Tuesday, March 26, 2013

The Genetically Modified Issue

Many of you may be familiar with the issue of genetically modified organisms (GMO's) that is getting a lot of press these days, but for those of you who may have heard about it and aren't sure what exactly this is all about, I thought it was a good topic for this blog to give an overview of what GMO's are and why there is so much controversy out there.  

GM-huh??!!  What the heck is it!?

A GMO may also be referred to as Genetically Modified (GM) or Genetically Engineered (GE).  They can be a plant or an animal (including viruses and bacteria).  GMO's are created using biotechnology to splice genes and combine the DNA of different organisms  These organisms would not be found in nature because of crossbreeding and can occur only through human manipulation. (source)

Why are GMO's created?

GMO's began to be created in the 1990's with the initial goal of improving "crop protection" from insects, viruses, and weeds.  For example, a gene which produces a bacterial toxin (which kills insects) can be incorporated into the plant's genetic material in order to reduce the need for spraying with insecticides.  (My question then becomes, what does this bacterial toxin do to my body if it can kill bugs??)  (source)

That technology sounds cool - why should I care or be concerned?

The biggest reason for concern (at least that  first caught my attention) is the risk to human health.  GMO's are not well regulated in the US - it is voluntarily self-regulated by the industry.  Apparently Europe does a little better of a job of regulating GMO's, but still it is insufficient.  In the US, a biotech company has to show that their GMO is "substantially equivalent" to it's non-GM alternative, but this term has not been legally nor scientifically defined.  So this means that a biotech industry can do a safety study - which isn't published or peer reviewed - and define for itself if their GMO is "substantially equivalent" and the FDA will approve it for human consumption.  Additionally, pro-GM lobbyists (who are well-funded by the biotech industry) have a lot of influence over the US's regulatory process, keeping it weak.  And biotech companies restrict access to independent researchers who want to complete non-biased third-party research, so the real truth of the safety of these GMO's is kept from the consumer. (source)  Studies have shown that the pesticide glyphosate (Roundup) is linked to non-Hodgkins lymphoma, and DNA damage which can ultimately lead to cancer or birth defects. There is also evidence that GMO's can cause potentially life-threatening allergies and damage the gastro-intestinal system. (source)

The other big reason for concern is GMO's effects on the environment.  GM crops have increased the use of pesticides by 383 million pounds in the US after being in use for 13 years, and without an increased yield in crop production when compared to some non-GM crops.  Herbicide use has also been increased because GM crops caused reliance on one herbicide (glyphosate) which resulted in herbicide-resistant superweeds and the subsequent need to increase herbicide use - including herbicides linked to cancer, developmental and reproductive effects, endocrine system damage, and liver and kidney damage.  Crops which are toxic to insects are not specific to target unwanted pests, but also kill beneficial insect pest predators and soil organisms as well.  Diversity created through traditional cross-breeding is much more effective in creating crops with greater resistance to insects/weeds/disease and thereby result in higher yields. (source)

Additionally, GM crops contaminate non-GM crops because of pollen drift or seed mixing.  This has a big impact on farmers who do not want to grow GM-crops and because they risk being sued by biotech industries because GM crops are patented.  Farmers then have to purchase insurance to protect themselves, which is a financial burden (often these farms are smaller) - a burden which should be upon the shoulders of the biotech industry who creates these seeds in the first place.  (source)

What crops and animals are genetically modified?

Here are some of the most common GM crops (source):

  • Soy - in 2011, 94% of soy crops in the US were GM.  Watch out for anything made with soy (soy sauce, tofu, lecithin, and of course soy beans).
  • Cottonseed - in 2011, 90% of the US crops were GM.  This means products like margarine and salad dressings which use cottonseed oil could contain GMO's.
  • Corn - again, 88% of US crops were GM in 2011.  Remember not just corn itself can be GM, but products derived from corn like high fructose corn syrup and corn starch often contain GMO's.
  • Canola - 90% of US crops in 2010 were GM.  Canola oil and sprays with canola oil probably contain GMO's.
  • Papaya - 80% of papayas grown in the US in 2010 were GM.  
  • Sugar Beets - in 2009, 95% of US crops were GM.  Any conventional sugar or sugar products that do not specifically say "pure cane sugar" in the ingredients list can contain sugar made from sugar beets that were GM.
  • Aspartame is an artificial sweetener made from GMO's.  Anything containing aspartame, i.e. Equal or Nutrasweet, is made from GMO's.
  • Zucchini and yellow squash
  • Alfalfa - was first planted in 2011.  This means alfalfa sprouts that are put on sandwiches, and alfalfa that is fed to animals.
  • Animal products such as milk, meat, eggs, and honey - because of contamination in animal feed.
  • Salmon - most recently the company AquaBounty has sought FDA approval for a GM salmon.  This has had a lot of resistance and is a big deal because of potential harmful effects on the environment should any of these "frankenfish" get loose into the wild, who knows how it would effect the natural ecosystem!  You can read more about this issue here.

Some ingredients derived from GMO's (source):

  • Amino Acids
  • Ascorbic Acid
  • Sodium Ascorbate
  • Vitamin C
  • Citric Acid
  • Sodium Citrate
  • Ethanol
  • Flavorings ("natural" and "artificial")
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
  • Lactic Acid
  • Maltodextrins
  • Molasses
  • Monosodium Glutamate
  • Sucrose
  • Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
  • Xantham Gum
  • Vitamins (see this article I just found!)
  • Yeast Products

How can I avoid consuming GM food?

Read those labels!  Look for the Non-GMO Project Verified label or buy USDA certified organic products.    The USDA doesn't require testing for GMO's, so accidental contamination can occur; the Non-GMO project requires that products sporting their label contain .9% or less GMO's.  Avoid the above high-risk ingredients and especially avoid processed foods.  Be careful in restaurants, as you have less control over the ingredients in your food.  And you can plant and grow your own organic seeds!  Have some fun in the dirt!  (source)

How can I make a difference in the regulatory process of GM foods in the US?

There are several organizations out there that provide information on GMO's and that also lobby for changes in our food system.  They often put out petitions that you can sign so that your voice can be heard.  Some that I follow or have found through my research for this post are:

You can like these organizations on facebook, which is a great way to stay in the loop with new petitions and news on the GMO issue.

What is going on around the USA and around the world regarding GMO's?

California had a bill - Prop 37 - to label GMO's on their ballot last fall that was defeated (by a fairly small margin and with rumors of election fraud).  Many companies spent millions of dollars speaking against this bill -  major biotech companies like Monsanto, Dupont, and Syngenta, as well as commercial food companies like Pepsi, Nestle, General Mills, Kellogg's, Coca-Cola, and Kraft Foods. (source)

While a federal bill is in the works, many states are working on passing their own GMO labeling laws.  This includes:  Arizona, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Massachussetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, and Washington. (source)  More than 60 countries require the labeling of GMO's, including: European Union, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, China, Saudi Arabia, South Korea, Thailand, Indonesia, Brazil, Venezuela, Taiwan, Russia, India, Chile, and South Africa. (source)  

I find it interesting that in the US, we don't have the right to know what we are eating, and are falling behind all these countries which have had these laws in place for years.  If food needs to be labeled if it contains wheat or soy or dairy, it should be the same for GMO's.  I also find it interesting that the same companies that fought against Prop 37 in California often simply make their products which are sold there without GMO's, rather than labeling their products.  If they don't want to label it, why not??

Well...I hope that wasn't too much information, but that I could give you a better idea of what GMO's really are, why they are a concern, and how you can not only protect yourself from their harmful effects but also make a difference in legislation regarding the regulation of GMO's in our food system and our right to know what products contain them!  

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Do you know what is in your laundry detergent?  Most cleaning products on the store shelves do not fully disclose their ingredients - at least not in a language that I can understand. And like our cosmetics, as I have discussed previously, the chemicals in them may not even be tested for safety. Check out the Environmental Working Group's rating of various laundry products in their Guide to Healthy Cleaning here.   

Since I don't want unsafe chemicals on my clothes (and subsequently against my skin - for hours at a time - being absorbed into my body), I choose to make my own laundry detergent.  There are several recipes out there, and they are all fairly simple and use just a few easy to find ingredients.  I make a dry  detergent, but you can also make it into a gel/liquid version...I have never tried this, mainly because I don't feel like bothering with the extra step, and also because I would need to purchase a large container to hold it.

OK - for the recipe:

1 bar Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap (may use any scent you like - I use the tea tree oil bar)
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda

1.  Once you gather your ingredients, you will need to FINELY grate the soap.  I use my Pampered Chef Microplane Adjustable Fine Grater, but you could also use a food processor to make the soap into a nice powder.

The grated soap almost totally fills my container!  But it compacts just fine once I add the Borax and Washing Soda - don't worry, it will all fit!
2.  Put all your grated soap into whatever container you are going to use, and then add the Borax and Washing Soda (can be found in the laundry aisle of your local grocery store).  Mix well, or put the cover on and give it a good shake.  

3.  I use one tablespoon for a regular load in my top-loading washing machine (I recycled a protein powder scoop to measure this out).  You can use more or less depending on the size of your load of laundry and how soiled the clothes are.  I have not officially tracked how many loads of laundry this lasts me, as I often have loads of varying size, but somewhere between 32-40ish.  Now you can wear your clothes with the peace of mind that nothing dangerous is seeping into your body!

Alternative liquid/gel version:

1 bar Dr. Bronner's Castile Soap
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda

1.  Melt grated soap in 1 gallon of water.

2  Mix in washing soda and borax.

3.  Put into a 5 gallon bucket and add 3 gallons of water; stir.

4.  Add essential oils of your choice (7-8 drops), if desired.  Mixture will gel after ~24 hours.

5.  Use 1/2 cup for a regular load, again - more or less depending on size of load/how soiled the clothes are.  

For additional information about making your own laundry detergent and an alternate recipe, check out this blog post from Little House in the Suburbs.  And for some insight into the debate on the safety of Borax, check out this post from Crunchy Betty (I personally agree with her conclusion based on the evidence, that it is safe for home cleaning, but I wouldn't want to ingest it).

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

A Fresh Start for 2013...

...a fresh start for your stinky pit, that is!  When I talk to people about the changes I've made to reduce my exposure to untested, unregulated chemicals in my body care products, people seem to be most impressed that I make my own deodorant.  Ha!  In reality, it is super easy...4-5 ingredients, and it takes all of 15 minutes to put it together.  And you can customize it to meet the needs of your body's chemistry.  

Here are some ingredients common to conventional antiperspirant/deodorants:

  • Fragrances: rated 8 on EWG's Skindeep cosmetic database.
  • Aluminum based compounds: linked to increase risk of cancer, specifically breast cancer.
  • Propylene Glycol (PG): originally created as an anit-freeze and a known neurotoxin.
  • Parabens
  • Triclosan
  • TEA
  • DEA

Please see this article from Natural Cosmetic News, where I found most of this information, and where you can find information about studies on the ingredients in conventional antiperspirant/deodorants.  Please also use EWG's Skindeep cosmetic database to check out the safety of ingredients specific to the deodorant you may be currently using (you can find studies listed here as well).

And now for the recipe...

Homemade Deodorant


  • 9 tbsp extra-virgin organic coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp organic cornstarch (I have also heard you can use arrowroot)
  • 3 tbsp baking soda (I recommend choosing one that is aluminum-free)
  • 15-20 drops tea tree oil
  • 5-10 drops essential oil (i.e. lavender, peppermint, orange) - optional, for fragrance and additional bacteria-fighting power

Melt coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat.  

Turn off the heat.  Add cornstarch and baking soda; mix until there are no more clumps.  

Add essential oils.  Pour into a twist-up tube or into a jar.  

Allow to harden and use as you would regular deodorant.  If storing in a jar, you will need to apply it with your fingers.  I store them in the fridge, especially in the summertime.  This recipe makes about 3 2-oz tubes/jars.  Be sure to store in an area less than 76 degrees, otherwise the coconut oil will begin to melt.  If you discover you are still stinky, add more essential oils in your next batch.

As a sidenote, I recently tried a deodorant product called "Crystal Rock".  It is rated 0 on EWG, and is a mineral stick so I don't think it will melt.  So far my husband and I are having good results.  My understanding is that it will last quite a while - i.e. a whole year, with daily use.  I have also heard from a friend that it works well for her husband, but he needs something stronger when he plays sports.  

May your New Year be blessed...and fresh!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Make Your Own Fabric Softener

Who actually knows what is in fabric softener or those dryer sheets?  Sure they make our clothes smell nice and reduce the dreaded static cling, but that pesky "fragrance" or "perfume" can contain a slew of chemicals that the industry may or may not even know if they are safe for our health.  And then those chemicals are in our clothes, and against our skin (!!!), for hours...being absorbed into our bodies.  So, here is a recipe that I have been using for over a year now.  And you can even make it smell pretty depending on the essential oils you choose to use :-).  And the ingredients are edible (maybe not the essential oils so much) - can you eat your fabric softener???

1 cup baking soda
6 cups white vinegar
8 cups water
10-15 drops essential (I use tea tree, but lavender or whatever you like best works just as well!)

Basically, mix all ingredients in a large bowl or bucket.  I like to mix the baking soda and water first and stir until most of the baking soda dissolves.

Once you add the vinegar, it gets very bubbly as it reacts with the baking soda.  So don't make the mistake I did the first time and mix in a leftover vinegar bottle and attempt to shake instead of stir...trust me, it gets messy!

bubbles, bubbles, bubbles!

Once it is all mixed up, then it is safe to use a funnel and store it in old vinegar bottles.  Use it just as you would fabric softener you buy at the store.  And no need for dryer sheets!!  With the exception of fleece, I do not have issues with static causing my clothes to stick together.

Now if this recipes is a little bit too much work for your busy schedule, you can also use straight-up white vinegar.  Don't worry, your clothes won't smell like vinegar - once it's dried, vinegar loses its smell...but, you won't get the pretty scent like you would with the essential oils.  Oh yeah, and it's super cheap! Bonus feature!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Quick & Easy Foaming Hand Soap

"Antibacterial" and "Antimicrobial" products are all the rage these days.  You can buy hand sanitizer, antibacterial soaps and lotions, and antimicrobial towels, toys, and more.  But in reality, they really aren't the best products for you or for the environment.  The most common ingredients which make something "antibacterial" or "antimicrobial" are Triclosan and Triclocarbon.  Here are a few good reasons to avoid these ingredients:

  • They promote drug-resistant bacteria or "superbugs" - can we spell MRSA??
  • They can disrupt normal hormone function associated with brain and reproductive development, including thyroid hormone, estrogen, and testosterone levels.  This can affect learning, behavior, fertility, and the growth of cancerous cells.
  • Because these chemicals get washed down the drain, they get into our waterways.  They can disrupt normal ecosystems (the natural flora of bacteria) that is needed to support the lives and reproduction of animals - i.e. fish, frogs, etc.  Not to mention the quality and safety of our water.
Here is an article where I got some of this information, and there are some references to other articles and links at the bottom.  Here is another article from the Environmental Working Group specific to the effects of Triclosan.  It even mentions that the American Medical Association and the FDA do not recommend household use of products containing Triclosan due to the dangers of promoting superbugs and because this ingredient is no more effective in cleaning and killing germs than good old soap and hot water.

So what are the alternatives?  I am a big fan of cleansing products using essential oils.  For example, tea tree oil is antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal.  It's also safe to use in battling acne.  Lavender is another common essential oil effective against bacteria (it's also safe for all ages).  There is also thyme, which is a nice herbal scent for the kitchen, and orange oil, which is also good against grease.  Lemon, eucalyptus, rosemary, and lemongrass are other good choices.  Here is a chart that outlines some others and outlines their properties.

Dr. Bronners makes some excellent bar and liquid castile soaps.  I found the price to be better at my local grocery store for the bar soaps, but I buy the liquid versions at Vitacost.  They have a baby mild version which is unscented, and then several others which are already infused with essential oils (tea tree, citrus, peppermint to name a few).  I like to use the tea tree liquid soap as the base for my foaming hand soap.  Here is the recipe:


  • Foaming soap pump - Pampered Chef has one, or you can re-purpose one that you already have
  • Liquid Castile Soap of your choice - about 2 tbsp (it is VERY concentrated!)
  • ~12 drops total of your favorite essential oil or blend a few (optional - especially if using the soap which already is infused with tea tree oil).  You can also buy these at Vitacost or at your local grocery store or natural food store.
  • Water

1.  Put approximately 2 tbsp of soap into the soap pump.  This really does not have to be exact, just fill up the pump a little bit at the bottom.  The Pampered Chef pump has a little line for measuring the soap, but I don't even fill it up quite that high since the soap is quite concentrated.

2.  Add your drops of essential oils.  For the bathroom, I like to use just lavender and maybe some orange oil.  In the kitchen I like to also add rosemary, thyme, and peppermint.

3.  Fill up the soap pump with water, most of the way.  

4.  Keep those hands clean, with your custom luxurious foaming hand wash!  Wa-la!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Carried Away With Canning: Part III

I know, I know...this post is way overdue.  Would you accept the excuse that I have been too busy eating all my salsa and spaghetti sauce???  Anyway, here are the recipes for both:


Ingredients (enough for 2 pints - multiply depending on how many pints you intend to can):

8 medium tomatoes
1 slice red onion
1 red chile or jalapeno pepper, seeds removed
1/2 cup fresh cilantro
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
4 tbsp apple cider vinegar
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tbsp red pepper flakes
4 tbsp lime juice

1.  Wash the tomatoes, peppers, and cilantro.

2. Option #1:  Quarter tomatoes and place everything into a food processor.  This is what I did, and while the flavor was excellent, the consistency was very runny.

3.  Option #2:  Remove seeds and dice the tomatoes.  Dice the jalapeno peppers, chop the cilantro, dice the garlic (or use a garlic press).  Combine everything in a large Saucepot.  Your flavor will still be the same, but your consistency will be more chunky.  Because I was making about 12 pints worth, I used option #1 because I wanted to save time on all the seeding and dicing.  It's up to you, based on the consistency you prefer and the time you have to prepare the salsa.

4.  Bring the salsa to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

5. While the salsa simmers, prepare your boiling water canner and make sure your jars are clean (see Carried Away With Canning: Part I).  Sanitize them in the canner for a bit - maybe 10 minutes at 190 degrees.

6.  When the salsa is ready and the jars are sanitized, ladle the salsa into the jars and leave 1/2 inch headspace.  Process for 20 minutes (begin processing time once the water comes to a boil)..

7.  After being processed,  turn off the burner and let the jars rest for 5 minutes before removing.  Remove the jars and allow them to cool without being moved for 24 hours.

8.  Grab a bag of your favorite tortilla chips and enjoy!!!


Ingredients, for ~7 Quarts:

45 pounds tomatoes
3 large onions, diced
12 cloves garlic, diced or pressed
1/2 cup olive oil
2 tbsp dried oregano
2 tbsp dried basil
1/2-1 tbsp red pepper flakes (use according to your spiciness-level preferences)
1 tbsp marjoram
1 tbsp black pepper
2 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp salt
Bottled Lemon Juice

1.  Wash tomatoes (as we did in Part I).

2. Remove core and blossom ends, then quarter tomatoes.

3.  Cook tomatoes in a large saucepot until nice and soft.

4.  Run the soft tomatoes through a tomato press or food mill to separate the seeds and skin.  Place in a large bowl.

5.  Heat olive oil in a large saucepot.  Add garlic and onions and saute until onions are soft.  Add the tomato puree and seasonings into the saucepot.  Bring to a simmer and allow sauce to reduce by half, or until desired consistency.  This can take several hours, so pop in a good movie - but don't forget to stir occasionally in order to prevent scorching!

6.  As the sauce thickens, clean your jars and sanitize them in a boiling water canner.

7.  Add 1 tbsp of bottled lemon juice to each pint jar or 2 tbsp to each quart jar.  Ladle the sauce into the jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Put the lids on the jars and process pints for 35 minutes, quarts for 40 minutes (begin processing time once the water comes to a boil).

8.  When processing time completes, turn off the burner and let the jars rest for 5 minutes before removing.  Allow the jars to cool and remain still for 24 hours.

9.  Boil some pasta, crack open a jar, and enjoy!

Monday, September 24, 2012

Carried Away With Canning: Part II

I know, I know...you have been anxiously awaiting this post.  Well, let me tell you, I have been busy...CANNING!

Now that you have all the items you need - except, my apologies, you also need bottled lemon juice (I forgot to put it on the list). Here's what you need to know to can diced (raw-packed) and pureed tomatoes.  I recommend doing one thing at a time.  The first time that I tried canning I attempted to multi-task and it took much longer.

For your diced tomatoes, you will need 2 1/2 to 3 1/2 pounds per quart.  For pureed tomatoes you will need 3 to 3 1/2 pounds per quart.

Gather all your supplies!

Step #1:  Review your recipe.  I used the general guidelines in the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving.

Step #2:  CLEAN your kitchen!  Use a safe disinfectant spray (I do like Seventh Generation) to clean all your counters and inside your sink.

Step #3:  Get a large pot of  water ready for boiling.  This is for blanching the tomatoes (coming up).  Also get ready a large bowl to put ice and cold water into.

Step #4:  Clean all of your jars, lids, and bands in hot and soapy water.  Make sure that you inspect all of the glass jars to make sure there aren't any cracks in the glass.  Place the jars in a pot of simmering water (not boiling - 180 deg F).  I recommend putting the jars into the pot and then pouring the water over top (I used a pitcher, because frankly this huge pot would have been way too heavy to move once it was full of water).  You can just use your canning pot for this if you don't have a second large pot.  This will keep the jars sterilized while you prepare everything, and you will already have nice hot water ready for canning.  Also place the lids in a smaller pot of water, again to 180 Deg F, to keep them also sterile.

Sterilizing the Jars.

Sterilizing the Lids.

Step #5:  Wash all of your tomatoes. I measured them with my food scale as I went to make sure I had enough for my recipe.  Then what I did was scrub them with my veggie scrubber to get the dirt off, rinsed them, and then I put them in a mixture of approximately  half vinegar and half hot water in the sink.  Then I scrubbed the tomatoes with a clean cloth and rinsed them again, and placed them on a clean towel to dry.

~ 4 tomatoes to a pound

Step #6:  Remove the core and score all of the tomatoes with an "X" on the blossom end.  This will help with the peeling process coming up soon.

Step #7:  Blanche the tomatoes.  Put several tomatoes into the pot of boiling water you've already prepared and cook for 30-60 seconds, just until the skin begins peeling.  While it's cooking, fill your bowl with ice and cold water.  Once the tomatoes have cooked, put them into the cold water to stop cooking (for about a minute).  Then transfer to another bowl.  Repeat the process until all tomatoes have been blanched, but make sure the water returns to a boil before you put in the next batch of tomatoes. 

Boil for 30-60 seconds.
Place in ice water.

Step #8:  Peel all of the tomatoes.  You can use a peeling knife to pull the skin off, but honestly it comes off super easily.  Discard the skins or use them for composting.

The skins are ready to be peeled off!
Step #9:  Dice all of the tomatoes and put them into a large bowl.  A cutting board with wells is very helpful, because these tomatoes will be juicy!

All diced - ready to get into the jars!
Step #10:  Using your jar lifter, remove one jar at a time from the pot which has been keeping them sterilized and carefully pour the water from the jar back into the pot.  I will demonstrate the correct and incorrect way to use the jar lifter in a bit, haha!

Step #11:  Put 2 tbsp of lemon juice into the jar if it is quart size, and 1 tbsp of lemon juice if it is pint size.  Put the funnel in the jar and fill the jar, leaving 1/2 inch head space.  You can add salt at this point if desired (1 tsp/quart or 1/2 tsp/pint).  Push the tomatoes down with a spatula and run a thin spatula along the edges to prevent any air bubbles.  FYI, we are packing the tomatoes in their own juice.

These tomatoes are so juicy!!
Step #12:  Wipe the rim with a clean damp towel.  You don't want any food particles on the top of the jar because this can interfere with proper sealing.  Use your lid lifter to take a lid out of its pot and place onto the jar.  Put the band on and tighten so that it is finger tight.  Return the filled jar into the canner pot.  Repeat steps #10-12 for remaining jars.  

Step #13:  Once all the jars are filled and put into the canner pot, make sure there is 1-2 inches of water above the jars.  Put the lid on the pot and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, set your timer for 1 hour and 25 minutes (this is kinda long, but we are doing a raw pack here; if we cooked the diced tomatoes first, the processing time would be a less).  The water should boil gently but steady, not an extreme rolling boil.

Step #14:  I know you're tired at this point, but if you have some energy left, use it for cleaning up the inevitable mess that was made in the kitchen.  Or, put your feet up and watch a movie!

Step #15:  Once time is up, turn off the burner and take off the lid.  Let the jars rest for 5 minutes.  Then remove with the jar lifter and place onto hot pads or towels, a couple inches in between each jar.  DO NOT MOVE FOR 12-24 HOURS to allow for proper sealing.

INCORRECT TECHNIQUE - HA!  I totally did this.  
Because the tomatoes are so juicy, the water and tomatoes may separate. Once you have waited 24 hours, you can tip the jar and mix it back up.

Step #16:  ENJOY your preserved bounty!!


Steps #1-5:  This is the same as above, but you can skip #3.

Step #6: Cut off the core and blossom ends of the cleaned tomatoes, quarter them and put them into a large bowl.  

Step #7:  Place the quartered tomatoes into a large cooking pot.  Cook them until they are nice and soft, maybe about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  

Step #8:  Crank your tomatoes through a tomato press or food mill.  Alternately (I have not tried this), you can puree them in a food processor and press the mixture through a sieve to separate the skins/seeds from the tomatoes.  Alternative #2, which again, I have not tried, you could blanch and peel the tomatoes as we did for the diced tomatoes and then put them in the food processor (this would leave the seeds in the puree, though).  You'll need one bowl to collect the puree, and one bowl to collect the skins and seeds.  Pour the puree into another bowl.

Tomato Press, graciously lent to me by my Mother-in-law.

Step #9:  Place the pureed tomatoes into a large stockpot and heat it to 190 deg F.  NOTE:  I felt that my puree was very watery, and when I do this again, I plan to boil the puree in order to boil off some of the extra water so that it's more thick.  

Step #10:  Fill your jars with the puree, lifting the jars carefully with the jar lifter, putting the lemon juice in first (1 tbsp/pint, 2 tbsp/quart), using the funnel to prevent food particles from dripping on the rim.  Leave 1/4 inch headspace.

Step #11:  Clean the rims, put on the lids, and tighten the bands and fill up your water bath canner as you did for the diced tomatoes.  Again, make sure there is 1-2 inches of water above the jars.  

Step #12:  Put the lid on the canner and bring to a boil.  Process 35 minutes for pints, and 40 minutes for quarts.

Step #13:  Once time is up, turn off the burner and take off the lid.  Let the jars rest for 5 minutes.  Then remove with the jar lifter and place onto hot pads or towels, a couple inches in between each jar.  DO NOT MOVE FOR 12-24 HOURS to allow for proper sealing.


Well, there you go!  Now be warned, this is a rather time consuming project, so make sure you don't have anywhere you need to be.  Make sure you keep things clean as you go - lots of hand washing!  You can treat yourself to a manicure and pedicure later :-).  This process would go faster and probably be more enjoyable if you do it with a friend, too.

Here is what I ended up with:  

6 quarts & 17 pints diced tomatoes,  7 pints pureed tomatoes, 12 pints salsa, 4 quarts & 9 Pint and a Half jars of Sauce (minus what I have already used).

Coming up in part III will be how to make salsa and sauce.  FYI, I have been using everything and it is totally delicious!  It was a long time in the making, but I feel very accomplished and have a very happy tummy :-).