In the past week, I have done 2 canning sessions, resulting in 30 pints of raw-packed tomatoes, following the instructions found at The Bitten Word.
Canning tomatoes this year reminds me of Tina (pronounced TINE-ah) Leonard.
Tina Leonard was a lady in my father's church when I was in the early years of high school. She raised tomatoes year round - outside in good weather, in hot houses in the bad weather. They were sold as Leonard Farm tomatoes at the local grocery stores. And they sold out FAST!
My mother was in LOVE with Tina's tomatoes. Not being a tomato fan myself, I can't really tell you what the appeal was, but everybody in 2 counties knew they were the best.
Which is why it was such an honor to be allowed to can tomatoes with Tina. I honestly don't remember if my mom already knew how to can, but didn't have the stuff, or maybe just didn't know how to do tomatoes? I remember years and years of canned green beans from 1994 (a bumper crop of beans from my dad's garden), so maybe it was just that we didn't have tomatoes. Or tomatoes as good as Tina's.
Anyway, one morning, my mom drove my brother and I out to Tina's farm and we spent all day canning tomatoes. We washed, we diced, we squished, we slopped. Yep, all tomato rejects and leftovers were carried out to the pigs, my brother and I taking turns with the 5 gallon buckets, slopping the pigs.
Did I mention I wasn't a tomato fan?
At that point in my life, it is more honest to say I really really really didn't like tomatoes. And I had to squish them, with my bare hands, for almost 2 hours that day. I remember thinking it was SO GROSS!! But Tina (and my mother) would tolerate no whiners. It was tomato canning day, I was there, I was going to help.
We made sauce and salsa, canned tomatoes whole and diced and crushed. I'm pretty sure we came home with a sampling of everything.
It wouldn't be that big of a memory, except that Tina's life ended tragically not long after that.
And so this morning, I was dicing up another basketful of tomatoes, thinking about how I really don't like tomatoes. I don't even really like spaghetti sauce anymore. I KNOW I don't do salsa (Though I have about 10 cups of homemade salsa in the freezer for Mr. Curly). And yet, here I am, dicing tomatoes, squeezing them into pint jars for canning so that this winter I can make homemade spaghetti sauce (Mr. Curly's favorite and a fun Christmas gift), so I can learn to make pizza sauce (because I LOVE pizza), so I can make more fresh salsa when needed.
And I thought of that day at Tina's farm. Cringing at the feeling of tomatoes squishing between my fingers, and yet doing it anyway, because it was tomato canning day, and somebody would want those tomatoes.
It was a good lesson. It was a good day.