End of Season Tomatoes and Drying Tiny Tomatoes

a flat of small tomatoes

A few weeks ago, I found myself feeling anxious about the state of my tomato preserves. I’d already sauced 50 pounds of heirlooms, but hadn’t managed to get any Roma or paste tomatoes to can whole or in halves. In a frenzy only other canners will understand, I started reaching out to some of my regular tomato sources, hoping to get another 25 or 50 pounds to preserve.

In the end, I was too late. Unable to get my hands on any tomatoes appropriate for canning whole, I settled for two flats of tiny tomatoes (they were mostly grape and Sungolds) and another ten pounds of heirlooms. Not exactly what I wanted, but in the end, they managed to calm my inner pioneer.

halved small tomatoes

I roasted and canned the heirlooms according to Kaela’s instructions (though I included a bit more of their liquid than she does). I wound up with seven precious pints, and they will be carefully rationed throughout the winter.

The small tomatoes became three separate products. I made a batch of honey sweetened tomato jam. I roasted, milled, spiced, and simmered ten pounds into pizza sauce (more on that tomorrow). And I carefully halved and arranged the remaining eight pounds on dehydrator trays and dried them into tomato candy (two batches through the dehydrator, in all).

dehydrated grape tomatoes

I posted pictures of my racks of drying tomatoes on Instagram and got a number of questions about how I do it and how I use them. The how is easy. I wash the tomatoes, pick them over to ensure that I don’t have any that are starting to go bad, slice them in half, and arrange them on the trays. Over the course of the next 12-14 hours, the machine does the rest (set at 135 degrees F, the suggested temp).

finished dried tomatoes

Once the tomatoes are entirely dry, I unstack the trays and let them cool. I spread a towel on the countertop and use a combination of shaking and banging to remove the from the trays. They get stored in either a jar or a zip top plastic bag and my dried tomatoes are done.

After I’ve admired them for a week or two, I start using them. I stir them into quinoa salad. I make Tara’s zucchini noodle salad. I use them to garnish soup. I make batches of savory granola and use the dried tomatoes instead of raisins. Sometimes I nibble a few while making dinner. They are always a welcome addition to my pantry and when they run out, I wish I’d made more. Such is the way of preserving.

Do you guys dry tomatoes? How do you use them?

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Giveaway: Pickle Packer and Pebbles from Masontops

pickle packer vert

Over the last couple of years, I’ve gotten more and more interested in small batch fermentation (these dilly beans and last week’s batch of hot sauce are two good examples). Throughout my slow-motion tumble down the lactobacillus rabbit hole, I’ve gathered a useful collection of gear designed to help my little ferments turn out well.

pickle pebbles

Late in the spring, a pair of products I’ve come to use a lot fell into my lap, thanks to the folks at Masontops. They had reached out in the hopes that I’d write about their Chalk Tops (which I did), but also included a Pickle Packer and a set of regular mouth Pickle Pebbles in the package they sent, just so I could see their whole product line.

pickle pebbles open

I use the Pickle Packer nearly every time I make a batch of sauerkraut (which ends up being at least a couple times a month). It allows me to quickly bash the cabbage and salt together and then compress them neatly into a quart or half gallon jar. And the Pickle Pebbles are great for weighing down the veg so that the top doesn’t rise up above the liquid and then dry out, discolor, or mold. They are just simple, useful products.

masontops pickle pebble

On Thursday, the folks at Masontops are launching a Kickstarter campaign for a new product, which I do believe is going to knock the socks off those of you who do a lot of fermentation. I’ll have more about that product on Thursday as well. In the meantime, I’m giving away one of their fermentation sets, which includes both the Pickle Packer and Pebbles. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post and tell me what you’re cooking, canning, or fermenting this week.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm eastern time on Saturday, October 10, 2015. Winners will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, October 11, 2015.
  3. Giveaway open to United States residents only.
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left via the comment form on the blog at the bottom of this post.

Disclosure: The Masontops folks send me a collection of their products for photography purposes and are providing the fermentation kit for the winner of this giveaway. They recently become a Food in Jars sponsor. However, all opinions expressed here are my own. 

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Links: Plum Ketchup, Roasted Tomatoes, and Winners

fruit at Bi Rite

Over the last several days, we’ve settled down into some of my favorite weather of the year. I love the cooler days and chilly nights, as well as the alternating days of rain and sunshine. Autumn, you are always welcome here! Now, some links!

mason jar lifestyle airlock

A big thanks to everyone who took the time to enter last week’s giveaway, sponsored by Mason Jar Lifestyle! The winners of the two $25 gift cards to the site are #142/Katie B. and #220/RG. Congratulations to all the winners!

If you didn’t win, but spotted something you desperately want, don’t forget that you get 10% off your purchase by using the code “jars10” and that shipping is free if you spend $25 or more (if you order less than that, shipping is $4).

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October Sponsors: Cuppow, Mason Jar reCAP, Fillmore Container, MightyNest, Mrs. Wages, Jar-Z, Fermentools, & Hobby Hill Farm

mason jar lifestyle gear

It’s the beginning of October and that means that it’s time to acknowledge and thank all the businesses who help keep the lights on over here at Food in Jars HQ. I am continually grateful for their support!

In the top spot, we’ve got Cuppow! They are the creator of the original mason jar travel mug topper and the BNTO, a small plastic cup that transforms a canning jar into a snack or lunch box. They also recently expanded their product line to include branded jar coozie and they’ve teamed up with the EIO Kids Cup folks to bring the manufacturing of that kids drinking system onto US soil.

Mason Jar reCAP is a company based right here in Pennsylvania. They are the producers of the original reCAP pour lid and have since expanded to include the reCAP Flip (check out their new glow-in-the-dark lid). Recently, they launched a Kickstarter to help fund their newest innovation, the reCAP EXPLORE. It glows and has a build-in magnification lens.

Fillmore Container is a family-owned business based in Lancaster, PA and sells all manner of canning jars, lids, and other preservation gear. They also publish a blog that is a very useful resource for canners. Recently, they wrote about knowing when to can or freeze, and posted about the new honey jars they’re carrying. Make sure to check their blog on Monday, when they launch a giveaway of Brown Eggs and Jam Jars.

MightyNest is an amazing resource for non-toxic, natural, and organic products for homes and families. Check out their new subscription program called Mighty Fix. For $10 a month, you get a reusable product and everything else you buy ships for free! Subscribe using the form in this post and get your first month free (offer good until October 10).

Mrs. Wages makes pectin, vinegar, and more canning mixes than I can count. Their website is an incredible preserving resource and I can’t say enough good things about their salsa mixSign up for their newsletter for monthly installments of canning goodness.

Jar-Z is new to the sponsorship line-up and I’m so happy to have them on board. They make neoprene cozies for jars that slip on easily, provide insulation, and offer an easy grip as well. You can order basic covers, or place a customized order for weddings, parties, and family reunions!

Fermentools offers a brilliant fermentation starter kit that involves a heavy-duty glass pickling weight, an airlock, a lid with a reusable rubber seal, and mineral-rich salt. Get one (or several!) to help turn your CSA goodies into naturally fermented pickles.

Hobby Hill Farm is another new sponsor. Based in Powhatan, Virginia, they sell locally made jams and preserves, homemade pretzels, candies, and cheese making kits. What’s more, if you’re in the area, owner Sharon regularly teaches cheese making classes around central Virginia. They’re launching a brand new website an minute now, so make sure to head over see how great it looks!

If your company or small business is interested in becoming a sponsor, you can find more details here. I offer discounts for multiple month purchases and am always happy to work with your budget.

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CSA Cooking: Fermented Hot Sauce

finished hot sauce bottled

I made my first batch of fermented hot sauce in 2012. It was one of my very earliest fermentation projects and while technically the making of it was uneventful, the finished batch was so incredibly spicy that even one drop gave me immediate heart burn. At the time, I figured that homemade hot sauce just for me and moved along.

hot sauce ingredients

Then last fall, I was visiting Alana and had a chance to taste her hot sauce. It was bright, funky, spicy,  and made everything it touched just a bit better. I decided that I’d give making my own another try when next I had the chance.

chopped peppers and garlic

Well, that chance finally came earlier this month. My September Philly Foodworks share included a pound of hot peppers and a pound of sweet. Wanting to avoid my previous error and not make a sauce that would incinerate my digestive track, it appeared to be the perfect combination of ingredients.

chopped veg in jar

I took inspiration from a number of sources for my batch. I referenced Alana’s post, took a little inspiration from Well Preserved, and also made sure to see how Amanda over at Phickle does it. (By the way, all three of those bloggers have books coming out soon. Alana’s and Amanda’s books are hitting this month. Joel and Dana’s book will be out in the spring).

finished hot sauce mash above

After reading their various techniques and mixing it up with what I generally know about fermentation, I started my batch. I chose to make a brine (1 quart filtered water and 3 tablespoons fine sea salt) rather than directly salting so that I’d end up with a goodly amount of liquid for my final puree (I like a drippy sauce rather than a chunky one).

fermented hot sauce mash

I combined the peppers (sweet and hot), a full head of garlic (peeled, of course), and a big hunk of ginger in the bowl of my food processor and pulsed until I had a relatively uniform mash. I scraped it into a half gallon jar, added the brine, popped an airlock on top, tucked it into a corner, and forgot about it for a couple weeks.

hot sauce yield

I deemed the sauce finished when it had gone from bright green to olive drab, it was super tangy, and I found myself entirely happy to sip the liquid from a spoon. I divided the sauce into two batches, ran it through the blender, and was done. While different from the sauce that inspired it, it is still bright, tangy, and so, so good.

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Giveaway: Mason Jar Lifestyle Gift Cards

mason jar lifestyle lid

Friends, let me introduce you to a website called Mason Jar Lifestyle, a one-stop shopping site for a very wide array of canning jar accessories! We truly live in the golden age for mason jar lovers.

mason jar lifestyle gear

They’ve got silicone drink lids, fruit infusers, silicone jar seals (great for those times when you want to ensure that your jars aren’t going to leak), copper regular mouth lids (fun for gifts!), and even pin cushion toppers.

straw with ridge

They carry straws of all shapes and sizes. You can get glass ones, stainless steel ones, super skinny ones, and even rounded-end straws with a little bump so that they stay put inside the drink topper. They also carry brushes designed to clean straws, so that you don’t get any funky growth.

mason jar lifestyle airlock

You’ll also find an array of useful fermentation gear available on Mason Jar Lifestyle. One particularly clever thing is that they’ve created a line of silicone toppers that work both with straws and airlocks, so you can choose how you use them. Here’s the complete fermentation kit.

mason jar lids with designs

Other cool items they have in stock are soap dispenser pumps (in so many different finishes!), wax warmers, a mason speaker for your phone, solar light inserts, and mason jar handles and caddies.

mason jar tealight holder

If some of this gear is floating your boat, and you don’t want to wait to see if you win the giveaway below, I have a couple offers for you. The first is that all Food in Jars readers can get 10% off your purchase by using the code ” jars10.” Second, shipping is free if you order more than $25 worth of gear (if your order is less than that, shipping is a flat $4).

mason jar lifestyle sticker

Now, for the giveaway. Maggie from Mason Jar Lifestyle has offered up two $25 gift cards to the site. Here’s how to enter.

  1. Leave a comment on this post, sharing a jar accessory you’d like to have.
  2. Comments will close at 11:59 pm east coast time on Saturday, October 3, 2015. The winner will be chosen at random and will be posted to the blog on Sunday, October 4, 2015.
  3. Giveaway is open to US residents only (and is void where prohibited).
  4. One comment per person, please. Entries must be left on the blog.

Disclosure: I received an assortment of gear from the folks at Mason Jar Lifestyle for review and photography purposes at no cost to me. My opinions remain my own.