Tag Archives: tomatoes

Tomato Canning Tutorial

Today’s guest post comes from Laura of A Pug in the Kitchen.  I’ve known Laura for the longest of all my bloggy friends and she graciously agreed to do this tutorial after “canning tomato sauce” won my poll and I realized I probably wouldn’t be able to do it!

I come from a long line of tomato sauce makers.  As far back as when I was still standing on a kitchen chair to help my mom, I remember stories of her grandmother’s sauce and how she always carried a sprig of basil in the front pocket of her apron.  If you ask my grandmother’s neighbors what they remember most about her, they will typically answer that the whole street smelled like home when she made her pasta sauce.  My own mother planted 2 dozen tomato plants every year and made vat after vat of sauce.  After she died, I got her tomato sauce vat and I proudly use it yearly.  However, when it came time to make my own sauce, I wanted to can mine, and not use up valuable freezer space.  For this, I took lessons from my husband’s sister’s mother-in-law.  It was a long day, full of tomatoes, but the skills I learned then I use often and hope you will find helpful throughout this brief lesson on canning tomato sauce.

 

Before you begin, you must first make sure you have canning jars, lids, rings and something to use as a water bath canner.  I have a home canning kit that was given to me as a wedding present, but I have also found that as long as you are able to cover your jars completely with water, you can use any pan you’d like.  When I make sauce, I prefer to use the Roma tomato variety because they are meatier tomatoes and the sauce thickens up better.  Any tomato will do, it’s simply my preference. 

 

My mother washed, cored and quartered the tomatoes before taking them for a spin in her blender.  While this method is a piece of cake and requires no blanching and peeling, I am rather partial to the Kitchen Aid attachment for straining fruits and vegetables.  It is literally the same 3 steps as with a blender, but the Kitchen Aid attachment is designed to reject the seeds and skin, so all you have a pure tomato pulp.  (Also effective and a much cheaper option is a simple food grinder.  It’s great for quick jobs, homemade baby foods and if you don’t have a Kitchen Aid!) Once your tomatoes are mashed, put them into a stockpot and begin to heat them.  The point of heating the tomatoes is to sanitize them and then cook them to the thickness you desire.  I like mine as thick as I can get it, so I often add in an 8 oz can of tomato paste per 6-7 pounds of tomatoes while the sauce is cooking to ensure it gets to the consistency I want.    You can add in your choice of spices while the sauce is cooking or leave it plain and add them in before you serve. 

 

While your sauce is cooking, this is the time to get your jars, lids and rings in order.  I try to do the bulk of my sauce in quart-sized jars, but after I have at least 20, I am willing to do pints of sauce.  You will need to sanitize your jars and one of the quickest ways of doing this is to put them in your dishwasher on the sanitize cycle.  If you don’t have this option, fill your canner with water and boil the jars for 2 minutes.  The lids and the rings should go in a separate pan to simmer until you are ready to use them.

 

Once the jars have been sanitized, the water in your canner is boiling and your sauce is the thickness you desire, you are ready!  Carefully ladle the sauce into your jars, leaving 1/4th inch headspace.  Then add in 2 Tbsp. lemon juice for quart jars (1 Tbsp for pints), so keep the tomatoes fresh tasting and to reduce any odds of spoilage.  Then wipe the rims with a towel, retrieve your lids and fasten them tightly.  Set your jars down in the boiling water bath and make sure the tops are covered with at least an inch of water.  Process them for 40 minutes for quarts and 35 minutes for pints.  Once the jars are done, remove them from the water using tongs and set them aside to cool.  When they are cool, you can check to make sure they have all sealed by pushing down on the tops of the lids and making sure they don’t spring back.  Don’t do this while the jars are still hot because you can seriously burn yourself and you really shouldn’t mess with the jars until they are cool as it can hinder them from sealing completely.  As the jars do seal, you should hear them “ping” shut.  If you’ve never heard it before, you’ll love it and if you’re a pro, I think you’ll agree with me that that sound is even more rewarding than the sauce itself after a long day of tomato canning!

 Quick tips:

*For thin sauce – An average of 35 pounds of tomatoes is needed per 7 quarts of sauce; an average of 21 pounds of tomatoes is needed per 9 pints of sauce. A bushel weighs 53 pounds and yields 10 to 12 quarts of sauce-an average of 5 pounds per quart.

*For thick sauce – An average of 46 pounds of tomatoes is needed per 7 quarts of sauce; an average of 28 pounds of tomatoes is needed per 9 pints of sauce. A bushel weighs 53 pounds and yields 7 to 9 quarts of sauce-an average of 6½ pounds per quart.

*I don’t recommend putting fresh garlic into your sauce before you can it.  For some reason, the flavor always seems a little off to me.  I like to simmer my sauce for a little before actually using it, so I add the garlic in then.

Laura is an advocate of things green, natural and even a little crunchy after leaving her career as a Toxicology researcher when it became evident to her what was really going on behind all the pretty labels.  Today, she can be found in the garden, in the kitchen, playing with her 1 year old son, crafting or stealing a few moments to read.  Feeding people real, local and simple food that isn’t deceptively healthy is her passion.  Check out Laura’s blog A Pug in the Kitchen or follow her on twitter @Beansprouthair.  

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Garden Tomato Soup

Or, “Tomato Soup, Hold the Fingertip”

After cutting my thumb in my first attempt to make tomato soup out of my garden’s bounty, I decided to get right back on the horse. 

  • 3 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large or 2 small leeks
  • about 3-4 quarts fresh tomatoes, (or I’d estimate 2 28 oz. cans whole tomatoes)
  • 1 quart chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup packed fresh basil leaves
  • salt and pepper to taste

Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for 1 minute, then transfer to ice water.  Peel and crush the tomatoes with your hands, removing seeds to a fine mesh sieve placed over a bowl to catch the juices.  Cut the leeks in half lengthwise, then slice them VERY CAREFULLY (this is how I cut the tip off my thumb last time!)  Roughly chop the basil. 

Melt the butter in a large cast iron pot and saute the leeks until softened.  Add the tomatoes, stock and basil.  Simmer for 30-45 minutes until tomatoes are fully cooked and falling apart.  Puree in batches and serve immediately, or transfer to containers to freeze.

Serve hot and garnish with any (or all) of the following: sour cream, shredded cheese, fresh herbs, crackers, or a grilled cheese sandwich.  For a variation, stir in leftover rice and heat through for tomato rice soup.

*Sorry, I forgot to take a picture before I put it in the freezer!

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Red White and Blue

tomatoes 003

I guess that hot weather was just what my tomatoes needed! Some are going strong while some plants are looking pretty sad… But after the trip out to the garden today, I have renewed hope that I might just be able to can some tomatoes this year.

How’s your garden doing?

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Saturday in the Garden

I finally got out to the garden today to attend to the broken sunflowers from Tropical Storm Hanna.  I ended up removing them all and throwing them in the woods.  I saved some of the heads for the seeds, which I plan to both plant next year and eat.  I also saved the few remaining living flowers to make a couple of bouquets.  It’s funny, but up until now I never picked one to bring into my house because they were so pretty outside where they were.  Growing sunflowers has been very rewarding this year because they made my garden look so sunny and happy and also required little care.  I will certainly be growing them in the same spot next year, right along the back of the garden fence.  Now I’m also thinking of where else the cheery flowers will look good next year.

After pulling out the sunflowers, I got my fall/winter garden seeds in.  A little later than I had originally planned, but I’m counting on global warming to keep my garden producing into late November!  I planted more carrots and lettuce, turnips, broccoli and spinach.  I’ve never grown anything in the fall or winter, so it’s kind of experimental this year and I’ll be happy with whatever I get.

Finally, after the ripping out and the planting, I picked a big bowl full of tomatoes.  The storm knocked a bunch of the tomatoes off of the vines, so these ended up in the woods.  I plan to can these tomatoes after they ripen up a little bit more.  Maybe this time I’ll make my spaghetti sauce and can that instead of the crushed tomatoes.

While I was out in the garden, Ed was busily working on designing the mantel for the fireplace.  Our fireplace is in the part of the great room in our house that’s more formal, with the coffered ceiling and the fancier furniture.  The fireplace is made of red bricks with a blue slate hearthstone, and the walls are painted a creamy off-white.  Because it’s in a fancier part of our house, the mantel is going to be large and detailed.  It will most definitely be made of wood, as Ed likes to make everything out of wood, and painted the same white as the trim.  He’s been looking through books and I went back to all of the magazine pages that I started to tear out when we first decided to build a house.  It was nice to reminisce as I saw the pictures that we used to model our bathroom after, the kitchen islands that I liked, and the paint colors that we selected and vetoed.  I also enjoyed looking at the ideas that we haven’t yet gotten to, including mudroom benches and pegs on the wall, the pantry shelving, the wall decorations, and of course the dreams of a big maroon barn out back and children’s bedrooms.  Ed’s been drawing and planning, and today he drew a full-size model on plywood of what the mantel will look like.  It’s colonial and traditional, of course, with columns, moulding, and fancy carvings.  I can’t wait to hang our stockings on it this Christmas!

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Garden Supper

BEFORE: Tomatoes, basil and lettuce from my garden.

Just when I start to feel like it’s fall, the ripe tomatoes in my garden remind me that it’s still summer!  Tonight I was so happy to pick the first lettuce from my second planting, after a few weeks without lettuce in our salads.  The tomatoes are finally beginning to ripen in large quantities, enough to make sauce for the two of us with leftovers.  The basil is out of control, so big, and I know that I have to spend some quality time making and freezing pesto soon.  I added some of Chris and Melissa’s garlic, fresh pasta and cheese, and  I added leftover Maine lobster to Ed’s plate, since his mom was so kind as to bring home some lobsters for him.  (I’m allergic to lobster, but I was very happy with the vegetarian version.)  Ed’s mom also brought us a 5 pound box of Maine blueberries, some of which I froze and some of which I turned into Blueberry Buckle.  It’s cooling now and will make a great breakfast for the rest of the week.  Or dessert.  Or snack.

AFTER: Tomatoes, basil and lettuce from my garden.

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Garden Update

It’s been a while since I posted pictures from my gardens, so I thought it was time.

The hydrangeas and petunias in the front are really doing well.  However, my formerly blue hydrangeas have turned a shade of lilac-blue due to the alkalinity of our well water.  They’re beautiful either way.  And speaking of water, the repair guys came today and did a band-aid fix that will last for a little while, I hope, until they can replace the defective parts next week.  Needless to say, I’m very upset about the continued problems with the water pump, but I’m happy to be able to continue to water my plants, shower, wash dishes and laundry, drink water, wash my hands, and cook dinner. 

I’m not happy about all the dirt that comes along with disturbing the well pump, so I’ll be cleaning it out of the toilets, sinks, shower and tub for the next week or so.  At least I took some time off of water use, which will help with the Crunchy Domestic Goddess’s Five Minute Shower Challenge.  OK back to flowers! Here’s a close-up of one of the hydrangeas. 

 

The back flower garden is plugging along quite nicely, and has become the lowest maintenance garden that we have.  The impatiens have really been enjoying the afternoon shade, and have filled in well.  The white bleeding heart is also going strong.  This week, Ed’s mom gave us some morning glories, which I planted to climb up the trellises.  This garden gets nice sun in the morning, so I hope this is a good spot for them.  I’ve always loved the true blue of morning glories, ever since I first saw them in Grandma Rose’s garden. 

The first blooms on the blue lace cap hydrangea in the back are beginning to open.  Unlike the fullness of the mophead hydrangeas in front, this one will open a few blooms wide, and keep the small, bud-like flowers in the center, giving it a lacy appearance.  This one looks lilac, too, but it was supposed to be blue.  Oh well, I can’t change the pH of my groundwater.

And finally, the veggie garden.  The lettuce is coming along really well.  We’ve already eaten quite a few, and I’m planning to plant some more seeds of different varieties for a longer harvest.  I’ve gotten compliments from my family and from our friends Marcia and Brian when I’ve served them our home grown salad.  Now if only those tomatoes would hurry along so I could serve something other than a lettuce salad…

The carrots are doing pretty well, which means they’re growing, but nowhere near ready.  The snap peas are giving us about a handfull every couple of days, which seems to be just enough for the two of us.  The green beans are coming along as well, which means they’re alive, as opposed to the ones I had to rip out.  The parsley and chives are coming along as well.

Some of the tomatoes have buds and others are just working on growing a bit more.  One even has a tiny green tomato beginning to form! I was excited when I spotted it today! I’ve been adding ties to them as they grow, helping to anchor them to the stake.  I’m using some old yarn because it was on hand, and I figured it would give and be gentle for the tomatoes.  I’m sure I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: I’d really like to can tomatoes this summer.  I plan to buy a pressure cooker so that I can cut down on the cooking time, but they’re pretty expensive.  I guess it just depends on how many tomatoes I get.  We’ll see how they do when the time comes.  I’ve got my sister-in-law Melissa to agree that we will can together, and I’m hoping she has a good harvest of tomatoes, since her garden’s pretty big.  I’d like to get enough tomatoes to last the year for spaghetti sauce.  I make sauce once a week or so, so that’s a lot of tomatoes! 

After a hoard of cucumber beetles attacked the pickle cukes, yellow squash, spaghetti squash, butternut squash, sugar pumpkins, and Stella Blue pumpkins, I broke down and bought some spray.  All the plants were suffering, and I lost one of the blue pumpkin hills.  I got some organic spray, and it seemed to do the trick, except that I have to spray it at dusk or it will end up burning the plants.  Those little black and yellow striped beetles can do some damage! My dad told us today that there are plenty of bugs in the soil just waiting because this used to be a pumpkin field.  Great!  Well, the spray worked so well that I decided to try it on the roses, which are under attack by something too small for me to see.  I’m guessing some kind of mites. 

Finally, the sunflowers are doing really well, despite my complete lack of weeding around them.  I put them against the back wall of the garden, because I imagine them beautifully blooming along the fence.  I’m excited to see them get really big!

OK, I guess that’s it for today’s garden update.  Tomorrow’s my last day of school, and I, like my students, can’t wait for summer vacation to begin!

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First Pick from the Garden

Tonight we had our first supper that had something in it we grew.  I saw the basil was ready to have a few leaves plucked off, so I came up with a yummy Italian meal to go with it.  Fortunately, I had all the ingredients so it was easy to throw together.  Note: basil will turn black quickly if you cut it, so tear it by hand when you’re ready to use it.

Wild Mushroom Ravioli with Chicken Sausage in Tomato and Basil Sauce

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat while you make the sauce.  To make the sauce, combine all of the following ingredients in a dutch oven and bring to a simmer:

  • 28 oz. can organic crushed tomatoes with basil
  • 4 sun-dried tomato and basil chicken sausage links, fully cooked and sliced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • handfull of basil pieces
  • dash of crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste

Allow the sauce to simmer over low heat, covered, while the ravioli cooks.  When the water is at a boil, add:

  • 1 package organic wild mushroom ravioli (frozen)

Cook ravioli according to package directions.  Drain, top with sauce, and garnish with more basil.  Of course you can add some parmesan cheese if you like, but I don’t use it.

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