Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Cupboardful of Faith

It's a busy time in the bionic household, and a time of great changes. Or rather, it's a time of contemplating changes -- both potential and inevitable -- and wondering if we're up for it all.

It's fall, and a good time for canning.

I find canning a source of great comfort in uncertain times. It's a lovely bit of household magic -- the sugar stopping time, water sealing the jars. It seems impossible (like so many things do right now), and the fact this small impossible thing works gives me some faith that bigger things will, too.

The only preserves I make regularly are Green Tomato Preserves, from a recipe by the great Edna Lewis. (If you haven't read The Taste of Country Cooking, her cookbook/memoir of growing up in the Virginia farm town her grandparents founded as freed slaves, well, it's worth your time.) This year, a few friends whose tomatoes (unlike mine) survived the blight, traded me their unripe tomatoes for the promise of jam.

3 lbs green tomatoes + 3 lbs sugar.

The tomatoes have to be really green. If they're starting to ripen, use them for something else. You can let them ripen on the windowsill or make a lamb tagine or fry them if they're still mostly green. We've been doing all three.


The tomatoes, with stem ends and blemishes removed, rest under the sugar overnight. The next day, they will have released enough liquid to dissolve some or all of the sugar: the first miracle. They get cooked for an hour, then left to rest overnight again.


On the third day, the preserves get cooked for another hour or so. Jars are boiled, jar lids and rings sit in a simmering pot. Tomatoes and strained liquid are spooned into jars, which are just barely closed before being submerged in boiling water. The air in the jars expands and squeezes out from under the lids. When the jars are returned to the air, their contents cool and contract. Lids ping shut against the new vacuum.


The jars cool in place overnight, and on the fourth day I fill my cabinet with amber vials of autumn.


P.S. There's something else these days giving me faith in the future, too.

ETA: I've never done Mel's Show and Tell thing before, but it seems nifty-difty. Looking forward to checking out the other participants, though it may take until after Friday....


  1. *squeal* I am not a girly-girl, but I am squealing as if I've been doused in pink and frills. Details needed!

    You should add this to Mel's Show and Tell.

  2. Woohooooo...and ABSOLUTELY add this to show and tell!

  3. You had me at the tomatoes, but that last shot--wow! Exciting doesn't say it enough. :)

  4. Wow the tomatoes get dark? LOL i am so not a canner, and know nothing about it. I'm with the girls above, wow, do tell girl.