September 26th, 2011 § 5

The end of summer arrived in our house like a dinner guest who shows up 20 minutes early, just as you’re getting dressed. Hi! Come on in! We had vague plans to do tomatoes, since we’ve spent the past two winters enjoying a home-canned supply, but were starting to doubt we’d have the time.


Then a couple of weeks ago, a friend of a friend called to say she had a surplus of crabapples, and would we like any? We were expecting a little basket of them, and got a 5-gallon pail.


It was like being given a puppy. We had no idea what to do. The crabapples sat in a corner of the kitchen and listened to us debate their fate for a week. We don’t like jelly. Maybe we can freeze them and add them to protein shakes. Do you have take the seeds out?  Let’s take them out back tonight and compost them. No. They were a gift. We can’t just throw them out.

Then one night we stewed some plums to serve alongside a seared duck breast, and tasted in their purple the glory of late summer. We decided to stop everything, take two days off, and get as much of the season into jars as we could.



We discovered a trick this year that makes skinning tomatoes much easier: cut the top off the tomato and make a fine line vertically down the length of the tomato before you put it in the blanching water. You’ll be able to see the skin of the tomato start to peel away from the flesh. That’s the sign it’s ready.  Remove the tomato to a cool water bath to help make handling easier. You’ll see that the skin slips right off.

The crabapples have gone whole into a syrup of cider vinegar and brown sugar, with cloves, black pepper, cinnamon, star anise, and cardamom. They are reminiscent of Julia Child’s ‘curried’ cranberry chutney, and wonderful with cheese. The syrup also makes an interestingly sour and snappy cocktail.

The apples were about as hard to do as Saturday night dishes, so we did plums the same night. Water, sugar, and plums, boiled in jars for 15 minutes. We felt pretty silly for spending so much energy avoiding our Mason jars for the past month. So we went to Jean-Talon market and scooped up what was surely the last of the year’s tomato harvest. A bushel of Romas and a bushel of a hybrid called ‘Samarsanne’ – which when pronounced just the right way sounds just like ’summer sun.’


Related Posts with Thumbnails


§ 5 Responses to “candemonium”

  • OMG–you are so industrious! I discovered a crabapple tree on the edge of our property and have been in a panic about what to do. (And what do you mean you don’t like jelly? At all?) Did you ever post your directions for canning tomatoes? I need to learn the best, quickest way…

  • Rob says:

    Well, there are some jellies we like – David was exaggerating. This book is our definitive source for canning.

  • Victor says:

    Aren’t canned plums marvelous? One thing I like to do (say in mid-winter) is to crack open a few jars, squeeze out the stones, reduce the liquid (if needed) or partially drain, thicken with cornstarch, season with cardamom and lime zest, cover with crumble topping (as for apple crisp), and bake. YUMMY.

    It looks like you cold-packed the plums. They hold their shape a little better this way though will still be soft. If you hot-pack instead, the plums shrink and soften before you pack them, so you can get more fruit and less syrup in each jar. Less jars and lids used, less processing time (fewer batches to run through the canner), and less storage space taken up.

    As for crabapples, spiced crabapples are yummy, but don’t overlook crabapple jelly. The nice thing about making your own jelly is the control you have–mine has flavour beyond sweetness. Crabapple jelly is one of my faves though I haven’t made it in a few years, and it’s not complicated to make.

    Time to get off the computer, get out to buy a new foodmill (old one broke), and make some applesauce. Just apples, with the minimum amount of water needed, no sugar or spices. Mmmmm.

  • David says:

    Victor, thanks for solving the mystery of the shrinking plums. My parents used to can them, and the jars I ended up with looked nothing like the ones I grew up with. They must have hot packed. I didn’t expect the skins to burst, either, but of course, why wouldn’t they? I’m not canning again before a lengthy brainstorm with you.

  • David says:

    Laura, the process we use for tomatoes is easy:

    Wash the jars in the dishwasher, and boil the lids and rings. Fill pint jars with a quarter tsp. of citric acid and a scant tsp. of fine sea salt. (Double for quart jars.) Blanch and skin the tomatoes, slice them in half, and pack them into the jars. You can leave them whole if they’re small. Clean the mouths of the jars, close with lids and rings, and boil for 40 min.

    The most trying part of the process is waiting for the water to come back to the boil between batches. We saved a lot of time this year by positioning the vat of water over two gas burners instead of one.