Yeah, my posting habits suck. If only I could post while driving, I’d be the best poster ever. Ok, maybe not the best poster ever, but I’d be at the very least a once a week poster. You’d think with all the time I spend at work, complaining that I’m bored, that I could post a little something something here and there, but no. Apparently, I’m bored and lazy. But that’s not quite true either. Cause I haven’t been lazy when it comes to my latest obsession that I’m obsessed with.
Sometime in August, our backyard garden began producing buckets upon buckets of tomatoes. HH had apparently planted 18 tomato plants of various varieties and they all threw up at once. They were falling over under their own weight. We literally had around 50 tomatoes on each plant. We ate some, we gave some away. Then the peppers and cucumbers started in. Don’t even get me started on the 6 basil plants that were as wide as a garbage can apiece and came up to my waist. How about the cucuzza squash that ran all over the fence and produced baseball bat sized fruit? To say that HH has a green thumb would be a severe understatement. And to say we had an overabundance of garden goodies would be the understatement of the century. So HH innocently suggested that perhaps we should make and store some sauce, so we could benefit from our harvest year round. Little did she know, what my brain was about to do with that.
It started off simply enough. ‘Yea!’, I thought, I need a bigger sauce pot to cook all these tomatoes in. So I get a bigger pot. And we start cooking some sauce. And I figure, you just slap the sauce in some jars and close them up and we’re good, right? Wrong. The first batch of sauce I made was all sorts of wrong and I ended up dumping the whole thing for fear of poisoning ourselves with botulism. Seriously. Bad canning practices can KILL your ass.
So I think to myself that I need to do a little more research on the matter. And I do. And my sauce research teaches me the correct way to can things. I learn about headspace and acid levels and base levels and correct temperatures and boiling times and pressurization. It’s like chemistry, in my kitchen!
So I refill my entire sink, up to the brim, with tomatoes, and start all over again, the right way. Grandma’s the world over would be proud. This sauce was tasty, fresh, entirely from the garden and preserved properly. So I made quite a bit of sauce, and more importantly, I REALLY enjoyed doing it. We all already know that I love to cook, but now I get to play scientist with my food?!?! This is a whole new level of food geekdom. I posted my progress on ye olde facebook and people started to notice. One or two even expressed an interest in purchasing some of this sauce. And that’s when my wheels really started turning.
So I did what I always do when I find a new subject intriguing: I take out every available book I can find on the subject from the library. I scour the interwebs. And I just read, read, read about it until my eyeballs fall out. And when I came out of my reading induced coma, there was a wild in my eyes that I think I scared HH with, just a little bit.
“Do you know how many different things there are out there that I can put into jars and preserve?!?!” I said to her. She glanced briefly up from her work and shrugged. Before she knew what had happened, I had all 4 burners on the stove going, with various fruit concoctions bubbling happily in each pot, a broiler full of peppers getting their skins blackened off and 2 crock pots on the dining room table, rendering down apples into a luscious butter. She came to check on me and all I could sputter out was “I need more jars.”
I’ve accumulated a literal inch worth of printed out jarring recipes from various sources, I’ve scoured every Kmart, Walmart and Ace Hardware store to procure more jars, and I’ve accumulated all the various specialty tools that make me a veritable canning machine. I’ve since bought a stock pot that I could easily bathe a set of year old twins in and requires two burners to heat up all the water in can hold. The farmers market that I buy my fruits from now knows to get boxes ready for me when I go to the counter, cause bags just don’t cut it anymore. As I furiously made my way through 14 successful recipes this past weekend, I looked at poor HH again, with that crazy gleam in my eyes and said “I need more jars. And sugar! I need more sugar!” She set out to clean out 2 more Walmart’s of all their remaining jars, and broke down and just bought me the 25 lb. bag of sugar.
She volunteered to decorate the jars and make them look all cute, which she is very good at. However, as I was placing down the 12th dozen of jars in front of her, waiting for decoration, she looked up at me and said, “You know, all I wanted was a couple of jars of sauce and look at what you’ve done.” And we proceeded to dissolve into a fit of massive giggles.