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Sauced and stewed: tomatoes finally get their day

| February 14, 2021 12:00 AM

On the last day of January, in one last nod to our least favorite month of the year, my husband and I canned 50 pounds of tomatoes.

You may be thinking it’s certainly the wrong time of year to be processing last fall’s tomato crop, and you’re absolutely right. But serious food preservationists out there no doubt will readily recall the Great Canning Lid Shortage of 2020, when food processors were searching everywhere for lids, to no avail.

It was a perfect storm for serious canners. The pandemic prompted scads of people to try their hand at gardening, and then canning. And it was a bountiful year, at least in our neighborhood. With a 6-gallon crock of sauerkraut ready to put up in jars and a 25-pound bag of beets my husband thought we needed, we were desperate for canning lids.

At one point we scored a single package of wide-mouth lids at Glacier Produce and thought we’d struck gold. I bought a flat of jelly jars, even though we have so, so many jars, just to use the lids and rings. Our daughters searched in their locales, and everyone was in the same boat — no lids.

We had no choice but to bag up our tomatoes and freeze them. Eventually, the supply caught up with the demand and lids were back on the shelves.

And so it was that on Jan. 31 we brought out our industrial-sized stainless steel pots and commenced canning the tomatoes, making them into sauce and stewed tomatoes.

I’m sure I’ve written before about the Hintze family being recreational canners. These people can for entertainment, as I found out early on in our marriage when the in-laws showed up one sweltering July day, insisting we can the hundred pounds of cherries they’d brought with them after scoring a heck-of-a-deal-don’t-ya-know, from some fruit stand.

I’m no stranger to canning. Mom always had a big garden and I helped her process the vegetables, but the Hintzes take it to a whole new level.

I’ve fallen in line with the tradition, and if you open my fridge at this very moment, you’ll find canned jars of salsa, peach salsa, pickle relish, dill pickles, sauerkraut, rhubarb/apricot jam, beet pickles, pepper rings, applesauce, huckleberry jam and elderberry syrup.

After spending so much time together toiling at the stove (we also have a three-burner camp stove in our makeshift canning “kitchen” in the enclosed back porch) we’ve developed our own canning dance, if you will, each knowing the tasks and movements needed to fill each jar.

It’s a productive hobby, and it’s fun to watch the colorful jars stack up in the basement each fall. As the seed catalogs now flood our mailbox, there’s the age-old yearning to look ahead to spring and ponder what this year’s garden will hold. My husband is sure we don’t need to make sauerkraut this year, and he’s right. But I’ll probably plant the cabbage anyway.

News Editor Lynnette Hintze may be reached at 758-4421 or lhintze@dailyinterlake.com.