Home Canning Tomatoes

This week has been quite productive.  On Monday, I sold my first two trays of sweets.  One tray of cookies (lemon cookies and sugar cookies) and one tray of brownie bites (mixed flavors).  It was a last minute order and I delivered it in about 4 hours.  Woo Hoo!

Then on Wednesday I realized I had a few too many fresh tomatoes to eat before they went bad (you never actually have too many tomatoes).  So I canned a few of them.  I did two separate canning processes and thought I would tell you about them here.

First, I canned regular, home grown, garden tomatoes.  These are the big, sweet, juicy, delicious ones that you just can’t get in the store.  They will make the most wonderful soups this winter!  I happen to have my grandmother’s copy of a booklet called “Food Preservation in Alabama” (published in 1950).  The process for canning tomatoes that I found in there makes the best canned tomatoes of all.  Here is what it says:

“A water-bath canner is used for processing fruits, tomatoes, pimientos, rhubarb, jam, preserves and relishes.  The temperature of boiling water (212 degrees F) is the temperature required for destroying bacteria that would be harmful to these products.  A higher temperature will affect flavor and vitamin content.”

I use a large stock pot, because I don’t have an actual canner, and it works quite well.  You will need some kind of a rack in the bottom (the book suggests a wooden rack, but anything that will boil and will raise the jars off the bottom will work).  You will first need to sterilize your jars, canning funnel, lids (always use new lids) and the tongs you use to place and remove the jars from the sterilization process.  To sterilize them, place the jars, funnel and then working end of your tongs (leave the handle where you can get to it) in your canner full of boiling water and boil them for 5 minutes. At the end of 5 minutes, turn off the heat and drop the jar lids in for just a minute.  Remove everything and set aside on a clean towel until ready to fill.  To can my tomatoes, I use the cold pack method given in the book:

“Select firm ripe tomatoes of medium size, free from spots and decay (I used all sizes, as I wanted them chopped anyway).  Wash, place in a wire basket or square cheesecloth, and dip into boiling water for about 1 minutes, according to ripeness.  Then plunge quickly into cold (iced) water, drain, peel and core promptly (and chop if you want).  Pack into containers (sterilized jars) as closely as possible and until enough juice is released to cover the solids (this is why it works best if you chop the tomatoes).  Add 1 teaspoon of salt per quart.  Process in a water-bath canner for 30 minutes (pint or quart jars).”   Make sure you wipe off the top of the jars before placing the lid and hand tightening the band.  The rim of the jar must be clean to get a good seal.  The water in your canner should be hot but not quite boiling when you put the jars in, and don’t start your timing until the water comes to a boil.  Also, make sure the water in your canner covers the jars by a least an inch.

Canned Tomatoes

Aren’t they beautiful?  I also had a big bowl of grape and cherry tomatoes.  I am bad to watch the Cooking Channel and had seen an episode of French Food At Home where host, Laura Calder, canned these tomatoes whole.  The episode was called Well Preserved. I followed her directions and wound up with 3 quarts (half full) of tomatoes.  I didn’t have any fresh thyme, so I used fresh basil (I use it with tomatoes a lot), and it took a lot longer to get them to collapse down than she said, but I think they turned out beautifully:

Canned Grape and Cherry Tomatoes

I wish I had an large open shelf in my kitchen, I would display my canned tomatoes as decoration (until I eat them of course).

Have you every done any home canning?  What is your favorite fruit or vegetable to can?

Happy Canning!

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Homemade Tomato Soup

My mother used to make a recipe for a ground beef casserole that she called Meat Jamboree.  I was a delicious combination of ground beef, canned tomato soup, egg noodles, green beans and cheese.  When I decided I wanted to work on it and make it healthier, I knew I did not want to use canned soup, so decided to make my own.  Here is my Tomato Soup recipe, and next week I’ll share my Ground Turkey Jamboree recipe.

Homemade Tomato Soup with Basil

Homemade Tomato Soup

  • 1 qt. Tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1/2 med. Onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk Celery, chopped
  • 1 med. Carrot, chpped
  • 1/4 lb. Mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 clove Garlic, minced
  • Salt and Pepper to taste

In medium saucepan, saute onion, celery, carrot and mushrooms in olive oil, with salt and pepper, until soft.  Add garlic and saute for just a few minutes, being careful not to burn the garlic.  Add tomatoes and simmer covered for about 15 minutes then remove the lid and simmer uncovered 15-20 minutes.  I then used an immersion blender to blend the soup until it was smooth.  If you don’t have an immersion blender, you could (very carefully) pour the soup into your food processor of VitaMix and blend until smooth.  If the soup is too thin, you can continue to cook uncovered for a short while to thicken it.  I used my home canned tomatoes, but this would also be delicious with fresh tomatoes from your garden (I would peel them and it might take a little longer to cook to the right thickness) or you could use store bought canned tomatoes (probably about 3 regular sized cans would work just fine).

About the time I finished making the soup, a friend of mine came over with some fresh basil from her garden.  I removed the amount of soup I needed for my Jamboree and then chopped the basil (about 2 tbsp.) and added it to my soup, cooking it about another ten minutes to incorporate the basil.  I just thought it was delicious before the basil!

This recipe made about enough soup for 2 people, but it could easily be doubled or tripled to serve more.

What is your favorite homemade soup?

Purple Hull Pea and Rice Salad

Purple Hull Pea and Rice Salad

I was reading one of the blogs I follow, called Danny’s Kitchen, and saw on there that he was running what he calls the Great Leftover Challenge.  Being a fairly new blogger like me, he was not offering any prizes, but it still intrigued me.  So I went straight to the refrigerator to see what kind of leftovers I had.  I found some leftover purple hull peas that I had cooked with some ham (I live in the south, I cook ALL peas with ham).  I also found some leftover rice that was a mixture of brown and wild rice.  So Purple Hull Pea and Rice salad was born.

Purple Hull Pea and Rice Salad

  • 1-1 1/2 cups cooked purple hull peas
  • 1 cup cooked brown and wild rice mixture
  • 1 green onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp. pimento stuffed green olives, chopped
  • 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tsp. dijon mustard
  • 1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

I started off microwaving the peas and rice for about 30 seconds each, as I wanted the salad at room temperature, then I mixed them together.  I added the onion and olives. Then I made a vinaigrette by whisking together the vinegar and mustard, and adding the olive oil while continuing to whisk.  I then tossed the vinaigrette with the pea and rice mixture, added a little pepper and enjoyed.  This made about 2 good sized servings, so you could double or triple the recipe to feed more people.

The flavor was mild, but delicious.  After letting the salad sit in the refrigerator overnight, the flavor has developed and it tastes even better!  I think I still prefer it not so cold, though. So my suggestion would be to make it ahead and refrigerate, but then remove it from the fridge about 30 minutes to an hour before serving.  You could set it out when you start dinner and it would probably be perfect by the time the meal is ready!

I think I need to get cooking so I’ll have more leftovers to play with…that was fun!

What is your favorite use of leftovers?

Growing Tomatoes In A Container

Don’t you just love tomatoes?  Fresh, ripe, homegrown tomatoes?  In my opinion, there is nothing better!  The tomatoes you get in the grocery don’t even come close.  I even bought some tomatoes recently from a small, roadside vegetable stand, where the owner assured me he got them straight from the grower in Florida.  They still were not as good as homegrown.  I believe it is because the tomatoes grown for sale are a variety that can withstand the shipping and handling they have to go through.  Those varieties just do not compare in taste to a good Better Boy, Rutgers or other old fashioned variety (like my Papaw grew).

“I have no gardening space”, you say?  Well, what about a patio?  Even most apartments have some type of small, outdoor space.  As long as you have that, you can have home grown tomatoes!

Newly planted tomato

Start with a large pot, at least 12″ to 16″ deep, and make sure it has drainage holes.  Fill pot to within a few inches of the top with potting soil.  I use a mixture of 1 part Scotts Miracle-Gro Potting Mix to 2 parts regular potting soil.  This saves me some money and perks up the power of the potting soil.  I then tap the pot on the ground a few times to settle the soil and make sure there are no large air pockets.  You want the soil to fill in around the plant.  Make a hole in your soil that is a little larger than the pot your plant is in and deep enough to plant the tomato plant about 2/3 of the way up the stem.  If you look at the tomato stem, you will see it has what looks like fine hairs all the way down.  These will develop into roots if they are below the soil, making your plant a lot stronger.

Then trim off the leaves on the bottom 2/3 of the plant (this should leave at least 2 or 3 leaf stems at the top).  Carefully remove the plant from it’s pot by holding it near the soil and turning it upside down.  If it doesn’t release easily, tap the pot a few times (or squeeze it a bit if it is a soft sided pot).  The roots should then release into your hand.  If the plant appears to be very root bound (large mass of tangles roots), just gently work the roots loose just a bit to give them a chance to start growing out instead of around.  Now, place the tomato plant in the hole you prepared and fill the soil back in (remember, you are planting it very deep), pressing the soil carefully in around the plant.

I now add a little bit of time-released fertilizer to the top of the soil (I use Osmocote Flower and Vegetable Smart Release) and then water thoroughly.  Place your pot in full sun (at least 6 hours of sun a day) and keep it watered regularly.  You don’t want your plant sitting in water (the reason for the drainage holes) but you also don’t want it to dry out completely.  If the weather is mild, you can probably get away with watering every other day.  In the hot summertime, you will need to water daily, or even twice daily if your pot it not very large.  I also add a little more fertilizer each month during the growing season.

It is probably best to use a plastic or fiberglass pot for your tomato, as clay or wooden pots tend to dry out too quickly.  The DH has several 5 gallon buckets that he has drilled holes in the bottom of, and we use those for tomato plants (and sometimes cucumbers).

You might ask what is the best variety to grow in a pot?  Well, most varieties will work, however, the ones that make a larger plant may need to be staked or caged to keep them from falling over.  You can purchase tomato cages for just a few dollars and set them around the plant, either in the pot or around the pot, depending on pot size.  Also, the new varieties of grape tomatoes, as well as the ‘tommy toe’ tomatoes, will do well in pots.

So, enjoy your home grown tomatoes and come back here and let me know how they turned out.  I would love to hear!

What vegetables would you like to grow in pots?

Balsamic Marinated Cucumbers

For Easter I wanted something different than potato salad as a side for our ham.  All the members of my family (except my son) like cucumbers.  So I decided on a tangy Balsamic marinade.

Balsamic Marinated Cucumbers

Balsamic Marinated Cucumbers

  • 2 large cucumbers, thinly sliced
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 Tbsp. Balsamic vinegar
  • 3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard (I like course ground)
  • 1/2 tsp. agave syrup
  • Salt & Pepper to taste

In a small bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard and agave syrup.  Slowly add oil while continuing to whisk.  Toss dressing with cucumbers and onion.  Refrigerate for 8 hours or overnight.  You could substitute 1/2 tsp. sugar or Stevia sweetener for the agave syrup if you don’t have it.

So, I made this for Easter…and then forgot to serve it!  It was delicious the next day though.  🙂

What is your favorite salad vegetable?

Regrowing Leftovers

I am sure this title has you saying, “what?”.  Yes, some of the fresh food you buy can be regrown.  I have just recently discovered this and have begun to try it.  I was really pleasantly surprised at the results.

I first found a pin on Pinterest about regrowing celery (don’t you just love Pinterest?  I admit it, I’m an addict).    So, I decided to try it.  I took the stalk of celery I had in the fridge, cut off the bottom about 3/4 to 1 inch thick, and put it, cut side up, in a shallow bowl of warm water.  The water was about halfway up the piece.

Celery Day 1

The directions I found said to leave it overnight then plant it.  Well, I didn’t exactly get it planted the next day…or the next, or the next.  Anyway, you get the idea.  I actually left it in the water for about 2 weeks.

Day 6

After about a week, I began to notice the center start pushing up and some new growth in the middle.  When I had time, I transplanted it to a pot of dirt, just barely covering the top of the original piece.  Now, after about a month, the plants are an inch or more tall and one even has stalks beginning to show.  I have two of them about that same age, and another one I started last week.

Approximately 6 Weeks

My plan is to transplant them in the garden after the last danger of frost has passed and then just cut off ribs as I need them.  I also want to make sure, as fall approaches, that I have some more started in pots to grow indoors all winter.  Maybe I can keep enough growing to not have to buy celery.

I have also read that you can regrow green onions, ginger root, garlic and sweet potatoes. The green onions are done pretty much the same as the celery.  I have some started, so I’ll let you know how they do.  I remember as a child growing sweet potato plants from a piece of potato that had an eye.  I am eager to try my hand at the ginger root and garlic.

I will most certainly be reporting on this more in the future.  I will keep researching this idea and also report my progress with particular items.  Happy Gardening!!

What are your favorite things to grow?

Roasted Vegetables

I have discovered a new favorite way to cook vegetables…roasting.  Roasted vegetables are so good.  It seems like the roasting just brings out all the good flavors of the vegetables, and the seasonings don’t hurt either.

I’m sure there are a lot of vegetables that are good roasted, and by combining several together, it makes a colorful and delicious side for any meal.  One of my favorite combinations is red potatoes, acorn squash and carrots.  Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  I wash  the potatoes, cut off any bad places and cut them into bite sized pieces.  You don’t want small cubes, as they will go away to mush when roasted, so make them a good sized bite.  Then I halve the squash, remove the seeds, peel and cut it up.  Try to make all the vegetable pieces close to the same size so they will cook evenly.  Next, wash, scrape and cut up your carrots (same size pieces).  I usually cut all my vegetables into a large bowl so I can toss them easily.  Next, drizzle some extra virgin olive oil over your vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss them to coat and spread them out in a single layer on a shallow pan.  Roast in the oven for about 25-30 minutes, or until they are tender and lightly browned.  Remove from oven and drizzle just a little more olive oil over the vegetables and serve immediately.

Another combination we like (DH and I) is zucchini, yellow squash, and onions (sometimes I add grape tomatoes if I have them).  I prepare them the same way (bite size pieces), then toss them in olive oil, salt, pepper and italian seasoning.  Roast at 425 for 25-30 minutes.  Another small drizzle of olive oil and they are ready to eat.  Mmmmm, delicious!

Roasted Zucchini, Squash and Onion

What combination of vegetables do you enjoy?  They would probably be delicious roasted!