This weekend found me home with just Finn for the weekend. I decided to take advantage of that opportunity and start the tomato canning for the season. As luck would have it, I also found cherries on sale and decided to make a batch of cherry butter as well. (While my cherry canning last year was quite extensive, this year's local cherry season lasted only about 3 weeks, mostly while we were on our road trip. By the time we arrived home, we'd missed it.) If you ever find yourself with 10 lbs of cherries that you've no plans for, you should definitely pull out a crock pot and turn them into cherry vanilla butter. Slathered on warm biscuits, it's one of our favorite winter treats! If you find yourself gasping at the thought of using 6-7 tablespoons of expensive vanilla (on top of the usually expensive cherries), a vanilla bean or two that has been slit and scraped will work. I just fish the beans out of the butter before canning. (Or you can make your own vanilla and save some dough that way.)
As for the tomato canning, I picked about 15 lbs of tomatoes from my own garden on Friday, then bought about 60 lbs of canning tomatoes from a vendor at our farmer's market. I've gotten quite a few questions about tomato canning recently. I'll try to answer a few of them here. I do have specific recipes that I follow for making both canned spaghetti sauce and canned pizza sauce. You cannot just take a recipe that you generally use for making sauce and can it in a water bath (pressure canning is a different story). Food in Jars has a great post on why it is unsafe to use a regular recipe for canning rather than a recipe that is meant to be canned. Here are the links for the recipes I use for pizza sauce and spaghetti sauce. I've used each of them for a few years although I adjust the seasonings.
Another tip that my mom told me a couple of years ago that has worked beautifully: after you blanch and peel the tomatoes, dice or break them apart then drain them in a colander that drains into a bowl. I do this with all of the tomatoes that I use in my spaghetti sauce and pizza sauce. Once the tomatoes are drained, I put them in the pot to make the sauce and pour the leftover juice into freezer containers. The two benefits to this are that the sauce needs less simmering to cook down into a thick sauce and the frozen juice is perfect to add to soups and chilis in the winter.
About half the jars you see in the photo above are just diced tomatoes. I do not drain those, but just dice, heat in a pot to bubbling, then add to sterilized jars, and pressure can for 15 minutes at 11 lbs of pressure. It seems like a lot of work, but even if you just start with diced tomatoes, which are simple and take little time, I think you'll find the value in turning seasonally fresh tomatoes into a very useful product for fall and winter.