Enjoy summer bounty now, process for later

Enjoy summer bounty now, process for later

Are you ready for tomatoes and peppers fresh from the garden? I love it when the summer bounty begins and we can enjoy fresh local produce.

Whether you grow your own or frequent local markets, it’s a great time to share with your family the understanding of where our food comes from and how it grows. Take advantage of talking with local vendors to learn about the varieties and explore different ones to see what your family favorites might be.

A co-worker of mine, Chris Kendal, shared the following information on salsas that I thought you might enjoy:

Fresh salsa is a delicious summer treat. It is a healthy food option that adds color and zest to family meals and also is a great choice for summer picnics. Making and preserving salsa is an easy way to use those extra tomatoes that will soon be plentiful at farmers markets and in your own garden.

I am frequently asked about canning “special recipe” or “homemade” salsas. USDA recommends only using tested recipes to ensure your family’s food safety. Salsas are a mixture of both high-acid ingredients (the tomatoes or fruit) and low-acid ingredients (peppers, onions and herbs). These mixtures are only safe to process in a water bath canner if the pH of everything combined is less than 4.6. In “special recipe” or “homemade” versions, it is impossible to know if the pH is within a safe range for home canning.

“Special recipe” or “homemade” versions using untested recipes can be safely frozen. It is recommended to test a small batch as the texture and flavor will change due to freezing and thawing. Add herbs and spices once the mixture has been thawed for best results.

The following is a Choice Salsa recipe from the National Center for Home Food Preservation (nchfp.uga.edu). If you plan to can this recipe for later enjoyment, it is important to use the listed amounts of high- and low-acid ingredients. You will need:

6 cups of diced tomatoes

9 cups of diced onions and/or peppers

1 ½ cups of commercially bottled lemon or lime juice

3 teaspoons of canning or pickling salt.

You can add a lot of variability to the flavor of this recipe by experimenting with different tomatoes, onions and peppers. For example, your salsa will be mild if you use bell peppers but will become increasingly hotter if you use chili peppers like hot wax peppers or Jalapenos. Regardless of the type of peppers and onions used, the combined total for this recipe should be 9 cups.

For information on water bath processing, see the Ohio State University Fact Sheet: Canning Basics at ohioline.osu.edu/hyg-fact/5000/pdf/5338.pdf.

I know we are at the beginning of the season, but I’ve seen many tomatoes available. All types of tomatoes can be processed: green, yellow, orange or red. For best results process the tomatoes within two to three hours of harvesting.

Here are a few questions that seem to come around that might answer some concerns you’ve had.

—Do all tomatoes need to be acidified? Yes, all tomatoes and tomato juice need to have additional acid to ensure their safety. You may use lemon juice, citric acid or vinegar to do this. Check out our OHIOLINE.osu.edu (food, then food preservation) to find the canning tomato fact sheet that will give you the amounts for each.

—May I can whole cherry or grape tomatoes? It is not advised by USDA, but they may be frozen for use in soups and stews this winter.

—How many pounds of tomatoes does it take to make 7 quarts of juice? About 23 pounds of tomatoes are needed per canner load of 7 quarts; 14 pounds will yield 9 pints. If you are buying or picking a bushel of tomatoes, it should yield about 15-18 quarts of juice. Remember to add acid to your juice as well.

—Do I have to add salt? The use of salt is optional in all canned tomato products. Salt can be used for flavor or color protection of the product.

—Can I process use my grandmother’s spaghetti sauce recipe? If you really want a specific recipe, then freeze it. Only tested, approved recipes should be used to can low-acid vegetables and meats. Besides Ohioline, check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation website at the University of Georgia for a great library of tested recipes. It is really important not to alter the tested recipes as it will change the ph. value and thus the processing times.

If you have other food-preservation questions, call 330-264-8722, email me at hill.14@osu.edu or check Ohioline.osu.edu.

Aug. 19 is the day I’m testing canners at Lehman’s in Kidron from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. If you haven’t had your gauge style canner tested, this is a great service they offer. If you can’t make that day, call the office, and we’ll schedule a time there for $5. If you have questions, feel free to call 330-264-8722.

Melinda Hill is an OSU Extension family and consumer sciences educator and may be called at 330-264-8722.

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