Canning Homemade Tomato Soup

Got a call yesterday afternoon from my sister asking if I needed any more tomatoes for my canning.  Turns out the Fishnet Ministries located in Jacksonville had received a shipment of 80,000 pounds of Roma tomatoes and had no way of refrigerating them.  A call went out to churches and the general public asking for help boxing up the tomatoes and getting them to those who could use them.  Wow!  FREE tomatoes (as many as you want)!  After ending the call with my sister I immediately started calling around members of my church who I thought would be interested in doing some canning.

E likes to go around quoting, “You don’t work; you don’t eat!” a lot of times, and today just proved the statement to be a solid truth.  In order to benefit from the free tomatoes, we had to go help box them from 5-7 a.m.  Up at 3:45 a.m. I headed out the door shortly after 4 to be at the Fishnet Ministries’ warehouse.  My sister and two older nephews met me there and we all dove right in to help empty as many crates as possible.  It felt like I had gone back in time and  was up to work the 4 a.m. to 1 p.m. shift at McDonald’s like I did during my high school years and summer/winter breaks of college. Oh the memories…. Haha!

The pallets were stacked three high and filled almost every available aisle inside the warehouse.  On the outside, they were stacked four high and lined the outside walls.

We’re talking a LOT of tomatoes!!!  In the short amount of time we were able to help, our small group was able to unload 4 1/2 crates which were the size of small swimming pools.

2014-07-17 05.23.20

Here is just a portion of the boxes of tomatoes we loaded up in our vehicles to take home to either can ourselves or give to friends from church.  Can’t beat free food!!!

The timing of this blessing couldn’t have been better since my mom is here visiting for a few days and was able to walk me through my first batch of tomato soup.  Yippee! 🙂  Not that I couldn’t do it on my own with her written instructions, but it sure is nice for this auditory and visual learner to be able to do it along side her so I don’t make any mistakes.

What you will need to can a single batch of homemade tomato soup:

SUPPLIES

  • 3 stock pots (or 2 stock pots and several large soup pots)
  • Canner
  • Quart jars (approx. 14-15)
  • Canning lids
  • Canning rings/bands
  • Funnel
  • Ladel
  • Long spoon for stirring
  • Knife
  • Juicer (used my KitchenAid with juicer attachment)
  • Long whisk

INGREDIENTS

  • 26 pounds tomatoes (1/2 a bushel)
  • Whole  bunch of celery
  • 14 T. onion powder
  • 6 Bay Leaves
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1/4 C. salt
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pepper (more if you like your soup spicy)
  • 2 sticks butter
  • 1 C. flour

Start by weighing your tomatoes to ensure you have the needed 1/2 bushel.  FYI, I looked it up online to find that a full bushel of tomatoes weighs 53 pounds.  Just thought you would want to know that little tidbit of info. 🙂  You’ll notice I’m not using a fancy kitchen scale – primarily because I don’t own one.  Instead a handy bathroom scale will suffice.

After you’ve weighed your tomatoes, place inside a clean sink and fill with water to give them a good wash.  Using a sharp knife, cut each one in half to ensure there are no bad spots then throw them into the stock pots (dividing the tomatoes between the two pots).

Wash your celery then divide into two sections.  Cut off the bottoms and the ends if they are bad.  Cut the celery into pieces no longer than the length from the tip of your index finger to the knuckle.  You don’t want them too big because they will get stuck inside your juicer.   Leaves and all get thrown into the pots.

Add three Bay Leaves to each pot (more if the leaves are small and broken).

Add 7 T. onion powder to each pot then cover and place on medium-high heat to cook.  As the tomatoes begin to cook down, you can begin mashing them to release the juices then turn up the heat.  Don’t increase the heat until you have enough juice otherwise the tomatoes will burn!

Check your pots and stir the contents every 15-20 minutes or so to ensure that nothing starts to burn at the bottom.  This part of the recipe takes F-O-R-E-V-E-R!!! 🙂  You’ll know it’s been cooked through when the celery is tender.  To help it cook faster, push all the pieces of celery under the liquid.

After the tomatoes have cooked down, scoop out a cup at a time and press down into your juicer.  It helps to use the mixer bowl to catch the soup in because the handle makes it easier to pour into the larger pot.  Don’t forget you are working with hot, hot stuff!

Pour the juice into the third stockpot or smaller pots/containers until all the tomatoes have gone through the juicer.  If you don’t have a third stockpot, wash out one that you finish emptying and pour the soup into it.  All the juice will fill one stockpot when you are done.

As soon as you finish juicing all the mixture, get your water canner on the stove to start heating.  Remember to have something on the bottom of the canner to prevent the jars from coming into direct contact with the metal.  I used the inside piece from my pressure canner, but you can use some butter knives, canning lids or canning rings.  Just anything that will elevate your jars.

Whisk in

  • 1/4 C. salt
  • 3/4 C. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp. pepper

and bring to a boil

The original recipe called for 2 sticks melted margarine mixed with 1 C. flour but this is what it turned into….BLAH!  Scratch that one!

Instead I used 2 sticks melted BUTTER and 1 C. flour and got this instead.  Success!  So if you think you can cheat and use the cheap ole’ margarine, DON’T. You will certainly regret ruining your batch of soup.

Slowly add the flour/butter mixture to the soup whisking the entire time.  (Now I know why my mom was so happy we bought her an immersion blender for Christmas this past year. Wow!  Talk about an arm workout when using a whisk!)

Prepare 7 quart jars (need to be really hot – like straight from the steam setting on your dishwasher), lids (boiled inside a small saucepan), and canning rings/bands.  Fill each jar leaving a 1/2-inch head space, clean tops with a clean, damp cloth ensuring there is no food or cracks along the surface, then place a hot lid on top and tighten down with a band.  For more step-by-step instructions on the canning process, head over here.

Process in a hot water canner for 20 minutes then remove and let rest for 24 hours before removing bands and storing.  If the lid pops up after you press down on it, it means the jar didn’t seal properly so place inside your refrigerator to eat in the next couple of days.

Didn’t have quite enough to fill a whole quart jar, so that one will be Tim’s lunch for tomorrow. Perfect for a stormy day! 🙂

Final Price = $0.31/quart…. Wahoo!!!

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Isaac’s Interstellar Entourage

It’s the middle of July meaning we have less than 3 months left to get our team put together and everyone register for the 3rd Annual Central Arkansas Buddy Walk.  Yay!

This year we are making our team official by coming up with a name and ordering t-shirts for those who want to join us.

Introducing…

Depending on how many would like a team shirt, the cost will be $10 or less.  Will have an exact amount when I place the final order the middle of September.  Let me know as soon as possible if you are interested and what size you need!  Feel free to bring lightsabers and Star Wars masks, you name it. 🙂  I’ve got my eye on a toddler Princess Leia outfit for little H and possibly a child-sized Wookie or Yoda outfit for A.  E and I want to be Jedi. Haha!  This is going to be sooo much fun!!!

We would love for everyone to come join us and show little Iz-O all the love and support possible on this special day.  The registration deadline is September 26th.  For those of you who won’t be able to join us on the walk in person, you can still join our team and show your support financially by making a donation under our team’s name.  Click on the links to print the needed forms.

What is a Buddy Walk®?  The Buddy Walk® was developed by the National Down Syndrome Society in 1995 to celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month in October and to promote acceptance and inclusion of people with Down syndrome.  The Buddy Walk® has grown for 17 walks in 1995 to nearly 300 walks planned for 2014 worldwide.  In 2013, more than $12.2 million was raised nationwide to benefit local programs and services, as well as the national advocacy and public awareness initiatives of NDSS that benefit all individuals with Down syndrome.

Funds raised by the Central Arkansas Buddy Walk will go to help Arkansas Special Olympics, Miracle League, Arkansas Down Syndrome Association, the National Down Syndrome Society, and Central Arkansas Buddy Talk.

1st Annual Central Arkansas Buddy Walk (2012)

2nd Annual Central Arkansas Buddy Walk (2013)

I know there are so many other really great causes out there that deserve our attention and donations, but this is truly the most important event for our family since it not only helps encourage and build friendships with other DS families, it is an incredible opportunity to raise positive awareness.  At last year’s event, while setting up the tables at registration, we had people walk up to us and start asking questions about what it was for and other details.  Any opportunity like that to share the joys of DS is a worthy cause.  Just the other day while eating lunch with the boys at Sam’s Club, a little girl got up to leave with her family and turned around to stare more at I and said quite loudly, “That boy is weird and looks ugly!”  My first reaction was anger – at her cruelty and her parents for not correcting her, but then my broken heart overcame my anger.  Ignorance and the lack of compassion is something that we need to strive daily to overcome.  I wonder if that family had ever had the privilege of spending time with individuals with DS?  My guess is the answer is NO for if they had, their lives would have been changed for the better and the cruel words would have instead been a friendly smile and wave.

Spreading positive DS awareness helps stamp out the ignorance and negative stereo types as well as gives people the opportunity to develop compassion and understanding when spending time around those with DS and their loved ones.

Graham Cracker Cake (Overnight Cake)

The kids are all excited about celebrating July 4th with their cousins this year, and so am I for that matter.  It’s not like we have a ton of July 4th-ish traditions, but a fun family BBQ full of craziness seems to be the perfect way to celebrate a special day.

While many people are slaving over having all the red,white and blue imaginable at their shindig (the Pinterest site must be going into overload!) , I decided to go the easy route and just make a simple yet delicious family favorite.  Just because it doesn’t look like someone threw up the national colors all over it doesn’t mean it is any less festive. 🙂  I love people who have the talent and time for throwing huge festive parties with all the fancy, homemade decorations and matching food.  But here’s the truth, I think it’s impossible for me to EVER be one of those people.   I’m content with good food, good fellowship with friends and family, and easy cleanup.  It’s not going to ruin my day because the plates and cups all don’t match the food color palate and we don’t have ribbons and balloons everywhere.   Yup, that’s me… Plain Jane at it’s best.  Haha!

I know I’ve seen this type of cake recipe floating around out there, but here’s my take on it….

Start by mixing 3 1/2 C. cold milk with 2 sm. packages vanilla pudding inside your mixer.

Beat until pudding begins to form peaks.  Don’t over-mix!

Add one regular size container of thawed Cool Whip.

Mix until well combined.  Scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl since the pudding is heavier than the whip cream and likes to settle at the bottom.

You will need a full box of Graham Crackers for this cake so don’t let your kids snack on any beforehand.  You will need EVERY SINGLE CRACKER seriously!

Use a sharp knife to trim the sides of the crackers to fit the rounded corners of your 9×13 pan.  Lay your crackers out so that the entire pan is evenly covered.  It’s just like laying lasagna noodles.

Alternate sides that have the smaller “filler” cracker pieces so that the cake holds together better.

Pour half the pudding mixture over the Graham Crackers and carefully spread to cover the pan.

Repeat the last steps ending with a final third layer of Graham Crackers as the top layer.  Set aside while you make the frosting.

In a small saucepan on medium heat, mix together 2 T. butter and 1/4 C. water.  Once butter is melted, add 1/2 tsp. vanilla and 2 oz. (1/4 C.) chocolate chips.  Stir until chocolate is completely melted.  Next add 2 C. powered sugar and whisk until all lumps are removed.  Quickly pour the hot mixture over the cake and frost.  The chocolate cools and hardens quickly so you really need to move on this final step.

If you don’t want to make the frosting from scratch, take a regular size container of store-bought chocolate frosting and place opened inside a microwave for approximately 30 seconds.  Stir and heat more (if needed) then pour over the cake and spread.

Cover and place inside your refrigerator overnight (hense the name “Overnight Cake”).

Two Mud Magnets

My last post was dedicated to E, so I thought this next one should focus on my two little cyclones – I and A.

I’m glad we took some quick snap shots to memorialize their latest escapade since I’m sure it will one day become one of those “Arrg, Moooom!” moments. Hehe!  When I’m old(er) and really wrinkled I’ll be able to pull these out and get a good laugh for the day.

While Tim and I were outside keeping an eye on the flocks of keets and chicks that we had let out of the pen in order to train, we let the boys play on the slide and swings.  Just when our attention was diverted elsewhere for a moment, they found their way over to the mud puddle and dived in – literally!

They were having such a great time, it was impossible to pull them away and end their merry mud making adventure.

This picture of I cracks me up because it looks like he sprouted the hereditary “Woosley” eyebrows.  Haha!  He just needs a dark cape and hat and he could be a classic storybook villain. 🙂

The brothers that play in the mud together, stick together – and I’m thinking that could be literal when the muck dries!

Praise the Lord for homestead living!  Instead of having to deal with the incredible muddy mess inside the house, the boys enjoyed the freedom of stripping down outside for a little “hosing off” before getting into the bath.  I enjoyed not having to spend the remainder of the evening cleaning mud off every walking surface inside the house!

Let’s just say it was a much-needed outside shower for these two!

Nothing better than getting all messy then getting to run through the sprinkler in the buff especially when the sprinkler has warm water coming out of it from being warmed by the sun all day. 🙂

Haha!  Good memory-making evening with these two little mud magnets.  Even after being hosed off outside, the bath water still turned a murky brown. Eewww!