Last weekend I went to Tryon, NC and visited a local upick tomato farm. Farm? Garden? Whatever you call a large place with a ton of tomatoes that they let you come and pick for a ridiculously economic price. I picked about a half bushel for $4.00 and literally almost pulled my arms off carrying the buckets of my beautiful tomatoes.

Before I get into what I did with these tomatoes, let me just interject here and explain something that I learned (the hard way). I've been used to getting tomatoes from the store and paying a ridiculous price for them. For those of you who haven't ever acquired a lot of tomatoes at one time (like me, a week ago), I've got some tips for you.

As soon as you get home clean your tomatoes and set them out on newspaper. Do NOT leave them in the bag you collected them in for a week. I mean, you could have all good intentions of using them all that weekend and time could slip away because you mistakenly got into more than what you bargained for, but whatever you do, just take them out of your bags and get them laid out.

Because seriously, the rotting mess that happens in one week is seriously disgusting. I lost at least 3 pounds or so of tomatoes because of it. I had all intentions of doing all my canning last weekend but since it was my first time I underestimated how long it would take so by the time I did 4 quarts of whole tomatoes, I was done.

Another tip I'll give you is to relax. The first canning experience I had was so stressful because I was trying to follow the instructions so closely that I really didn't enjoy what I was doing. I was so consumed with getting everything down to the second. This time around I relaxed and wow, how much more fun this was!!

And the last tip, and probably the most important... have wonderful friends who give you delicious fresh veggies (or whatever) from their garden because it TOTALLY makes the whole canning experience rock ten times more than if I had to go buy all my additional vegetables for my salsa. I mean, other than a few jalapenoes all of my veggies in my salsa were all fresh and not store bought - and in my book, that's pretty awesome.

So, last weekend I canned 4 quarts of tomatoes and this weekend I did 9 pints of salsa! All, for $7. Granted I didn't count the peppers and cilantro given to me. So that is a really nice savings and considering tomatoes go up in price during the winter, this will save me some decent cash! I plan to go back and pick some more and can some crushed  tomatoes and maybe some more salsa before tomato season ends.