This past Wednesday, I had the pleasure of attending a tomato sauce canning class that was put on by Slow Food Columbus. The class was taught by Rachel of Hounds in the Kitchen.
To give a brief description of who these folks are, Slow Food is a movement that started in 1989. It’s goal is to get people to not only start cooking for themselves, but to support local suppliers, AND take the time to get to know who the folks are behind your local farms and businesses. It’s a movement to counteract the idea of fast food and to help educate people on where food comes from and how to purchase and eat responsibly. Most places across the US have a Slow Food chapter in their area! If you are interested, take a look at the website to see where your local chapter is located.
Rachel, runs what she calls her Urban Homestead. Rachel, along with her husband and their daughter, grow the majority of their own produce and herbs, they can a lot of sauces, and they just started raising chickens. She is doing what I hope to be doing over the next several years. I just need to learn! And taking a canning class is a start in the right direction.
I was so excited when I found out about this class because I honestly have been wanting to learn how to can for quite sometime. I know that my grandmother used to can along with the majority of my elder relatives. I want to be able to do that too! I fully feel that canning is a handy skill to have. Not only will you be preserving foods that you made, but you are also cutting grocery costs and being environmentally friendly. Other than Rachel, I don’t know anyone who cans so I didn’t really have a way to learn until now.
The class was held at The Dispatch Kitchen located on the second floor of The North Market. For non-locals, The Dispatch is the local paper and The North Market is a huge market containing local vendors. Here you can buy everything from produce, to meats, to popcorn. Literally a one-stop-shop for all your shopping needs. I was drooling over the fridge with French style doors!
The Dispatch Test Kitchen is equipped for filming purposes, as you can see by the huge lights at the top. I was more interested in the huge beam! I love that wooden beam! It was totally gorgeous and rustic.
Rachel went over the process of canning with us, everything from starting the sauce to the actual canning part. Everybody in the class got to come up and can their own jar! We pulled it out of the water bath, filled the jar, put the lid on, and then set it back in the water bath to cook and sterilize. The jar sizes were pints, and the cooking time once all the jars were back in the pot was 35 minutes.
I learned so much about canning! Stuff I never realized and stuff that I didn’t take into consideration. For example, flavors and herbs intensify the longer something sits. So it’s best not to supercharge a sauce with a ton of flavor right from the start because a few months later when you open it up, it might be way more intense than you want. It’s best to be basic and simple, then doctor the sauce up when you use it.
Also, not all varieties of tomatoes have the same acidity level. The lighter color ones, like the orange ones, have less acidity than say, a huge red variety. And that San Marzanos actually have the least acidity of the red tomatoes!
Admittedly the idea of canning has me both excited and nervous. I really, really, really, want to be able to can my own things. This is what I was excited about learning! However Rachel explained the idea of acidity and that in order for something to be can-able, it must have a certain level of acidity to it. She suggested following a recipe that has been researched and studied several times (like the ones you would find on the Ball website) because they are going to be the most successful. That creating a recipe up on the fly might not be the wisest choice.
This sort of bummed me out a bit. I am the worst at following a recipe. I always want to add my own spin to things, but adjusting the seasoning and ingredients will then adjust the acidity level.
Acidity levels weren’t something that was even on my canning obstacle radar. Now I’m wondering if I would be able to can my salsas and sauce? I’m not sure what their acidity level is and I’m not sure how to find out. My best option, I think, is to research everything first and go from there. I will can something though, I am determined!
If you are interested in canning, Rachel is currently doing a canning series on her site which is filled with loads of information. We were also told that most of the vendors at the local farmer’s markets will hook you up with multiple pounds of tomatoes if you just ask them and give them enough notice. Also, The Greener Grocer, located in The North Market will gladly work with you on getting as many tomatoes as you need for your canning purposes.
Do you can? If you do, what kind of things do you can? If you don’t can, are you interested learning or is it something you have no desire to do?