intro and a few quick questions

kgardeninmaJanuary 14, 2008


I happened on this board while searching the net for gardening and canning information. I have been very busy reading all the wonderful information posted here - thank you so much :) I am a beginner gardener and canner and I just was curious about a few things:

-Is there anyone here in the NE - specifically coastal RI or MA? I'd love to find someone in my area since I don't know anyone else who gardens or cans. All my friends think I'm nuts - first for having a huge vegetable garden and mostly for canning/freezing the results.

-for those of you who are canning/freezing vegetables, are these veggies that you have grown yourself or are you buying these at farm stands or stores?

Last year I grew and canned tomatoes (just a basic puree, no seasoning as it was my first time and I was afraid to kill my family!) as well as pickled hot peppers and pickled green tomatoes. I'd like to be more adventurous this year and can sauce and salsa (I've been reading lots of threads on both). I used a hand-cranked tomato "mill" that had a hopper on top and removed seeds and peels. This was a messy and time consuming task though. It also produced a puree with no "chunks", so it wouldn't be good for salsa. I read a couple of threads on the Kitchen Aid mixer attachments (food grinder and fruit/veg strainer). The only thing I can't discern is whether they removed peels and/or seeds or just grind it all up and also how fine they grind tomatoes specifically. I have a mixer already, so I thought it would be my least expensive option.

Thanks so much for taking a minute to read this :) (and hopefully for responding!)

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dgkritch(Z8 OR)


Sorry, I'm not NE, I'm in Oregon, but there are several here in your region.

We ARE all nuts, that's why we frequent this forum!! LOL.
Seriously though, there doesn't seem to be all that many people who enjoy canning and gardening for food anymore. This is an extremely friendly, helpful forum. ALL questions are encouraged. There are a few Master Food Preservers as well who are up to date on the latest testing, science, etc. Linda Lou is one, I believe KatieC is one and I'm not sure who else.

Let's see...your questions.....

I think some people grow most of what they can and some buy and some do a combo (me for one). I have a fairly large garden, but I also work full time outside my home and need to be able to can in big batches. For example, I'll buy 50# of green beans from a local farm on Friday and spend all weekend canning them.....then back to work on Monday!!

I use a hand cranked food strainer (Victorio) for tomatoes, berries, etc. too. I use a food processor for some chopping and also do some by hand.

Annie's (in)Famous Salsa is to die for! Lot's of flexibility to adjust for your family's tastes.

One thing to note...when using the search function at the top of the page, I find I get better results by only typing in one word (i.e. "Salsa", rather than "Annie's Salsa"). And don't hesitate to just ask. Lot's of people have recipes saved and/or are willing to look them up.

If you haven't purchased a Ball Blue Book (often referred to as the BBB), I would recommend it. It's a great basic source for all questions preserving.

Do you have a pressure canner and/or Boiling Water Bath (BWB) canner?

Again, welcome! Don't be shy!! :+)

Deanna in Oregon

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 12:10PM
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zabby17(z5/6 Ontario)


Welcome, and congrats on your first forays into canning!

I live in Ontario, quite a hike from the east coast of the U.S. But as for your question about whether we can our home-grown veggies or bought ones, I think the answer runs the whole gamut on this forum.

For myself, I grow LOTS of tomatoes --- I originally got into canning as a way to preserve the abundant harvest that resulted when I found the GardenWeb tomato forum and got hooked on growing dozens of heirloom varieties. (One or two plants of each kind sure adds up by the end of the season!) So I don't need to buy any of those, but can can enough from my backyard to last me & DH all year and still give quite a few away. The rest of my garden is small and it varies as to what I plant and how successful I am. And I don't grow any fruits other than a few berries. So other things I can and freeze from local pick-your-own farms, from farm stands, or from the store.

About chopping/peeling tomatoes. I have a hand-cranked food mill of the kind that sits on top of a pot or bowl with a crank that goes around horizontally. It does a really good job of taking out seeds and skins of tomatoes and apples, and goes surprisingly quickly. But, as you say, it only makes puree. For salsa or chunky sauce I peel and chop by hand. I know some food mills have a "salsa screen" that makes bigger chunks than most, but some have said that it still doesn't produce a very chunky result.

Here's my labour-saving secret: sorting tomatoes. When I pick a bunch, I sort them by purpose. BIG ones without a lot of the circle stuff near the top (which make the skins harder to remove) get used for salsa and chunky sauce, since they are the least work to peel & chop. SMALL ones, ones with lots of concentric circles stuff, and really MEATY ones (paste types) get used for puree-type sauce (cooked a bit first, then through the mill to remove the skins & most seeds. MEDIUM ones with nice, smooth, uncracked (so easy-to-remmove) skins get used for crushed tomatoes, which need to be peeled and then chopped just into quarters. And occasionally for whole tomatoes.

Sometimes my verandah looks like _Attack of the Killer Tomatoes_, with different piles and boxes and bowls of partly sorted toms all over every surface....


    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 12:59PM
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Novice salsa maker here and lover of all things Annie. In my opinion the tomatoes are relatively unimportant for interesting texture in a salsa. Other ingredients such as onions do the job nicely. Tomato seeds don't bother me either, but do want the skins removed. It's the tomato taste that matters and IMO there are no paste tomatoes that fit the bill.


    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 1:58PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

I'm just 15 miles north of Boston. For canning tomatoes, the only need is added extra acid to the jars as some tomato types are lower than safe levels of acid. Some like using bottled lemon juice, but I prefer citric acid and add a half teaspoon to each quart prior to filling the jars. If you want to use a Kitcen Aid attachment, they only offer the single sized holes, which will remove skins and peels and leave a puree. If you have either a Villaware, or the old Victorio, or the newest Roma food strainer (same as Villware), these have some different sized holes on the conical shaped sieves. One strainer has almost 1/4 inch diameter holes just for salsa. Additionally, because the salsas must be heated and cooked, any tomato bits will eventually break down and will never be like fresh made, no matter how little slicing and processing you do. Here is a link to the kind of food strainer I use, and its not really very messy, and can 'crank' out about a bushel of tomatoes in about half an hour or less. I prefer mostly plum tomatoes, and now, also a big oxheart type that is very meaty with few seeds and little liquid. Mine food strainer also has the electric motor attachment that is the same used in pasta rolling machines. Salsas may benefit by a chunky onion and pepper as opposed to tomatoes, as the latter hold up better to heat and canning. Lime juice and cider vinegar are also used in sa;sa to get the acidity up. There is NO NEED to peel, trim, or cook any tomatoes when using the Villaware/Roma strainers, and if the tomatoes are bigger than the hopper opening, you simply cut them in halves or quarters. The strainer also works great when I want to make seedless red raspberry jam, so I use the finer holed berry screen.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 2:12PM
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Here's another welcome to this wonderful site. I started canning and preserving again this past year after taking a 24 year break from it. My husband immediately said why bother since it was easier to go to the grocery and pick the items off the shelf. Well, I love to garden and I like doing my own. It gives a special sense of satisfaction knowing I did it. I know the sanitary conditions I use and what goes on and in all the items I grow and preserve. I can make jams and jellies that are combinations of what I want and make them flavorful and sugar free since I am diabetic. Most from the store and nearly tasteless. Also, cost wise, I save a lot because I use the same jars year after year. What I don't grow or grow enough of or the critters have eaten, I buy at farmer's markets, farm markets and even sometimes at the grocers'.

I even got my sister back into canning and preserving and she told me that she was going to start my 10 year old niece this summer as she has shown an interest in it.

Have fun and when you give those people who are razzing you about canning a terrific jar of salsa, pickles or jam, watch their attitude change.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 3:30PM
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Thanks for all the great welcomes! With all my friends' teasing, I was beginning to think I was the only one out there crazy enough to plant a humongous garden (well, to me, who's doing all the weeding and other care, it's huge!) and then can tomatoes in the heat of the summer when all "normal" people are at the beach! Now I know there are others like me :) LOL Luckily my MIL is supportive, even though she only flower gardens now, as is my dad - he even brings tomatoes over by the bucket-load from his own garden!

I only have a water bath canner, but I'd love to get a pressure canner - it's just not in the budget right now. We have 2 boys and the oldest will be going to a private kindergten next fall, so saving money is's one of the reasons I plant what I do. My MIL is from Germany and grew up post WW2. When my DH was young, money was tight and she grew and preserved EVERY vegetable possible. She never bought a single vegetable at the store for years! They also raised cows, sheep, pigs, chickens and had a peach tree, blueberry, raspberry, blackberry and gooseberry bushes! They don't live on a farm either, just about 3 acres of land in Plymouth, MA. She's my inspiration :)

I am planning on freezing any extra veggies (beans, peas, corn, broccoli) so I won't need a pressure canner this year...I've already salivated over my seed catalogs and I can't wait to plant again!

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 5:36PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Goosberries are not allowed in Massachusets anymore due to a related pine tree disease. Here, I have a 2000 sq.ft. garden area, as well as about 30 blueberry bushes mostly over 30 years old, 5 apple trees, 3 Asian pear trees, a qunce, a 4 fruit peach/apricot/ and 2 plums, an asparagus patch, horseradish, red seedless raspberries, winter chives (wild onions), walking onions, garlic grass, saffron crocus, and a few other things I might have forgotten. I start all my garden plants indoors from seeds and these get moved outside to my small greenhouse once the weather is warmer in early May. I like growing peas, corn, carrots, beats, brussels sprouts, broccoli, melons, squash, tomatoes (200+ plants per season) and about the same amount of different pepper types. This year, I will only be growing peas, broccoli, and the seedless watermelons, as half my garden has to be dug up to remove the crushed well water pipes, which also go under a huge concrete patio. Big expense, but worth the effort for good water again

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 6:02PM
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Oh heck no, you are certainly not the only one that crazy, LOL. Some of us have done this all our lives, Readinglady and I refer to ourselves as "the dinosaurs", LOL, canosaurus!

I have a huge organic garden, and even grow my own beef and pork, and have chickens for eggs. I make my own yogurt and have started making sausage. By day I'm a very professional Administrator/Paralegal, but my heart is on the farm that I grew up on and that's my "other" job. LOL

I also have an old Squeezo for tomatoes and it's fine for tomato sauce, etc., but I've tried everything else, including a food processor, for salsa and nothing works except chopping by hand. I like mine thick with BIG chunks of veggies and it's the only way I've found that's acceptable to me.

I also have apple trees, sour cherry trees, strawberries, rhubarb, some relatively young gooseberry bushes and I know where a lot of wild elderberries grow, so I can/jam/pickle everything I can get my hands on. It keeps me off the streets.

The freezer is good for meat and for keeping that fruit until January or February, which is actually the best time to can jam. (grin) Much nicer to stand over that boiling jam pot when it's snowing outside.

Gotta support my habit year round, you know!

Welcome again, I hope you like it here. I'm not from the NE but I'm in Michigan, so we're getting closer!


    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 6:07PM
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dgkritch(Z8 OR)

Gee, Annie, you forgot a couple of things:

Ranch hand
Fence builder
and recent Engagee (yeah, I'm pretty sure I made that one up)!

And inventor of...(drum roll please...) Annie's Famous Salsa!

Well, at least you're famous here!!!


    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 6:51PM
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dgkritch(Z8 OR)

Thanks for posting what kind you use, Annie.
I've been scratching my head trying to figure out how to get a jar in my American Harvester dehydrator.
Looks like the one in the link! LOL

Ain't gonna work I guess. I do have a woodstove though, so might try that option.

Since my yogurt came out thin last time, I'm going to mix it with some blackberries I found in the bottom of the freezer from '06 and make frozen blackberry yogurt!


Here is a link that might be useful: AH dehydrator

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 7:05PM
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Welcome!!! No, you're not crazy and if you are, you are in good company ;) I got into canning for the same reason Zabby states; I am a tomato fanatic and love to grow many different varieties. After lugging buckets to coworkers and neighbors I decided I had to preserve them somehow. To me, there is nothing more rewarding than turning a little seed into quarts of food. It's not easy but the rewards more than make up for work, IMO. I now choose many of the other veggies I grow according to what I plan to do with them; some beans I grow for fresh and others specifically for canning. Some varieties hold up better to processing and some are just delicious fresh.
I also sort tomatoes according to purpose although when the harvest is really on and tables are loaded down, they all get processed into sauce or whatever I happen to be working on. I use my Villaware strainer for this, also a hand-cranked with a hopper. It has worked well for me since I used to do it all by hand which was beyond tedious.
There will always be those that laugh or say it is way too much work when you can grab a can of tomatoes or other veggie at the store for less than $1. My reasoning is that since I enjoy the work, it serves as a release from day-to-day stress. DH laughs when I make my seed orders, he says I could have way worse obsessions (a gal I work with collects designer bags and shoes, average handbag that she buys is around $900).
So welcome and do search for different recipes here. They are all good, safe, and have been tried by numerous people who recommend them. Happy gardening/canning, Lori

    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 8:48PM
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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

If you are crazy then we all are too! ;) May the crazy home canners inherit the earth....or at least all the great home preserved garden goodies!!!

Welcome :0)


    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 10:37PM
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melva02(z7 VA)

kgarden, I buy almost all the food that goes into my canning projects. I go to a produce stand located out near some farms, so most of the food is local. I pick berries and sour cherries.

I try to grow a few things, but so far I've only done container gardens since I seem to move every year or two. This year I will do some tomatoes and cucumbers in the ground where there's a little space, and I'll do some containers on the deck. But with so few plants there's never enough to can at once. My first summer canning I made one quart jar of four pickles, and the only pot I had that would hold a quart was huge so it took an hour to come to a boil. I must have jinxed myself because I still can't make pickles I like!

For Annie's salsa, I blanch & peel, squeeze out the seeds, and then hand-chop. I like it chunky. Annie has a boiling-water-bath version of this salsa that's delicious. I use my Villaware strainer for Shirley's vegetable juice cocktail and for seedless raspberry jam.

Hope you have a bountiful season. Don't forget to check in with the forum while your jars are on the stove, but set the timer so you don't over-process!


    Bookmark   January 14, 2008 at 11:23PM
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Kgarden - I have a garden that seems to get a little bigger every year. Like many others, I started canning 3 yrs ago because I had a huge crop of heirloom tomatoes. Then came wild blueberries from our cabin. Then some wild blackberries. Last year my rhubarb & asperagus came of age. I'm not trying to find a space to plant a few raspberries.

There are a few things I can't grow for one reason or another, green beans, cucumbers & zukes (yes, I know I am the ONLY person in the WORLD that can't grow these)...and I buy them at the local farmers' market. Peaches & cherries are a fav to can...and I get these at the supermarket.

My friends used to laugh at me too....then I gave them some treats....and now they nag me to find even more recipes.

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 12:15AM
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susandonb(NC 7)

Hi, I loved reading your post. I live in North Carolina but am a native of and lived in SE Mass for 40 years of my life. I learned how to can as a young teen from my sister who lived on Cape Cod and had a huge garden. I now have 4 acres here in NC and I grow a 1/2 acre veggie garden. I have quite a bit of knowledge about growing in MA and would love to help you in any way I can. I actually teach gardening and home preserving workshops here in NC.

Don't let your friends and family tell you your crazy! :) It is incredibly rewarding growing and preserving your harvest, not to mention cheaper and more healthy than store bought produce.

I would be happy to share seeds with you. I believe my email is on my profile page, so email me and we can chat.

Have fun and trust me gardening is addictive!


    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 9:15AM
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susandonb(NC 7)

Oh yeah, and this is the greatest site ever created for gardeners. The people here are AWESOME!, they are kind, patient and full of wisdom! I love reading their posts and when I can spare time actually talking with them. I am being very sincere when I say sometimes I get on here and just read for 3 hours and glean all the knowledge I can hold, I walk away feeling very frustrated that I cannot show them personally my gratitude, because they don't really realize how much they help me. It's very cool, like having tons of friends in your garden with you!

Hugs to you all,

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 9:30AM
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prairie_love(z3/4 ND)

What a great thread! It is fun to read about how everyone started in canning and what they grow and where they buy what they don't grow!

So, let's see....I started canning three or four years ago and started with things my mother and grandmother used to make - canned peaches and applesauce mostly. Once I found this forum I was seduced into expanding my repertoire VERY quickly! Like others, Annie's salsa is a must-try. I do the BWB version and love it. I do have a pressure canner, but very seldom use it (although I use it as a BWB because I like it better than my old kettle).

I also have a rather large garden - I have learned to be careful calling it huge because there are people here with much bigger gardens than mine. We moved to our current home five years ago - it's on 20 acres, much of it native woodland. This property has accelerated our more spiritual move to becoming more self-sustaining and more aware of our impact on the environment. As part of that, we are growing more and more of our own food. It is a very satisfying feeling to prepare a wonderful meal and know where every piece of food came from.

However, we will not be able to be completely self-sustaining. Although DH hunts deer (and elk), and fishes, I don't see us growing our own critters. So we buy beef from the Angus farmer down the road. I'm looking for a local source of pork and chicken.

As for fruits and veggies, what I can't grow, I try to buy locally. My strawberry patch is not yet big enough to yield as much as I want, so I go to a local You-Pick. We can't grown peaches and cherries due to climate, so I buy from a person who trucks them in from Colorado. I have my sources for most everything I want to preserve. Even so, there's plenty I still buy from the store.

So there you go, a short bio - LOL - as usual I can't keep it short!

Have fun, this forum is wonderfully helpful and terribly addicting.


    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 10:12AM
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One of the very best sources of gardening info for any area is the local Extension office.

I have a lot of hot pepper growing friends in cold, short season climes and many of them have greenhouses. Container gardening is also very popular and another way to extend the season.


Here is a link that might be useful: Cooperative Extension System Offices

    Bookmark   January 15, 2008 at 11:07AM
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dgkritch(Z8 OR)

Well, speaking of crazy..........
That post from me on the 14th was supposed to be on the yogurt thread. I have no idea how it ended up here! (I can feel more brain cells abandoning ship).

I agree about sharing your passion with friends. I don't get people laughing at me (at least not to my face), more awe and amazement that I spend the time to can my own food.

They never turn down gifts though and I now have several that bring back jars! A few have asked for recipes (not that they are going to can it, just want to make their own...........say Roasted Tomato Garlic Soup). Hey, it's a start!!! I say the more people we can get to think about what they eat, the better. It influences many other decisions.

I also second the recommendation for the extension service.
Fantastic source of info. Many state colleges have websites and are mostly a trustworthy source of tested information. Most are MORE cautious than careless! (Liability, ya know).


    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 12:21PM
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gran2(z5 INDIANA)

you're right - this is a great thread. Reminds me of the basics about some of you that I've heard from the past few years.

I started canning at my mother-in-law's elbow, and it took me two years to figure out what kept the dome lid on the jars. That's pretty dumb. I smartened up quite fast though, and figured out lots of ways to use the cash I used to spend in the grocery. After 43 years in the garden, I'm still spending it somewhere else, but I've added lots more reasons to process our own food besides the almighty dollar.

There is a lot of practical information on this forum, and we're concerned with safety as much as taste and convenience.

The hopper-thing with a crank sounds like my Vittorio strainer, and once you get used to it, you won't be without it. It produces a high quality tomato sauce that's "homogenized" and doesn't separate in the jars. Yes, different method for salsa, but it's perfect for catsup, tomato juice, spaghetti sauce, tomato soup, pizza and barbecue sauces, etc. Stick with us; before long you'll visit the markets only once or twice a month!

    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 1:38PM
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Once again a big thanks for the warm welcome :) I feel very lucky to finally find other people who enjoy gardening and preserving their harvest! Before I started gardening (officially only my 3rd year this spring...) I was still a preserver at heart and I always wished for space for a big garden. Now we live on 6 acres which adjoins my MIL/SIL's 8 and my MIL/FIL's 10. We don't keep any animals (other than my two crazy boys!) but my MIL/FIL have Scottish Highlander cattle as well as chickens for eggs so they keep our freezer full of the best beef and our fridge stocked with eggs. I think I'm a "hoarder" by nature. My freezer has always been well stocked with meat and our pantry was never big enough! I can't believe it when I talk to friends and they buy what they eat each week at the grocery store! I buy chicken breasts only when they are on sale at $1.99 per pound but I buy 15 packages LOL! I have a foodsaver with all the attachments that I am in love with and my dad got me a dehydrator for my birthday a few years ago. I still don't use that one to its fullest, but there's always this year's harvest!

I forgot to mention that in addition to canning tomatoes last year, I froze tons of blueberries, chopped garlic, and pesto that I made myself. I'd like to start freezing soup too, and I'll search this forum for suggestions for sure!

Thanks again!

p.s. My hand-crank thingie is from Italy so everything on the box is in Italian. It has a clamp to attach to your counter. You put tomatoes in the hopper, turn the crank and seeds/peels come out one place and the good stuff another. It's just a messy job since it splashes on the floor so I was hoping for something neater :) It is easy to clean and does produce a nice product though, so I think I'll just stick with it...

    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 3:31PM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

That 'Italian thingy' may be the very early version called "Victorio". They have since done major improvments, not only to the screen area (now hads a spatter sheld) and extended waste end, but also have a shaft seal that prevents any liquids from leaking past the hand crank. Its big, cast aluminium with 4 inch conical stainless steel strainers with different hole sizes, just like it the photo link. The major change is the sieves now have a twist on thread with a single thumbscrew to hold them in place, while the older unit had two big wing nuts on either side of the larger end of the sieves.

    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 4:14PM
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zabby17(z5/6 Ontario)

> May the crazy home canners inherit the earth....

Absolutely --- that way we can plant veggie gardens on it and preserve the results!


    Bookmark   January 16, 2008 at 8:56PM
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Well, I searched online to find my tomato press to show you all. I couldn't find much just by searching for the brand. The box says "Gulliver Spremipomodoro-passatutto" - I don't speak Italian, so I don't know what that translates to :) Then I remembered that he loves Chef's catalog, so I checked there - bingo! Here's the link:

Here is a link that might be useful: Chef's catalog - tomato press

    Bookmark   January 17, 2008 at 6:46AM
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ksrogers(EasternMass Z6)

Yeah, that is a bad design. It might be nice featured in Chefs, but has the worst reputation for making a big mess! You can find the Villaware, Roma, and this new name 'Cucina Pro' at many other places for under $50. Suggest you also look on eBay. I have several links to sources for these, and mine has been a great performer, and even more efficient after adding the motor unit. No cooking or prep needed to get tomatoes done, unless the tomatoes are bigger than the hopper diameter. There, I just cut them in halves or quarters. Their instructions are in plain English!

Here is a link that might be useful: Villaware/Roma/Cucina Pro strainer

    Bookmark   January 17, 2008 at 8:42AM
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