with Kimberly Sevilla
Help, tomatoes abound! What do I do?
Yep, it’s been a bumper year for tomatoes, and anyone lucky enough to have grown their own, no doubt have plenty, but for everyone else, the Farmers Market is the next best thing.
What do you do with all those tomatoes? Can them! Canning tomatoes is easy and they last a long time. You don’t need much in terms of special equipment, and by wintertime, they make wonderful housewarming gifts. This recipe makes a rich, canned tomato that can be crushed for sauce or eaten as is, they are delicious.
I have been canning tomatoes for years and here’s the tastiest, easiest way I have found to do it. If you want to get all technical, this is a HOT PACK method with a BOILING WATER BATH. This is a time-tested method that works.
Equipment you will need:
1 qt canning jars, wide mouth is best (use the type with the separate bands and lids) Make sure your jars don’t have any chips on the tops.
A basic canning kit with jar lifters, lid lifters, canning funnel and tightener.
Clean tea towels or other lint-free towels like flour sack towels.
A strainer and potato masher or a tomato juicer or a food mill.
Tomatoes, heirloom varieties for juice and plum tomatoes to can. Figure that 7 tomatoes will fit into a jar, and that you will need about 1 pt of juice for each jar (2-3 large tomatoes)
A large pot, stainless steel, or enamel. (Never use aluminum pots.)
Wipe down your counters with a towel dipped in hot, hot water.
Clean your jars and lids with hot soapy water and a brush, rinse and using your jar tool, dip the jars in a pot of boiling water. Turn the jars over onto a freshly washed towel to dry.
Place your lids in a shallow bowel and cover with boiling water. Put a lid on the container until ready to use, do this 10 minutes before using.
Take your large tomatoes, wash and and quarter, put in a large pot and add about 1″ of water, steam for about 10 mins until soft.
Process with a masher and strainer or with a food mill to separate the juice from the skin and seeds. Put juice in a large sauce pan.
Take your plum tomatoes and cut an x in the bottom. Dip the tomatoes in boiling water until the skin curls back a little. Put the tomatoes in ice water to cool and slide off the skin.
Bring your juice to just a boil, turn off the heat and skim off any foam.
Place the skinned tomatoes, vertically in the jar, put 2-3 basil leaves in the jar using a stainless steel butter knife, make sure that they are visible from the outside.
Add 3/4 tsp of kosher salt and 1 tsp of lemon juice. Some people add 1 tsp of sugar, this is optional (but you will get more compliments for sure).
Using the canning funnel, ladle in the hot, hot juice leaving 1/2″ of head space, dip a corner or your towel in boiling water and wipe off the top and rings of the jar. Take a butter knife and slide down the sides of the jar to remove any air bubbles. Tap the jar on the counter. Put the lid and band on the jar and tighten.
Place the jars in large pot of boiling water using the jar lifter. Make sure they don’t touch. Some people even put a washcloth in the bottom to prevent breakage. I live life on the edge and omit this. Now you know how handy the jar lifter is. Make sure the jars are covered with at least 1″ of hot water.
I find it easier to boil water in a tea kettle and add the extra water after the jars are in place.
Boil for 45 minutes.
Remove, using the jar lifter and place on a clean dry towel to cool. The hot jars are delicate and easy to break. Loosen the bands slightly with the band tightening tool or towel. Make sure the lids are on straight, wipe off any spills with the corner of a clean towel dipped in boiling water. Let cool. You will hear a PING noise when the seal is formed, don’t be alarmed.
Remove the bands and test the lids with a fingernail to see if there is a seal. If sealed, the dimple in the cap will be depressed and the lid will be tight on the jar. Loosely attach the bands and label. If there is no seal, and the contents are warm, reprocess with a new lid.
Store in a cool dry place. Before using, make sure the lid is sealed tight, and the dimple is depressed. You should hear a loud pop when you pry off the lid. If the lid is loose, if your don’t hear a pop or you notice seepage, discard the jar and contents. I have been canning tomatoes for years and have never had a bad jar but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
These tomatoes can be used to make sauce, eat as is, or smashed to make an amazing Bloody Mary base.
I want to grow a garden, is it too late?
No, no and no, it’s never too late with the right planning you can garden all year round. I had the privilege of going to a gardening show recently and had a nice long chat with the owner of Landreth Seeds, one of the oldest seed companies in the US (since 1784) and the president of Burgeon and Ball, a prestigious gardening tool company from the UK. We had a long conversation about fall and winter gardening and all the types of things that one can grow, if winter allows, up until December or beyond. A lot of vegetables actually do better in the cold weather and should be planted in the fall. In the UK, they grow lettuce and spinach all winter long, sometimes we get that lucky here and can as well, sometimes not, but into December is still a safe bet.
Here is the short list. Don’t be afraid to plant seeds now to enjoy. These can be grown in window boxes, on roof top containers or directly in the ground. No garden necessary. You can start them inside or direct sow, whichever you prefer.
Lettuce, loose leaf varieties like baby oakleaf and red velvet, bloomsdale spinach, chives, cilantro, dill, broccoli raab, cauliflower, kale, brussel sprouts, beets, turnips and cabbage. You can also plant potatoes for a fall crop and leeks, onions, and garlic to harvest next spring. Many of the crops can be harvested when young for mescaline type salads or left to mature. You may also want to test out some oriental varieties like bok choy. Throw a couple seeds in, see what happens. Let me know.
Now go garden!
I would be happy to answer any gardening questions you may have. Please send them to: firstname.lastname@example.org
653 Metropolitan Ave
Williamsburg, NY 11211
Rose Red & Lavender
Flowers, Plants and Beautiful Things