Friday, August 21, 2009

mission possible

I fell into a great pile of research yesterday concerning canning tomatoes. As previously mentioned, I have intent and desire to ransack the local farmers market this weekend and gather pound upon pound of the seasonal wonder; I’m not waiting another year. And as a matter of utility, it should be noted that I go through piles of canned tomatoes during the year…piles. What I suspected but hadn’t really researched was the amount of material available, and required, to successfully and safely can tomatoes; I feel like I’ve completed a credit-based college chemistry course: pH value, botulism, altitude, etc. Not only that, I’ve been well-briefed on the engineering and mechanics behind boiling water canners and pressure canners. I expect to receive at least three semester hours of credit from some institution of higher learning. I set out to find a boiling water canner (better known as a huge pot with a lid and a jarring rack in the bottom) at Sur La Table. I walked around spying everything but what I needed; well, I don’t mean needed-needed – there are loads of things I need in Sur La Table – but things I mostly couldn’t afford to buy right now (“Hello, KitchenAide mixer and ceramic knife set!”). As I’m moving toward the door I crossed paths with an employee and ask her if they, by chance, have any boiling water canners hidden in a back room. I follow her to the register area assuming that she’s planning on hitting the computer to see if they even sell them when she suddenly puts her paws on a big canner right on her counter. It was sort of stunning – why on Earth? Someone had called earlier and she’d brought it up to the counter was her witch-like story. She assured me that the caller only asked “if they had any” when and I could have this sole unit if I wanted it. I wanted; out I walked with my $30 canner. The Eleven headed to Ayer’s Hardware after getting home and bought a dozen 1-qt. Bell mason jars, a package of lids and bands, and a kit of canning tools. I haven’t sorted out exactly how Laura Ingalls and kin managed canning in the olden days but it takes some planning and experience. I think my planning is in order and now I’m ready to work on experience. Come back this weekend for pictures from my lab. One more thing before I move along - I’m a bit indecisive on securing tomatoes: the options seem to be either showing up at the crack of the market’s opening bell and finding someone to sell me a whole flat of tomatoes at some discount or, finding a vendor that would rather sell me a flat at the end of the day; maybe some quality but not so perfect toms that can be used for sauce. Ideas?

I’ve decided that I want to discuss cookbooks and I’m going to pass along a list of four or five that have been tried and true for me. What’s brought this is up remembering X talking about one of her law school pals who has no ability to cook much of anything and it’s impedes a few things: actual eating and entertaining/impressing chicks. As I recall, it took me quite awhile to get comfortable cooking – lots of practice and practical recipe goals – before I was willing to give just about anything a go. I distinctly remember when the idea of cooking fish scared me to death. I still routinely mess-up when cooking but more times than not it’s recoverable due simply to comfort. I have some books that helped me quite a lot and I think most of them are nearly foolproof…being that I was the fool and I’ve survived as proof.

I’ll bang away at that while I’m at home watching Gran Torino tonight.

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