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Our poor, decrepit car finally went to the big junkyard in the sky, but that didn’t stop me from picking more tomatoes at a local farm this weekend. I was quite determined to make one huge batch of tomato sauce before the end of the canning season. I hopped on my scooter and made it happen.

With Halloween just around the corner, the local farms are turning into complete nut-houses on the weekends. My friend and I got there bright and early to beat the rush. The trail out to the u-pick area was a muddy mess! We were slip sliding all around on our walk back, lugging about 30 pounds of tomatoes each in our wimpy arms. My old garden clogs were so caked in mud by the time we made it back!

We found some blackberry bushes on the side of the road with some last berries hanging on, so I picked about four pounds of those for some delicious preserves. They were so ripe, they were losing their shape in the colander just from the weight of the berry pile. For the ride home, the berries had to go under the scooter seat which meant the tomatoes needed to get strapped onto the bike. We grabbed some bungee cords and did our best.

All of this would have been fine had my scooter ride home not included a torrential downpour of rain. Although my fancy-pants scooter jacket stayed dry, my jeans were completely soaked through. It was one of those downpours where the rain is just coming down in sheets. The cardboard box holding the tomatoes soaked up all that water, which meant the box began to deteriorate with every additional drop of rain. Amazingly, I made it home without losing one single tomato!

Was it worth all that trouble? Yes, my friend, yes it was. The preserves were easy to make, so about six pints went into our cupboard. The tomato sauce was the real treat though. I used a recipe I read on Lelo’s blog, which she got from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. My process was a little longer, as I simmered my sauce on the stove for about six hours. The smells alone drifting through our house were amazing. Thankfully I had just gone grocery shopping, so we could snack on something to distract ourselves from that heavenly smell.

The sauce looks perfect! I ended up with about 3 quarts and maybe 10 pints. Jay had to run out to the store to buy more canning jars, of which three different stores were out of! At the final store, he nabbed the last two packages of those expensive Ball jars, that look kind of vintage. He said another lady showed up while he was holding them and was waiting to see if he would put them back down. Hot damn! Was this the weekend everyone in Portland decided to can?

The only screw-up I made was on 8 of those pretty pint jars. There were so many little steps and I totally spaced adding the lemon juice into the cans before the tomato sauce. In a panic, I called my grandmother (a long time canner) who said she has canned spaggethi sauce the same way for years and never added lemon juice. So we will keep those, rather than give away as gifts, just in case things go awry. But honestly, this sauce is so good there is no way I can part with it.

All in all, this season I managed to can the following (Laura, since I know you love pictures of stocked pantries…):

  • 10 pints pear butter
  • 16 pints pear chutney
  • 8 quarts peaches
  • 3 quarts bread & butter pickles
  • 3 quarts kosher-style dill pickles
  • 13 quarts tomatoes, in their own juice
  • 10 half-pints smoky ketchup
  • 3 quarts, 9 pints tomato sauce
  • 6 pints blackberry preserves

Not too shabby if I do say so myself. Part of me wishes I could do more, but the smarter half of me realizes this is a good amount to start off with. I really want to see how much of this Jay and I make it through over the season. I made a cheat-sheet of what I have canned in the basement so we can keep a copy up in the kitchen. Things will get checked off as they get used, so just because it is out-of-sight doesn’t mean out-of-mind. There are also huge batches of homemade pesto in the freezer, along with our 1/8 of a cow, local corn, homegrown carrots, homegrown beans, etc. to get us through the winter.

So if the apocalypse comes this year, or the economy gets so bad none of us can afford to eat, stop by. We have plenty for dinner!

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Written by Renee Wilkinson