Canning Tomatoes

If you’ve read my book, Ditching the Drive Thru, you know that the very first thing I ever preserved was tomatoes.  Every year, I spend quite a few mornings canning tomatoes.  I used to go through the tedious process of peeling all of the tomatoes, which is very time consuming and I would end up with pruney fingers that don’t go away for like a week.

One year, after canning something like 30 quarts of peeled tomatoes, I stood in the kitchen watching my husband squash up the canned tomatoes.  Every dish he made, he was squashing up the tomatoes that I had so painstakingly peeled and gently placed in jars.  It made me furious.  I finally asked him how many recipes he used that called for whole tomatoes.  He replied that most of them do, and the directions say to break them up.

Squeezo

Well, the heck with that.  The next summer, all of the tomatoes went through the Squeezo, that removes the skins and seeds and speeds up the whole process.  I mean no disrespect to the recipe writers, but if you are instructing people to break up the tomato in the directions of the recipe, what was the point of using a whole tomato in the first place?

Canning tomatoes is pretty easy, and since they are cheap this time of year, and they don’t really have a texture change if you have to re-process them, I feel as though tomatoes are a great place to begin your canning career!

 

 

Here is my method:

  1. Wash off the tomatoes, to remove any dirt, little bugs, etc.
  2. Fill a large pot about three quarters of the way full with tomatoes and cook until they are soft enough to put through a food mill.
  3. While the tomatoes are cooking, prepare your jars following manufacturer’s instructions. I keep my jars hot in the canner. Be sure to check the top of the jars for nicks.  I have found nicks on new jars, which was disappointing, but this important step can mean the difference between a jar sealing or not.
  4. When the tomatoes are ready, put them through the food mill. Do NOT put the seeds into your compost, or you will have volunteer tomato plants all over your garden! Put the pulp back on the stove and heat to a simmer. At this point I add ½ teaspoon of citric acid per quart of tomatoes, to insure they are acidic enough.
  5. Put the tomatoes in the prepared jars and process in a hot water bath, according these guidelines from Viriginia Extension Office.

Quick & Easy Tomato Soup

For many of us, nothing says homey comfort on a snowy winter day quite like a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup.  I grew up on tomato soup that was made from the condensed stuff out of a can, like many of us did.  Here is something almost as quick and almost as easy as that condensed soup, but with a lot more flavor.  It calls for tomatoes that were canned in the summer, and homemade stock, but you can substitute.  Just be sure to read the labels and choose carefully!

Tomato Soup

  • 1 quart of homemade stock (Bone broth works really well)
  • 1 quart of tomato puree
  • 2 green onions, sliced
  • 1 rib celery, diced
  • 1/2 green pepper, diced
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T sugar
  • 2 t salt
  • 1 T arrowroot powder***, dissolved in 2 T water
  1. Melt the butter in a large pot.  Add the onions, celery, green pepper, and salt.**  Saute until it is soft, about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the tomatoes, stock, and sugar and simmer for another ten minutes.  If you want that smooth consistency of the canned condensed soup, you can run an immersion (stick) blender through the soup.
  3. Bring the soup up to a boil and add the arrowroot, stirring constantly.
  4. Add salt and pepper to taste

This is also wonderful with some homemade pesto mixed in, or adding Taco Seasoning or Aged Inlet Seasoning

 

**Adding salt at the start of the saute helps to draw the moisture out of the vegetables and keeps the soup from getting too watery.

***If you do not have arrowroot, you can use corn starch or potato starch.

Easy Salsa That’s Good for Your Gut

I have already posted my recipe for canned salsa, but I have two others, both using that age-old preservation process I call Probiotic Preservation.  To learn more about it, see my earlier blog post.

The first is a tomato recipe that tastes much like the salsa in the canned recipe.

Red Salsa

  • 5-6 medium tomatoes
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 sweet pepper, small dice
  • 1 jalepeno pepper, sliced (seeds or no seeds – hotness is up to you!)
  • 1 poblano pepper, sliced (see above)
  • 1 stalk celery, small dice
  • 1 T honey or REAL maple syrup
  • 1/3 C sea salt
  • ¼ C whey

Scald and peel the tomatoes.  Cut into bite size pieces and put in a bowl.  Put the onion in a sieve and run under hot water for about a minute.  Add to the bowl.  Sprinkle with the salt and mix and let stand for about three hours.  Drain.  Add the remaining ingredients and mix well.  Pack into jars and close lids.  Leave in at room temperature for 2-3 days.  Transfer to cold storage.

Note:  If you do not have whey available, add 1T of salt  when you add the remaining ingredients.

Green Salsa

  • 1 quart tomatillos, husked and washed and chopped
  • 1 medium onion, rough chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, fine chopped
  • 1 large bunch cilantro, fine chopped, stems included
  • 1 sweet pepper, small dice
  • hot peppers to taste
  • 1/3 C sea salt
  • 1/4 C whey
  1. Combine the tomatillos and onions in a non-reactive bowl and sprinkle with the salt.  Let stand about 20 minutes and then drain.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients.
  3. Pack into jars and close lids.  Leave in a warm place for 2-3 days.  Transfer to cold storage.
  4. When you are ready to eat the salsa, you can serve it as is, or mix it with some fresh chopped red tomatoes, and/or chopped mangos.
    Note:  If you do not have whey available, add 1T of salt  when you add the remaining ingredients.

Another note:  If you put too many hot peppers in the salsa, adding a fruit like mango or apple right before you serve it can cut down the heat with the sweet.

DO NOT ADD THE FRUIT BEFORE YOU FERMENT THIS!  Yes, I tried that once.  The salsa molded halfway down the jar in about two weeks.

I can’t tell you how long these will hold up in cold storage because they doesn’t stick around in our house more than a month or two.  Figure it this way — the tomatoes come in just as football season is starting.

Still more tomatoes coming??

DSC_0115            Sometimes I forget what a pantry staple salsa has become.  Whether it is a lunch fix (Nacho Sandwiches) or a fast dinner (“Spanish” Rice), we use salsa as more than something to scoop up with chips.  Although we like that, as well.

            I have issues with salsa.  Most homemade salsa that I have had is too runny and/or too watery.  Salsa from the store has that plastic taste (I’m not sure how else to describe it: that non-descript, doesn’t really taste like anything flavor, probably manufactured in North Jersey), but usually has a nice thick consistency.

            So here is your middle ground:  The best salsa ever, inspired by my mother-in-law’s recipe:

Rosemary’s Salsa

  • 10 quarts of tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  •   ½ C salt

Mix these together in a colander, and let drain for 3 hours.  Transfer to a non-reactive pot. Then add:

  •  1-2 stalks celery, sliced
  •  2 green onions, chopped
  • 2 jalepenos, sliced (de-seed for less heat)
  • 2 green chilies (de-seed for less heat)
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 C vinegar
  • 12 oz. tomato paste

Simmer for 20 minutes.  Pack in hot pint jars and process 20 minutes.

Nacho Sandwiches

  • 2 tortillas
  • ½ C salsa
  • ½ C grated cheese

Place one tortilla on an oven-proof dish, sprinkle with ½ the cheese.  Top with the salsa and then the rest of the cheese.  Put under the broiler for 1-2 minutes.  Top with the other tortilla.  When we don’t have tortillas, we use toast.  The toast gets soggy, but it still tastes good!

“Spanish” Rice (I’m not sure if that is somehow un PC…)

  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • 4 C cooked rice
  • 1 pt. jar salsa

1.     In a large skillet, brown the ground beef, and strain off about half of the fat.

2.     Add the rice and stir until coated.

3.     Add the salsa and stir until everything is heated through.  Sometimes we top this with grated cheese, sour cream and/or guacamole.

Sweet Victory

A few years ago, my friend Andrea (from milk escapades a few entries ago) encouraged me to enter my pickles in our local county fair.  A couple of weeks later, she encouraged me to enter more pickles to another fair.  Along with the pickles, my husband told me to enter a jar of Sweet Tomato Jam, a recipe I was loath to make let alone enter in a fair competition.  The only reason I made it was because we had about 10 cherry tomato plants, that were very prolific, and I had to do something with those tomatoes!  Well, that sweet Tomato Jam was a Best in Show that year.  So when the tomato staples are covered, and the tomatoes are still coming in, I make a few batches of this:

 Sweet Tomato Jam

·      4-5 lbs tomatoes, peeled

·      4-6 chili peppers, deseeded and sliced thin (amount depends upon how hot you want to make this)

·      1 ½ “ piece of ginger root, grated

·      1 medium head of garlic, peeled and chopped

·      3 lemons, zested and juiced

·      1 small shallot, minced

·      4 C sugar

 

1.     Chop the tomatoes and transfer juice and all into a large non-reactive pot.

2.     Add the remaining ingredients, and stir until the sugar has dissolved.

3.     When it starts to simmer, turn the heat up to boil off the excess water.  Continue cooking until the mixture turns translucent (this could take up to 3 hours).  The jam tends to stick, so stirring regularly is necessary and constant stirring is required at the end of the cooking process.

4.     Ladle hot jam into hot jars and process.

5.     Leave jam to rest for at least 1 month before eating.  This pairs very nicely with goat cheese, and makes a wonderful glaze for pork or chicken.