' Aunt Mo
Friday, July 22, 2016

Riding out the Naija Recession

For a lot of us in Nigeria, this is the great recession as we have never seen it this bad, I must confess.  Even in times of Operation Feed the Nation, Austerity Measures, Structural Adjustment Programme alias SAP etc; things were not this bad. How can we sustain the lifestyle of the average 9ja family? I ask myself.
Back in the days, the average 9ja could boast of at least TWO decent meals a day. Right now, we can hardly do this as the number of things contesting with our meagre income is on the increase at an alarming rate. 
Growing up in the 70s and 80s, we could still rely on almighty NEPA for power and The Water Corporation for water unlike now when we do our own power generation and supply our drinkable water ourselves. We even have to ensure adequate security for our neighbourhoods and the list goes on and on. At times I wonder why we pay so much tax!!!
With the depletion of our foreign reserves and recent hike in the price of petrol our burden has escalated. The cost of food stuff has tripled and fake products now abound. Yet the Naija man keeps trudging on, surviving against all odds!!!
Of special interest was the price of tomatoes that rose a couple of months ago to an all time high of NGN500 for 4 pieces of lime sized tomatoes (compared to N100 a month ago) to the ensuing cries of mothers nationwide. 
🙂This was followed immediately by our ingenuity and creativity. Trust Naija women, recipes started surfacing on social media - ‘how to cook without fresh tomatoes’ turned viral on social media. 
Supply of tomatoes and other farm produce have always been seasonal and we have experienced these shortages from time to time. Granted this year was more severe because of the alleged Tomato Ebola that ravaged our crops, coupled with issues of forex and fuel price hike.
However, this does not in any way remove from the serious issues of lack of planning affecting us as a country. Every year agricultural produce are wasted due to lack of storage facilities. We produce tons of tomatoes, oranges, mangoes and other perishable food items and watch them rot before our eyes month on month on end because we cannot preserve them.
When are we going to wake up to the opportunities in canning and preservation of fresh fruits, vegetables and other farm produce???
That is a business idea for someone here, did I hear AMEN!!!!!

In my bid to share ideas on how we can maintain same lifestyle or at least a semblance in the face of the changing economy. I share below the first in the series.

How to Can Tomatoes in the Comfort of Your Kitchen

Canned tomatoes can be a lifesaver if you leave in a country like 9ja where power supply is irregular and you cannot afford the wastage from food rotting away in your freezer.  
I discovered canned plum tomatoes which I use regularly before researching and finally decided to start canning my own if for nothing but to be sure of what goes in it.

I don’t need to add salt nor sugar for instance!!!

Items Required
·         Tomatoes - of course
·         Lemon juice for preservation
·         Jam jars with air tight lids
·         Big stockpot to boil the bottles
·         Bowl of Ice

Steps to follow
·         Wash all utensils thoroughly
·         Boil jam jars in hot water to sterilize them
·         Wash your tomatoes, just to get dirt off - it’s easier to can them whole which is what I do anyways
·         Remove the stem, on the bottom, make an x mark on the tomatoes for easy peeling
·         Boil your pot of water and next to it place a big bowl with cold water
·         Boil tomatoes for a minute (the larger ones took slightly longer, two minutes max)
·         Remove tomatoes with a slotted spoon and place in the ice bath for a few seconds - the skins start to fall off, tug them off gently
·         Get your giant pot/s boiling again with clean water
·         Place the tomatoes in your warm jars up to ½ an inch below the rim
·         Press down with a spoon to make bottle compact. Add more tomatoes to within ½ ″ of the top.
·         Now add lemon juice. They need the extra acidity to keep. For the ½ litre add a tablespoon, for the full litre add 2 tablespoons
·         Run your spoon around the edge to loosen up any bubbles and bring them to the surface. If you need to, add boiled water to fill the jars within ½ ″ of the rim.

·         Wipe the rim of the jar with a paper towel or clean kitchen towel to remove any tomato, juice etc. Anything left on the rim could spoil your tomatoes.
·         Place the lid on top, and screw the rings in place. Or just wipe and screw the lid on if you have plain lids

·         Now your tomatoes are ready for canning!

You’ll notice the seal on the lid is up; you can push it up and down with your finger. Now we need to process the jars so they are safe to store for up to a year. When we are done, the lid will be sucked in and that’s when will know they sealed correctly.

So place your still-warm jars in the heating water. Submerge the jars entirely with water 2-3″ above the lids and bring to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, remove the lid of the pot and start your timer for 85 minutes.
If you hear any jars rattling against each other, add a kitchen towel in between. Check periodically to see that the water level is still above the tops of the jars and add water if necessary.
Remove the jars after 85 minutes (or your increased processing time if you are using your kitchen gloves or jar lifter if you have one.
Place them somewhere no one will bump or touch them and let them sit to cool, overnight is good. You may hear hissing when you take them out of the water – that’s totally fine. The jars’ seals will still be up at this point, they will suck in as the jars cool.

The next morning, check your jars. Are the seals down? Any leaks? If not, you’re good to go.