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I think, therefore I can (at least in September)

By Penny Stine

I took a day off work so I could get some work done last week. I went to Rettig Farms on Orchard Mesa (thanks for the reminder, Carol) last Friday, where I picked two bushels of Roma tomatoes, one bushel of green chiles and a little less than half a bushel of red chiles. They roasted the green chiles for me while I picked tomatoes. All told, it cost me $41.75 and took about an hour and a half to pick all that produce.


Then I went home and the real work began.I’ve been canning with my friend, Jan of the awesome garden, this year. It doesn’t seem like work when you’re chatting and working at the same time. In addition to all the produce I bought, we had both picked all the tomatillos and tomatoes from our own gardens, too.



Yes, we had a mess in the kitchen. My husband complained that there was tomato juice on the walls. 


Our goal was to can tomatoes, make salsa, string two red chile ristras and can some tomatillo sauce. Although we peeled tomatoes like crazy women, we didn’t quite accomplish our goal in one day. We did, however, can 21 quarts of Italian tomatoes (with garlic and basil), 14 quarts of plain tomatoes and make another 16 or 17 pints of salsa. It was almost 8 p.m. by the time we’d done all that, so we called it good and planned to get together on Sunday to deal with the tomatillos.


Sunday afternoon saw us peeling a few more tomatoes, chopping tomatillos and heating up the canning kettle once more. We added some garlic, a couple habaneros, cumin, salt, a little lemon juice and some red chiles to the sauce to give it a Mexican flavor. It’s neither green like the tomatillos nor red like the tomatoes, but somewhere in between. Almost the color of cumin.

We ended up with 18 quarts of tomatillo sauce and had plenty of time to string ristras while the jars were processing.

The sauce is delish, perfect for green chile, posole, chilaquiles, enchiladas, taco soup, tortilla soup with chicken – all those southwestern comfort food dishes that get you through the winter. I used a little bit of it (along with chopped roasted chiles, garlic and instant coffee) as a marinade for London broil last night, and it was way yummy.

Tomatillos will keep producing until it freezes, so we’ll probably make more sauce over the next several weekends. Jan and I both want to make another ristra, too, ‘cuz one just isn’t enough.

Btw, I bought some of the reusable canning lids that are manufactured at the Incubator Center. They’re more expensive, (I think they cost about $10 for a dozen – available at the Fruita or the Palisade co-op or online) but since I’ve been canning for 25 years now, I have no doubt that I will continue to can every harvest and I will appreciate having them next year.


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