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Preserve the flavor of summer in a jar

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KAYTE YOUNG: From WFIU in Bloomington, Indiana, I'm Kayte Young and this is Earth Eats. 

HEATHER SCAR: They learn those qualities and character building opportunities, I guess, that detasseling provides. I mean, we're going to lack that in our rural communities now that kids can't do detasseling.  

KAYTE YOUNG: This week on the show, a story from Harvest Public Media about how large scale seed companies are hiring temporary migrant workers to do a farm task that has been traditionally been a summer job for local teens. And we head to the kitchen for a step-by-step guide to preserving those beautiful summer tomatoes. All that and more is just ahead. Stay with us. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Thanks for listening to Earth Eats, I'm Kayte Young. Let's start the show off with Food and Farming updates from Harvest Public Media. 

KAYTE YOUNG: It's been more than a year since President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act, which promised $4 Billion in debt relief for black and brown farmers. As Harvest Public Media's Dana Cronin reports, that funding is still in limbo. 

DANA CRONIN: The recently signed Inflation Reduction Act repealed and replaced that debt relief for farmers of color, after multiple law suits were filed by white farmers alleging discrimination. It's still unclear how the new funding package will be distributed. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says they're trying to figure that out before October, when the Moratorium on Farm Foreclosures may be lifted. 

TOM VILSACK: We want to be in a position prior to that, should it happen, to be able to provide some direction on how we're going to administer a least a portion of this effort. 

DANA CRONIN: The Inflation Production Act directs $3 Billion to "economically distressed borrowers of any race." I'm Dana Cronin, Harvest Public Media. 

KAYTE YOUNG: An annual survey shows US commercial bee keepers have lost 39% of their honey bee colonies this year. The non-profit Bee Informed Partnership, which conducted the survey, says that's about average in recent years. Randall Cass is the bee specialist for Iowa State University's extension office. He says, "Prairie land that's been plowed up for agriculture uses poses a threat to bee survival." 

RANDALL CASS: Bees feed off of nectar and pollen from flowers, so poor forage would mean that there's just not enough flowers for them to collect from. And here in Iowa that's a major issue. We definitely got poor forage availability because so much of our land is put into agricultural production. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Cass adds that parasites like vaorroa mite and exposure to pesticides used in fields, are another two major factors that have caused hive loss. According to the USDA, commercial honey bee colonies pollinate at least $15 Billion worth of food crops each year. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Much of the great plains are in a drought. That's killing crops and hurting farmers. The dryness is also draining lakes and rivers, revealing objects typically buried by water. Harvest Public Media's Elizabeth Rembert reports. 

ELIZABETH REMBERT: If you're on the Missouri River near Vermilion, South Dakota, you could come across the skeleton of the North Alabama Steam Boat. It's usually buried by several feet of water, but this year, it's peeking out above the water line. Tom Downs with the Missouri National Recreational River says the North Alabama sank on October 1870, after hitting a huge log. Downs says every once in a while low water levels help people rediscover the ship and steamboat history. 

TOM DOWNS: Yeah, I think it stirs the imagination to think about a day when steamboat travel was the ticket. You know, that's how you got up and down the river. 

ELIZABETH REMBERT: It's not the only thing the drought has uncovered. In Texas, dinosaur tracks have emerged. For Harvest Public Media, I'm Elizabeth Rembert. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Thanks to Dana Cronin, Xcaret Nuñez and Elizabeth Rembert for those reports. 

KAYTE YOUNG: During the summer months, we've been hearing more about algae blooms in mid western lakes. Blue green algae can produce toxins that make people sick and even kill pets. The only way to know if a bloom is toxic is to test, but not all states are routinely doing so. As Harvest Public Media's Eva Tesfaye reports, some private and volunteer efforts are helping to fill that gap by doing their own testing. 

MALE VOLUNTEER TESTER: What's our next point? North shore? 



EVA TESFAYE: Student employees from the Lilly Center are headed out on Lake Wawasee in Northern Indiana. 

STUDENT EMPLOYEE: OK the water temperature is 25.7. 

EVA TESFAYE: They are testing for algal toxins and the conditions that produce them. The Lilly Center has been testing lakes in Kosciusko County weekly for the last 15 summers. It recently started sharing that information in a newsletter so Lake residents and visitors can swim safely. And the residents of Lake Wawasee love their lake, including Cindy Peterson. She takes part in the local conservation group and even offers up her boat to the researchers. 

CINDY PETERSON: We're going to lose this lake, it's going to become a dead lake if we don't maintain it. And that's what they're doing with all this testing, is how can we make sure that doesn't happen. 

EVA TESFAYE: But, testing doesn't come cheap. The Lilly Center for Lakes and Streams is entirely funded by donors. The pharmaceutical Lilly family being one of them. Much of the funding comes from the well-off residents of Lake Wawasee. Massive homes and expensive boats scatter across the lake front. Jed Harvey is in charge of the testing program. 

JED HARVEY: Science is kind of tricky because often you do have to follow the money, know where it's coming from, know even what gets done. But we're really blessed around here to be surrounded by a lot of people who really care about the lakes. 

EVA TESFAYE: Thousands of dollars from these residents went towards designing a buoy that collects essential algae data in real time. Most lakes aren't as lucky. In the Midwest, funding is often limited for state algae testing programs. The Indiana Department of Environmental Management is only able to routinely test 18 lakes where people swim. This doesn't include Lake Wawasee. Kristen Arnold is the Chief of the Water Assessment Planning Branch. 

KRISTEN ARNOLD: We have a very specific goal of protecting public health at those swimming beaches and that's how we kinda keep this program on a smaller scale. 

EVA TESFAYE: Many other states in the mid west only test after a bloom has been reported. In Missouri Lynn Milberg with the Department of Natural Resources says, there isn't enough funding to test regularly. 

LYNN MILBERG: Our water quality monitoring group, they do not have any dedicated staff to do this. So whenever something comes up, you know, they have to find somebody that's available, squeeze it in between projects. 

EVA TESFAYE: The Lakes of Missouri Volunteer Program takes on some of the burden. It's got about 200 volunteers who test 65 lakes across Missouri. Tony Thorpe, the Program Manager, says that the group started testing for blue green algae about seven years ago and he says the problem isn't going away. 

TONY THORPE: If we listen to the climate science, it seems to indicate that this is only going to get worse. And water is a scarce resource. 

EVA TESFAYE: The volunteer program, which is run by the University of Missouri and supported by various state agencies can't do it all. The group only tests for algal toxins about eight times a year. Thorpe says he knows there are lakes that need more testing. The situation in Missouri and elsewhere is exactly why Anne Schechinger of the Environmental Working Group argues states and federal government should be doing more. 

ANNE SCHECHINGER: Any lake that's publicly accessible, that should really be the state or the federal government's job to do the testing, not the people who live on the lake. You know, it's a public resource. 

EVA TESFAYE: Back in Indiana, Harvey says that the Lilly Center's local testing has been working really well for the lakes in Kosciusko County. But the impact of climate change on blooms can make it difficult for local groups to keep up. 

JED HARVEY: As blooms like this increase, it may be something where, in many palaces, the state will be needed top step up. 

EVA TESFAYE: Because, Harvey says, there are a lot of lake in Indiana. And the Lilly Center can't get to them all. For Harvest Public Media, I'm Eva Tesfaye. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Blue Green algae is currently being monitored locally by Indiana Department of Environmental Management. You can view test results for lakes in your area at And we'll include that link on our website, I'm Kayte Young, we'll be back in a moment. 

KAYTE YOUNG: As summertime draws to a close, the season's fresh produce is still rolling in. For many of us, this means delicious vine ripened Midwest tomatoes. Today, we're going to learn how you can preserve that precious harvest to enjoy throughout the winter months. That's right, at long last, we're going to can tomatoes. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Now, as far as canning projects go, tomatoes may not seem as exciting as say hot salsa, strawberry jam or even pickles. But I assure you, home canned tomatoes are far superior to store bought. The deep flavor of those sun kissed beauties really does translate to the finished product. I have done side by side comparisons with the same recipe made with home canned tomatoes and then with store bought ones, and I could really taste the difference. I mean, it makes sense when you start with high quality ingredients, you can taste it. If you don't grow tomatoes yourself, or you don't grow enough for canning, check with local farmers in your area and see if you can get a deal for a bulk purchase of canning tomatoes. Often farmers will have seconds that they'll be willing to sell you at a reduced price. I have found that around 25 pounds of tomatoes will fill a canner of seven quart jars. So, let's get started. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Fair warning, this is a bit of an involved process, but it's not difficult and it's very satisfying to see your finished product cooling on the countertop. If you've ever wanted to learn how to do this, now is your chance so settle in for some step by step instructions. 

KAYTE YOUNG: First thing's first you want to clean up your kitchen thoroughly, wipe down all the counters, start with a clean working space. And then you want to gather all of your equipment and supplies. Seven one quart jars, large canner, a jar lifter, 25 pounds of tomatoes, a towel, baking rack, little small cloth made of t-shirt material, a pairing knife, a slotted spoon and a ladle. A wooden spoon. Measuring spoon, some lemon juice or some citric acid. The seven rings and the seven flat lids, a special canning funnel. Two pots, a bowl and some ice. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Don't worry, we'll go over each one of these and, we've got the full recipe on our website and that's We'll start with the jars which need to be washed first. 

KAYTE YOUNG: You want to make sure that these are official canning jars. They need to be ball jars or mason jars. You can't just reuse, you know, a jar that spaghetti sauce came in or whatever. You need to get canning jars. They can withstand the temperatures of the canning process, and they have a specific shape at the bottom of them that allows them to not sit really flat on the bottom of the pot that you're boiling them in when you're doing the canning. 

KAYTE YOUNG: You should also inspect each jar for any hairline cracks or any nicks or chips around the rim of the jar, because that could interfere with a proper seal. 

KAYTE YOUNG: You'll need a canning vessel. This is a large, usually enamel-lined pot that holds seven quart canning jars. And it has a little metal wire basket in the bottom that your jars sit on and you can use it to lift the jars out. The canning pot has two lines on it. One towards the bottom third of the pot and one at the top third of the pot. And for the quart jars, you're going to want to fill it just to that first line because when you place the full quart jars into the water bath, it's going to displace a lot of water and you don't want it overflowing and dousing the flame under your pot. I'm speaking from experience, this has happened to me before. 

KAYTE YOUNG: You will probably want to fill it a little bit above that line, like, about an inch above that line because there will be some evaporation. You also wanna make sure you have enough water in the kettle when you put the jars in because you don't want to be trying to add a bunch of water at the end. The jars do need to be fully submerged for the canning process. 

KAYTE YOUNG: At this point you can also add a tablespoon of vinegar to the water. This is kind of a trick I learned from some old school preservationists. They say that it prevents the jars from becoming cloudy, it keeps them nice and clear. And then once you get the water in the pot, and you get the jars all washed, you want to put the jars into the water bath. And you do want to do this while the water is cold because you want the jars and the water to heat up together. Then you want to turn on the heat under the water bath. The jars will heat up with the water and once they've reached boiling, you can set a timer for 10 minutes and once they have boiled for 10 minutes then the jars are officially sterilized. 

KAYTE YOUNG: So, we've got all of our equipment, we've got a large canner that will hold seven quart jars, and it's got sort of a basket on the bottom that's keeps the jars off the bottom and also can assist in lifting them, though I hardly ever use it. Instead, I use what's called a jar lifter and it kind of looks like tongues but it's specially shaped that allows you to pick up a jar by grabbing it at the lid and you can do this with one hand and pull it out of the canner, or set it into a canner. It's a great tool, I do not recommend canning without this. You can come up with some sort of makeshift pot to do your canning in, if you have a large enough stock pot and you can find a way to get the jars off the bottom. But when it comes to the jar lifter, you really need to purchase a canning jar lifter. 

KAYTE YOUNG: OK, so I've got my jar lifter, I've got my canning pot, it is filled with water and it's on the stove heating up. I've got my 25 pounds of tomatoes. I've completely cleared off some countertop space in my kitchen so that I can really spread out and do all these tasks. I have a towel, clean towel laid out, which is what I'm going to set the jars on when I'm filling them. And I've got a baking rack, which is what I'm going to set the jars on once they come out of the canning bath. The other thing I'm going to need is a small cloth made of t shirt material. You don't want something that's going to shed lint. This is something that you're going to use to wipe the rims of the jars before you put the lids on, and that ensures a proper seal. 

KAYTE YOUNG: The other thing you're going to need is a bowl and you're going to want to put your lids in that bowl so the canning lids are a two part thing. You need seven rings, the rings you can re-use, so if you already have some of those, that's great. The canning lids, the flat disk that goes on top of the car. That has to be new, you can't reuse those. So, you can purchase those. They come in a small box, they're made by Ball and you can find them in the kind of baking, canning section of your grocery store. You want to make sure that the lid size matches the kind of jar that you have. I have a mix of wide mouth and small mouth or regular mouth jars and I happen to have both types of lids. 

KAYTE YOUNG: The other thing you're going to need is some lemon juice or some citric acid, we're going to add that to the tomatoes. The other thing you're going to need are two pots, one is going to be for boiling water, and the boiling water we're going to use to blanch the tomatoes. The other pot is going to be used for the tomatoes themselves, you're going to put the tomatoes in that pot as you're processing them and getting them ready to can. The other thing that you're going to need is a bowl and some ice. 

KAYTE YOUNG: You're going to want to take those lids, the seven rings and the seven flat lids, put those in a bowl and pour some hot water over those, so you can heat up some water in a kettle or you can grab some water from your canning bath and just pour that over them just to kind of wet those lids. There's a little rubber ring around the top part of the lid and you want to get that warm so it assists in sealing the lid. 

KAYTE YOUNG: To process the tomatoes, first they should be washed, rinsed off in water. And then we're going to blanch them and the blanching is what is going to help us remove the skins. It's important to remove the skins when you can tomatoes because when they get canned, they tend to be tough and unpleasant to eat and not great to cook with. You definitely don't want to skip this step. It does add another tedious step to this process but it's just part of what you have to do if you're going to can tomatoes. 

KAYTE YOUNG: To blanche, you're going to take your tomato and I recommend slicing with a pairing knife, just a small X somewhere on the tomatoes. I usually do it up by th stem. You're going to boil a pot of water on the stove and then you're going to dip some tomatoes in there. I usually do about five at a time. You're just dunking them in there for a minute or two and that's going to cause the skin to split and you can see it happening. Then you fish them out of there with a slotted spoon and drop them immediately into some ice cold water in a bowl. I usually have that in the sink. Then, the skins will slip off very easily and you can core the tomato and cut out any part that you don't think looks great, or any part that's too firm or something like that. Get the core out and trim them. I usually just use a pairing knife because then you're also going to cut them. If they're large tomatoes, you're going to cut them in quarters and then drop them into a pot and that pot is going to be set on low and simmering on your stove. 

KAYTE YOUNG: We want to make sure that the tomatoes are nice and hot before we put them in the hot jars because you don't want cold food going into hot jars. It can cause the jars to break. Get your tomatoes stewing on the stove, you're not trying to cook them or anything, you just want to make sure that they're nice and hot when you can them. Processing the tomatoes, peeling them and cutting them up can take some time, your jars might be hot and sterilized before you're ready to can. If that happens, just either turn the heat off or turn it on to low and just let it sit there. Then turn it back on and get it back up to boiling before you're ready to can. 

KAYTE YOUNG: I'm going to take some of these tomatoes and I'm going to slice a X in the skin. This just helps assist in that peeling process. I've done that to about five of these tomatoes and I'm going to drop them in the boiling water. 

KAYTE YOUNG: I've got my water boiling on the stove and I'm going to careful lower these tomatoes into the boiling water. You can use your slotted spoon for that, just to reduce the possibility of a splash. And then just sort of keep an eye on them and as the skin starts to split, fish them out and take them over to your cold bath, which is your big bowl of water that has ice in it. The cold water acts as a shock, which again, assists with that skin coming off easily. 

KAYTE YOUNG: And this is a point where it can be really useful to have two people working on this project, because one person can be focused on blanching the tomatoes, another person can be focused on coring and cutting them. Once they're all blanched, you can both focus on coring and cutting them, and then you can both work on getting them canned and into the jars. It just goes a lot faster with two people. 

KAYTE YOUNG: I find that the easiest way to do this is to put my knife in and go round the stem part of the tomato and just take out that core. And then a lot of times the peeling will just kinda come with it and then it's quick. In terms of cutting the tomatoes, you don't have to make them pretty, you don't have to cut them in any particular way. Just think about the fact that you're going to be cooking with them, usually in like, soups or sauces. So they don't need to be pretty but you do want to get all the core out and you want to get all the peels off. 

KAYTE YOUNG: OK, so I've got some of these tomatoes peeled and cut up, and now I'm going to put them in a big pot that I'm going to keep on the stove on a low simmer. 

KAYTE YOUNG: So, I've got my tomatoes blanched, peeled, cored, cut up and they're now heating up and I ended up having to use two big pots on the stove. I've got my hot jars ready, and it's about time to start filling the jars and getting ready to do the actual canning. So, for the amount of tomatoes that I had, which was close to 30 pounds, it took me one and a half hours to process them. And that includes blanching them, peeling them, coring them, cutting them up, and now they're heating up on the stove. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Definitely want to keep an eye on them while you're heating them up. You don't want them to scorch on the bottom and ruin your whole batch, so just keep an eye on them, keep the heat on low, have the lid on, keep stirring them every now and then just to make sure that they're not scorching on the bottom. One thing I will say about heating up the tomatoes first, some people just cold pack their tomatoes and can them that way, they don't bother to do the stage of heating them up in a pot on the stove before canning them. I did that once, I think it might have been the first time I did tomato canning. I did cold pack of, I think pretty much whole tomatoes and when that cold tomato in those jars hit that hot boiling water in the hot water bath, several of them broke. I mean, the bottoms just fell out of them, all contents of the tomatoes went into the boiling water bath. It is what you would call a can-tastrophe. It was very upsetting to go through all that work and have all of that product ruined. It happened to several of the jars. So, I did some investigating, found out what I did wrong and now I always make sure that my tomatoes, whatever product I'm putting in the jar is hot so that there isn't that temperature differential that can cause a jar to shatter. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Next, you want to set up your canning station. What you're going to want is a dish towel folded in half, laid out on your countertop and that's where you're going to put your hot jars when you take them out of the hot water bath. Empty, hot glass jars and then next to that you're going to want to put a hot pad and then you're going to put your pot full of hot tomatoes right next to the towel, and then you're going to need a ladle. The other thing that comes in really handy for canning in addition to the special jar lifter, is a special canning funnel. This fits right into the jar and it has a little bit wider opening so it just makes the filling of the jars much easier. 

KAYTE YOUNG: You're going to want all those things, plus your small cloth made of t shirt material that is damp and ready to use and your jar lifter. And then it'll be time to start moving the jars from the canner onto the countertop and then start filling them up. 

KAYTE YOUNG: The other thing that you're going to want to have ready is some measuring spoons; you want a teaspoon and a tablespoon. You're going to want either bottled lemon juice, not fresh, needs to be bottle lemon juice or citric acid. You'll be adding two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice to one quart jar, or if you're using the citric acid, it's just one half teaspoon. The citric acid comes in a crystalline form, it looks a lot like sugar or salt, and you can find it pretty easily. I buy mind at World Foods market here in Bloomington. It has no flavor, so it doesn't affect the taste of your tomatoes. But I have also used lemon juice and it also does not affect the flavor; once it has been canned, it kind of boils out that flavor, you don't really taste it. 

KAYTE YOUNG: The only foods that you can can in a hot water bath canner, are high acid foods and that includes all fruits. Now, tomatoes are also considered a fruit, they're also considered high acid. The problem is that over the years, tomatoes have been bred to be sweeter, and the concern is that perhaps not all varieties of tomatoes are acidic enough to be safe for hot water bath canning. So, as an extra precaution, you add some acid to each jar to ensure that they are safe. The reason you don't want to use fresh lemon juice, you want to use bottled lemon juice is because it is stable and regulated. It has a specific amount of acidity that will work for lowering that ph, or raising the acidity, to make sure that it is the proper amount for safe hot water bath canning. 

KAYTE YOUNG: The other thing that you can add to your tomatoes is a little bit of salt, that's not required, most people just chose to add the salt when they're cooking with the tomatoes. Do not add any other ingredients to your tomatoes. If you do, you are running the risk of botulism. Don't do it. Enough said. 

KAYTE YOUNG: So, my jars have been boiling, they're hot and they're ready. And we're going to pull them out of the canner. 

KAYTE YOUNG: So, you just grip the jar with the canning jar lifter. Tip the jar over to pour out that hot water and transfer it to your towel on the countertop. 

KAYTE YOUNG: You can either put the lemon juice or the citric acid in the bottom of your jar before you've put the tomatoes in, or you can put it on top, it doesn't matter. It will get mixed in during the boiling process. I'm going to go ahead and put it at the bottom because I don't want to forget. 

KAYTE YOUNG: I'm adding a half teaspoon of the citric acid to each jar. I'm ready to fill the first jar. I'm going to put the funnel on top of a jar. I have my pot of hot tomatoes next to the jars. I've got a slotted spoon and a ladle and I'm going to start filling. What I usually do is try to pack it mostly with tomatoes and not get a lot of the juice in there, so that each jar is fully packed with tomatoes. You don't want a lot of extra juice in there. You fill each jar, leaving a half inch headspace and you want to take something like a wooden spoon or some kind of plastic utensil and go around each jar to make sure that you get out any air bubbles. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Once all the jars are filled to within a half inch, leaving a half inch of headspace, which is about the height of the screw top of the jar, then you're going to take your soft, damp cloth and go around the rim of each of these and get it ready for your lid. You want to wipe all of the threads of the jar and that top part where the glass meets the lid. This is a really important step, you do not want to skip it. And your lids should be warm. You can dip them in some boiling water or pour some boiling water over them, and just set the flat part of the lid on top and then get your screw bands and screw those down. And you're just screwing these down hand tight. You're not using all your muscle or getting out a vice or anything, they just need to be hand tightened. 

KAYTE YOUNG: And now, the moment we've all been waiting for, it's time to lower the jars into the canner. 

KAYTE YOUNG: You want to make sure that there is at least one inch of water covering the tops of the jars. They need to be fully submerged, the jar's lids cannot be sticking up out of the top. If that is the case, if some of your water has evaporated, then you just want to be sure to add some boiling water, just quickly boil some water in a kettle or in a pot on your stove and pour it in there and do not start timing it until they are fully submerged and have reached a full boil. 

KAYTE YOUNG: So, turn your heat up to high and make sure that they reach a full boil. Once they have fully started boiling then you can set your timer. Quart jars of tomatoes need to be in the hot water bath, boiling for 45 minutes. 

KAYTE YOUNG: For now, while those jars are processing in the canner, we can tidy up the kitchen and take a break. This is Earth Eats, I'm Kayte Young teaching you how to can your own tomatoes at home. We'll be back after a short break. 

RENAE REED: Stay connected. Subscribe to the Earth Eats Digest. It's a bi-weekly email with food stories, updates on the show and recipes from the Earth Eats archive. Go to to sign up. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Thanks for listening to Earth Eats, I'm Kayte Young. And today we are taking a deep dive into the canning kettle, learning how to preserve Indiana home grown tomatoes in jars to enjoy all winter long. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Whenever I talk about home canning, it's important to include warnings and safety information. There are a lot of myths about there about home food preservation. I'm here to tell you that home canning is a perfectly safe practice, but you have to follow instructions and those instructions need to come from trusted sources, namely Land Grand University extension offices. Places like Purdue Extension and the University of Georgia's Extension Office. They offer hundreds of publications with research backed information on canning and preserving any food grown in the United States. Those are trusted sources, or the book Putting Food By. I'll put links on our website. This is not the project to consult YouTube about. I have watched videos with unsafe canning practices, which is why I feel the need to give the following lecture about how water bath canning and its limits. Bear with me. 

KAYTE YOUNG: When you add other ingredients to your tomatoes, such as garlic or onions or herbs or other ingredients that you might use to make, say, a pasta sauce or a pizza sauce, you are changing the acidity level and that can make it not safe for hot water bath canning. What makes hot water bath canning safe is that the acidity level of the food that you're canning, makes it an inhospitable environment for any pathogens to grow inside the jar after the canning and after the sealing. There are some pathogens that can survive the heat of a hot water bath, and the anaerobic environment of a sealed jar. Those pathogens include botulism, which is deadly. So do not mess around with this. Here, let me repeat it again. The only thing you can can in a hot water bath canning method, are high acid foods without low acid foods being added. So that it's going to be all fruits, tomatoes with added acidity, or pickles. Once you've got vinegar involved then your acidity level is also safe for hot water bath canning. 

KAYTE YOUNG: So, pickles, ketchup, chutneys. Those products have enough vinegar in them that you can safely do those in hot water bath canning. Otherwise you've got to use pressure canning. If you want to make some pasta sauce and you want to can it, you're going to need to investigate pressure canning. That's a different process than what I'm teaching here. It's not that hard but you do need a special pressure canner, and you do need to follow instructions and know what you're doing. But it's fine, you can do that. Just don't try to hot water bath can your pasta sauce. 

KAYTE YOUNG: One of the things that's sort of on the border of what's safe to can and what isn't safe to can is salsa. You can do salsa in a hot water bath canner, even though it's got the added onions, garlic and peppers. But you can only do that if you follow a specific canning recipe which includes the addition of a sufficient amount of either vinegar or bottled lemon juice. But you've got to follow a canning recipe, preferably from an extension office or from the book "Putting Food By". Those would be the two resources that I would recommend. 

KAYTE YOUNG: OK, lecture over. Let's get back to our jars of tomatoes. I think they're ready to come out. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Our timer here has gone off, the jars have been in the boiling hot water bath for 45 minutes and it's time to take them out. Grab our handy dandy jar lifter. And when you pull them out of the bath, you want to pull them up straight, there's a temptation to kind of tip them a little bit to knock off the extra water, but I have been taught that you should keep them straight. And the water on the top will evaporate because they're very hot. The seal happens when they're cooling, not when they're in the bath, boiling. 

KAYTE YOUNG: Transfer your jars of tomatoes to a baking rack. Leave them there to cool completely. And your jars will seal, they'll make a little sound, a little clicking sound when the sort of domed part of the flat lid will suck down in there and make that seal. You'll hear that and you'll see it. Once they are completely cool and all the lids have sealed, at that point you can remove the outer ring of the lid, carefully. Not disturbing the flat part of the lid and you want to wipe down the threads of the jar and then they're ready to store. They can store at room temperature, I think a basement's a good place to keep them, but you can also keep them in your cupboard and they're good for up to a year. 

KAYTE YOUNG: If, for some reason, one of your jars doesn't seal, then just use that one right away. If you want to go to the trouble of completely re-canning it, you can but you need to do the whole process over again... Which, to be honest, I ended up doing this time. No regrets. 

KAYTE YOUNG: And that's it. So easy. OK, yes, there are a lot of steps. But once you've done it a few times it really clicks and everything falls into place. I've been canning for almost 15 years. I've taught many people how to preserve food, and some of them have become avid canners themselves. And it's a fun project to do with a friend or with family. Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions, I'm happy to help. You can write to or follow the contact link at 

RENAE REED: If you're listening to Earth Eats on the radio, did you know it's also a podcast? You can listen on your own schedule and never miss an episode. Search for Earth Eats on your favorite podcast app and subscribe. If you have a moment to leave a comment, we really appreciate it. It helps other people find our show. 

KAYTE YOUNG: For decades, Midwest teenagers have been hired by seed companies, to walk fields of corn and help out with the pollination in a process called detasseling. It's fondly known as a local right of passage. But an investigation by the Midwest Newsroom found seed companies have posted jobs to avoid teenagers, and opt for migrant workers instead. Nebraska Public Media's Will Bauer reports for the Midwest Newsroom. 

HEATHER SCAR: OK, so these are Kunekune pigs, K-U-N-E K-U-N-E, and they actually are a red meat. 

WILL BAUER: Heather Scar owns a pig farm near Adair, Iowa, a small town a little over halfway between Omaha and Des Moines. In addition to her specialty pigs, she ran a detasseling business. For 11 years, Scar hired teenagers to pull the tassel off the top of corn stalks, preventing self pollination for both Bayer and AgReliant Genetics. Many detasseling contractors like Scar, say the ritual is important for the Midwest, one that's possibly being lost. Earlier this year, AgReliant called her and said they were going with migrant crews. Scar says that's a blow to Midwest teens. 

HEATHER SCAR: They learn those qualities and character building opportunities, I guess, that detasseling provides. I mean, we're going to lack that in our rural communities now that kids can't do detasseling. 

WILL BAUER: Today seed companies increasingly rely on temporary migrant workers visiting the US with H2A visas. For example, Syngenta, one of the biggest seed companies in the country, fills a quarter of its detasseling workforce with migrant labor. The caveat, the H2A program wasn't built to supply a workforce. Just fill in the gaps. Nebraska's Labor Commissioner, John Albin, says there's hundreds of middle and high schoolers who want these jobs. But he says he found seed companies sometimes posted jobs that act as barriers for teens. Here's what he found: unreasonable experience requirements, setting the minimum age at 18 when 12 year olds can legally do the work, detasseling crops that don't need it, and working all the way into October. 

JOHN ALBIN: You don't have to be an agronomy major to know that nobody's detasseling in Nebraska in October. 

WILL BAUER: Albin raised those concerns with the US Department of Labor. Now, Albin and his team can veto job requirements they find to be deceitful or disingenuous. And they get most of them, which ideally opens up the hiring process for more local teens. That's not exactly happening, Albin says. 

JOHN ALBIN: It seemed to us that there had been a decision made somewhere in the corporate structures of this, that they wanted to move away from having youth working in their fields doing the detasseling process. 

WILL BAUER: On the flip side, H2A contractor Javier Chapa says migrant workers are helping where they're needed. Chapa contracts business with Remington Seeds, a company with a plant in central Nebraska. 

JAVIA CHAPA: H2A need to be here because they have to keep the economy moving, and we're not talking just for Nebraska, we're talking for all over the United States. 

WILL BAUER: For the most part, H2A workers come from Mexico in search of better wages, where they can make more here in a few months than they could in a year back home. Chapa says his company made the transition to H2A workers around 2013. That's when he says he started noticing teenagers weren't applying for the detasseling jobs. 

JOHN ALBIN: We don't find enough people who want to do the job. And I understand the reason because it's a hard work. I mean, the youngest generations, they go to school to try not to be in the fields. 

WILL BAUER: A spokesperson for Syngenta said the seed company needs flexibility for detasseling. When a field needs to be detasseled, it's got to get done. Having a mixture of local teenagers and migrant crews allows that flexibility. Danny Reynaga is a lawyer that specializes in farm workers rights in Nebraska's panhandle. He says, "Yes, companies chose migrants because they want productivity. But that can lead to violations." 

DANNY REYNAGA: The fact of the matter is that H2A workers are vulnerable to a large extent. Most would say probably more vulnerable than US workers, for a variety of reasons. 

WILL BAUER: Many H2A workers often don't speak English and farmworker advocates say migrants may not know their rights, or fear what could happen if they speak up. In Lincoln, 13 year old Daniel Miller got wait listed for a detasseling job this year. His mom did the job when she was a teenager. 

DANIEL MILLER: So, I thought it would be a cool thing, fun, well, not really fun, but maybe fun. Something to do that would get me some money. 

WILL BAUER: Miller is already five foot nine, perfect for grabbing the tall corn tassels. He and his mom hoped detasseling would be a good first job this summer. He wants to save up for a PlayStation. He says he plans to apply again next season. For the Midwest Newsroom, I'm Will Bauer. 

KAYTE YOUNG: This story comes to us from the Midwest Newsroom, a collaboration among NPR and Public Radio Stations in Iowa, Kansas, Missouri and Nebraska. 

KAYTE YOUNG: That's our show. Thanks for listening to Earth Eats and we'll see you next time. 

RENEE REED: Earth Eats is produced and edited by Kayte Young with help from Eoban Binder, Alex Chambers, Mark Chilla, Abraham Hill, Daniella Richardson, Peyton Kenoblack, Harvest Public Media and me, Renee Reed. Our theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey. Additional music on the show comes to us from the artists at Universal Production Music. Our executive producer is John Bailey. 

A large red tomato in a hand with green background

There is nothing like the flavor of a vine ripened tomato. (Kayte Young/WFIU)

As summertime draws to a close, the season’s fresh produce is still rolling in. For many of us, this means delicious, vine-ripened, midwest tomatoes--often more than we can handle. Today we’re going to learn how to preserve that precious harvest to enjoy throughout the winter months. That’s right, at long last, we’re going to can tomatoes! 

Now, as far as canning projects go, tomatoes may not seem as exciting as, say, hot salsa, strawberry jam or even pickles. But I assure you, home canned tomatoes are far superior to store-bought. The deep flavor of those sun-kissed beauties really does translate to the finished product. I have done side-by-side comparisons with the same recipe made with home canned tomatoes and store bought ones, and I could really taste the difference. It makes sense--when you start with high quality ingredients, you can taste it.

If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to do this, now is your chance! So settle in for some step by step instructions. Listen along, and if it feels like too much to take in on a radio show, you have the recipe (below) with all the details. 


This episode also includes stories from Harvest Public Media (see below) and a story about changes in labor practices in corn detasseling from The Midwest Newsroom. 

Music on this Episode

The Earth Eats theme music is composed by Erin Tobey and performed by Erin and Matt Tobey.

Additional music on this episode from the artists at Universal Production Music.

Stories On This Episode

Canning Tomatoes

quart ball jars filled with tomatoes

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