I Can Can

Canning is something that I've always wanted to do.  Married for 36 years now, I somehow never found the time to give it a try.  I did a lot of sewing, cooking and baking, and I did do some freezing of fresh foods, but I never did any gardening or canning.  Now that I am retired, I am finally finding the time to do some things I've always wanted to do.  Canning, for one. I decided I wanted to start with tomato sauce and canned tomatoes.

We don't have a vegetable garden yet.  I hope that is in the future.  But, we are so blessed to live only a few miles from a super vegetable farm and market.  My husband asks me, "Why would you want to have a garden when you have Ambrose Farm Market right down the road?

Ambrose Farm Market, Cabot, Pennsylvania

On our canning day, we were the first to arrive at the Farm Market at its opening, 9:00 a.m.  Moments later, the parking lot was full, and people filled the market, selecting their fresh produce grown on location:  melons, peppers, cukes, zukes, tomatoes, corn, onions, garlic, herbs, and on and on and on. Look at all these colorful, ripe vegetables waiting for eager hands to guide them into some succulent recipes.

Ambrose Farm Market - Photos courtesy of Becky DeSantis

Having no experience at canning, I had some trouble making my selection.  But the owner was so kind and helpful and steered me to mix Roma (for their meaty flesh) with canning tomatoes (for their sweet flavor).  We bought a bushel and a half!  As we were leaving, my husband helped another customer load her car with her purchases.  She had two shopping carts full of vegetables and a bright smile on her face.  She said, "Ahh, August!  It's the month for canning!"  Here was an experienced canner as thrilled in anticipating her project as I was for the first time.  How encouraging!

We got our tomatoes home and washed and were ready to begin canning. When we renovated our kitchen, we kept our old appliances and moved them to the basement.  It's so convenient to have the extra refrigerator/freezer for storing foods and the extra oven for large family gatherings.  It's very nice to have a "summer kitchen" for canning. We cleaned the area and got all set up for our new experience.

We're really serious about this canning thing.  A friend gave us a hot water canner, and we went out and bought some jars, a canning accessory kit, and our big splurge was buying a vegetable strainer.  (We bought a Cucino Pro 400 at Trader Horn.)  It is really slick.  It quickly and easily separates the juices from the skin and seeds.  Several times I thought about how much more time it would take to do this by hand.

 We ended up with a 21-qt. stock pot full almost to the brim with sweet smelling, robust tomato juices.  The recipe we were following said to boil the juices until the volume was reduced by half.  I did not realize how long this would take.

Four hours later, the sauce was ready, and so were the jars that I had sterilized in the hot water bath. I added 1 T. of lemon juice to each quart of tomato sauce.  I chose not to add salt (optional).  We got 10 qts. of sauce and then 7 qts. of diced tomatoes out of that bushel and a half.  I was giddy as I was cleaning up and heard the ping, ping, ping, of the jars sealing.  I felt like we had succeeded in our first attempt at canning!

Naturally, we were anxious to taste some right away, so the next day I used some of the tomato sauce to make some spaghetti sauce with meat balls.  I clipped some of the fresh basil and oregano that I have growing in my herb garden and added garlic, onion, and red pepper flakes. (No preservatives, and no added sugars or salt.)  My, oh my, if I say so myself, this was the best spaghetti sauce I ever had.  What a difference super-fresh, just-picked ingredients make in food preparation.  I am hooked!


  1. I'm new to Farm Chicks Chit Chat...visiting your beautiful farm blog and life.

    1. Hi there! I'm a Daughter of the King too. Always so happy to meet a sister. Thank you for visiting. I'm looking forward to getting to know you better.