8 months. Two evenings last week, stretching deep into the night, we did some serious canning. This use of baby sleep time was questionable at best, requiring a creative reading of some traditional advice for new moms:

Don’t stand when you can sit
Don’t sit when you can lay down
Don’t lay down you can sleep
and, of course,
Don’t sleep when you can can.

Did I mention this was serious canning? There were homemade canning tongs. There was bottled lemon juice. There was a pot big enough for two of our family members to bathe in, possibly at the same time. Because I am somewhat of a freak show – let’s just say I caught a glimpse of Martha Stewart canning on TV today and was borderline horrified by her slapdash procedure – there was the USDA Utah State Extension’s Complete Guide To Home Canning, Guide Three: Selecting, Preparing and Canning Tomatoes and Tomato Products. [Updated link here.] (Guide One starts with the question, “Why can vegetables?” Now that the tomatoes have been put up, I’m basking in my new image as someone who knows not to ask, why can vegetables do what? I’m just saying, though, there are all kinds of alternative readings here. Like the jealous younger sibling: “Why can vegetables stay out until 12 when I have to be home by 10?” and the feminist farmer: “Why can vegetables not be evaluated based on their own merits rather than being judged by the standards of fruits?”)

Best of all, there was a true team effort of a nature and scale never before approached in our kitchen. Fifty pounds of gorgeous farmers market tomatoes now reside in a mere 12 quart-size mason jars in the pantry.

And by pantry I mean the clothes closet in the guest bedroom, since we live in what umami boy has aptly dubbed the “urburbs,” and pantries are just so not urburban.

With any luck, the contents of our jars will be almost as delicious as the extremely affordable, high quality canned tomatoes readily available in retail stores, whose various producers apparently have food mills with small holes that don’t let the tomato seeds pass through into the final product. Unlike some of us. But I ask you this: do store-bought canned tomatoes fill a girl with pride? Do they fill her with terror? Hmmm, do they?

No, indeed. Which is why I’m already hooked on this whole self preservation thing. Next up, apple butter. Stay tuned!


Hi there, I'm Carolyn, and I'm delighted you're here. I'm a NYC-area food, travel, yoga, coffee, wine, running, music making and book obsessive with a great family and a love for sharing it all with you. Grab a drink and come on in. Learn more.