August 27: Canning Tomatoes
In the northern Catskill Mountains, the site of the haunted world of 18th-century Dutch New York as described by Washington Irving, the tomato crop arrives in late August with a vengeance. Suddenly, after tomatoes in the farm stands have been somewhat scarce and relatively expensive since late July, they burst onto the scene with such ferocity that plants are crushed to the ground by weight of the fruit, and half the tomatoes never get picked, falling to the ground and slowly liquefying.
The farm stands put on a game face and try to keep the price high by making little fixed-price displays of perfect fruit, while hiding boxes upon boxes under the counter, with discreet price tags announcing prices that amount to less than 50 cents a pound, often for fruit that is at the peak of ripeness.
Thus it was that a friend and I bought an entire box of tomatoes, numbering more than 60, for the very modest price of $15. Our intention was to can them, Little House on the Prairie-style. There being no cell phone reception in this part of Schoharie County, we relied on the recipe furnished on the back of the box of 12 one-quart mason jars that we bought at the Grand Union in Middleburgh, costing a little more than a dollar apiece.
We began by washing out the jars, then sterilizing them. Next we plunged the tomatoes in rapidly boiling water for a minute, then in cold water for a minute. This loosened the skins, allowing us to easily peel the fruit using the point of a paring knife.