It’s July and we are down to our last jar of tomatoes. Woo hoo! That we have made it this far without running out is a sign that it’s been a good year. There are times when I don’t have the time or money to get more than a couple of batches finished. When that happens, every trip to my parents’ house ends with me lugging a box of quarts home from my Mom’s overflowing pantry.
I vividly remember many days sitting across from Mom while she shook the water out of a jar of tomatoes before adding them to a pan of spaghetti sauce or goulash. Draining tomatoes in the jar is an art form; you have to simultaneously block the tomatoes from falling out and keep them from trapping the water inside. She would place one hand over the mouth, one hand on the bottom, and shake it into the kitchen sink, staring in concentration out the picture window that overlooks the farm. It’s a constant memory of my childhood.
Now that I’m on my own I stick to the basics that Mom taught me: blanch ripe tomatoes and slip off the skin, pack them tight, and use the end of a rubber spatula to get out the air pockets (the plastic doesn’t tend to pierce the tomatoes).
But since those early days I’ve learned from other women along my way. Sue told me about putting a little diced onion, garlic, and bell pepper in each jar for an even easier way of cooking, and now I do almost all of mine this way. Meg taught me to zip them in the food processor for a smooth kid-friendly sauce.
And my repertoire has expanded beyond spaghetti and goulash. Coconut chicken curry, eggplant parmesan, pizza sauce, and a multitude of soups-- canned tomatoes are the most versatile thing in my pantry. It’s funny the things that you can learn, how a solid foundation can lead into so many good things.
So with this last jar waiting to be enjoyed and tomato harvest only a month away, I feel like I’ve made it, at least this year. When Mom asks if I need any of hers to take home, I can stand on my own two feet and say “Thanks Mom. I have plenty.”