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Sunday, June 17, 2012

Tomatoes and Laundry

I have been busy doing stuff and various projects. I have actually taken some pictures for some blog posts, so eventually I might just post some of them. Like the freezer jam and teacher cards.

Saturday I was able to take some items off my procrastination list. I was able to:

1. Reinforce the tomato plants.
I am jumping for joy. Take a look at these tomatoes!
I am the person who can kill any plant… and I have managed to grow some beautiful tomatoes and onions that are going strong.
I had some bamboo and decided to use them with some twine rather than buy tomato cages. Mostly because they look for rustic and neat, but it helped to save a couple dollars too.

 2. Laundry Detergent

There are several versions of the same ingredient recipes all over blogland. I first made this recipe a couple months ago, which made 3 gallons. Awesome! I really like this soap. It has no chemicals in it and it is super cheap. My cousin has the recipe on her blog you can check out. I prefer the liquid detergent.

Last time I made it, my brother and sister made fun of me. So I gave them a gallon of the stuff. Fast forward a month or so, my sis said to me, “Steph! I thought you were going overboard making your own laundry soap, but I was so surprised. My clothes are so soft and clean!” I thought that was pretty funny. She wants to pay me a couple dollars to keep her well stocked.

I got my son to shred a bar of Castile soap. Then I took over from there. Boiling water, borax and washing soda and another 3 gallons are made. This should last me about 3 to 4 months (I didn’t really keep track last time I made it).  I am glad that I finally got around to making this again because it is a little difficult to clean clothing without it.

3. Canned Tomatoes

I got a great deal from the tomato lady at the farmer’s market, a bag of Tomatoes for $4. I think I will be getting a couple more bags next week to can more sliced tomatoes, and also some salsa and marinara sauce.

This is my first go round with canning tomatoes (although I have canned marinara sauce before. Yummm!). I have decided to try this for a couple reasons, mainly because of the acidic quality of tomatoes. Did you know that they react with the metal in the cans if the cans aren’t coated, but the can coating contains BPA AND they also react with the epoxy resin that lines the cans. Yuck. I love using canned tomatoes so this is disappointing.


I had a conversation with my husband when I showed him my handy-work about why I decided to can chopped tomatoes. I don’t see how I can completely avoid using canned tomatoes unless I spend a week of non-stop canning and manage to fill a storage closet with the jars. But I figure that my family is better off if I can replace the cans for even a few meals.

When I looked up the process of canning tomatoes, I was happy to discover that it is a really simple process. But… Warning: canning is not for the faint of heart. It time consuming. This project took a couple hours.  It is also very messy.

The process:
Sanitize the jars.
I had 3 pots on the stove and a giant bowl of ice water in the sink.
Boil water in a little pot (for lids) and in a BIG pot.
To get the skins off the tomatoes, toss them into the big pot of boiling water, then (almost immediately) take them out with tongs and toss them in the ice so the skins shrivel and beg you to peel them off.
Peel  and dice tomatoes.
Stuff in jars.
I added Very Vegi Tomato Juice (from Sprouts this is a very tasty juice and comes in a glass jar) in the 3rd pot to heat up. Added a tablespoon of fresh Lemon juice from my freezer to each jar rather than using citric acid and then filled the rest with warm tomato juice.
Stick the end of a spoon into the jar to get all the air out.
Add more tomatoes and/or juice until there is only ½ inch to the top.
Add lid from boiling water. Screw top. Add to hot water bath.
I let the jars stay submerged for about 40 minutes.

I did each bag of tomatoes in shifts. While the first four jars were in the boiling bath, the last batch was being peeled and stuffed in jars.

You will notice from my lovely pictures that I do not have a proper canning pot. I use a pasta pot. When I put the jars in the hot water bath, I put a hand towel at the bottom of the pot for the jars to sit on so they don’t clank or sit on the metal. Works great. The only investment in my canning supplies besides the jars and lids is the $3 I spent on the magnet to get the lids out of the boiling water (worth it!) and the jar tong lifter thing (without it you will stare at the jars in the boiling water wondering how in the world they are coming out).  

I was very happy to find that all my jars sealed well.

One $4 bag of tomatoes fit in 4 pint jars. Twice as much fit in a jar than a can. So I figure that if a box of 8 canned tomatoes at Costco costs $11, I can save a bit of money by canning the real thing (not to mention the health benefits!). 
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