Posts Tagged ‘Canning’

Great Canadian Food Experience; Preserving Heirloom Tomato Sauce

Monday, October 7th, 2013

Great Canadian Food Experience; Preserving Our Canadian Food Tradition by Canning Heirloom Tomato Sauce

Canned Tomato Sauce

This time of year I’m still neck deep in tomatoes. We grow them all summer, then as we pick them I make notes, take photographs, and try to stay organized before ripping them open to start fermenting the seeds. By the time I’m saving seeds I’m quite attached to each and every tomato and it’s impossible for me to simply compost the “waste” fruit.

Heirloom Tomatoes

Ontario summers are nice and hot and our Februarys are just so dreary.  This makes many of us go to a great deal of bother to preserve some of the summer produce for the gray days ahead.  So as I scoop our the seeds of each heirloom tomato, I run them through the grinder and toss the fruit into the slow cooker and slowly and easily make tomato sauce to enjoy in the cold.

 Cutting Tomatoes

Tomatoes through Kitchen Aid Grinder

Simply put your cored, or in my case, gutted tomatoes though a food grinder, mill or food processor straight into your slow cooker. You can add salt and dried herbs if you like.  You can even roast your tomatoes in the oven before hand.  Once the slow cooker is full, turn it on to low heat and walk away, or go to bed if you cook at night like I do. 24 hours later your sauce should be a gorgeous shade of red and ready to can.

Colour of Tomato Sauce

Following Bernardins’ guidelines for Basic Tomato Sauce and simply changing the cooking method is a perfectly safe method of putting up tomatoes:

I follow the same method when canning whole tomatoes.  Any ugly or accidentally crushed ones get put aside and then turned into sauce at the very end.

When it comes time to process your jars, add the right amount of lemon juice and process in a water bath for 45 minutes. Full instructions and amounts can be found here:

If you are worried about the acidity level of heirloom tomatoes over the standard romas you can use mostly paste varieties, add more lemon juice or citric acid, or simply eat it right away.

Make Tomato Sauce in Slow Cooker

Preserving seeds and helping with seed diversity has led to making and canning about 40 jars of pasta sauce. I have to say it’s hard not to just eat it all right now so the only issue is having enough left to last through our cold Canadian winter.

The Great Canadian Food Project began June 7 2013. As we share our collective stories through our regional food experiences, we hope to bring global clarity to our Canadian culinary identity

How to: Freeze and Peel Tomatoes for Easy Preserving and Winter Hoarding

Monday, August 20th, 2012

The tomatoes are starting to roll in. It’s always exciting at first, those first tomatoes. Grown by spring rain and summer heat.  Quickly though, full on tomato panic starts to sets in. Where do you put them all? How can you prevent buying some in December when there are so so many right now? Canning is nice, but not always practical (especially when you are having a baby right at canning time. I clearly didn’t plan this very well).

Freezing is one of my favourite ways of preserving some of August’s glut of tomatoes to enjoy cooked throughout the winter.

Start by washing your fruit and then slice a simple x through the skin on the bottom of each tomato. This will keep them from splitting and make them easy to peel when cooking in a few months.

Next I lay them flat in a pan or tray and slide them into the freezer.  A cookie sheet works perfectly as does a pyrex or enamel pan.

When they’re frozen it’s time to bag them up.  They should stay separate so you can use exactly as many as you want. We keep giant resealable bags in the freezer and throw a few in when cooking tomato soups or sauces.

If you want to peel your tomatoes, either after they’ve been frozen or before, here’s how we do it.

Boil a pot of water on the stove and plunge your “x”ed tomatoes into the water for up to a minute. Remember we’re blanching tomatoes not cooking them.

Then quickly plunge the tomatoes into cold water.  You can scoop them out with a spoon but I like using a steamer basket and plunging the whole thing.

Next you simply slide them out of their skins. Easy Peasy! (unlike those pesky peaches last year). As Well Preserved points out, if you’re going to peel more than one pot worth you will want to wear gloves. The acidity of the tomatoes will really wreak havoc on your skin.

You’ll be left with a perfect pile of peeled tomatoes.  You can either peel from frozen or peel then freeze, what ever you prefer. You can also peel your tomatoes this way and then can them.  Freezing is simply the easiest way to preserve tomatoes for the winter when you can’t solar oven, sun dry, dehydrate, or can.

Make Your Own Organic Cranberry Sauce {Enough for both Canadian Thanksgiving and Christmas}

Saturday, October 8th, 2011

I had a lovely evening out last week with my friend Shana.  We went out on the town to a canning class put on by Bernardin in a local church kitchen. Although we’re both becoming rather seasoned canners it’s nice: 

1. To have a nice community event to go to.
2. We kind of like hanging out in church basements.
3. We need to start having real answers when we get asked questions about canning instead of having to admit to some of our bad practices and mishaps (see here, and here for details).

One of the recipes shared by Chef Emerie was for Spiced Cranberry Preserves.  The process is the same as this recipe for cranberry sauce off the rather useful home canning website.  The only difference is that this method uses 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves and 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon so no need for cheese cloth. I actually used a 1/4 teaspoon of each. There’s also a good recipe for straight up cranberry sauce which is basically just a larger amount without the spices.  

This is so simple.  Thanksgiving and Christmas Cranberries are essentially just jam so you really can’t go wrong. 

The high pectin content of cranberries really makes this simple though; 10 minutes and you’re set.  Get it? Set?  That’s a jam joke. Really though, I had completely finished this project in one toddler nap and even had time to call my dad and a clean kitchen when she woke up.

I made this recipe twice; once with the spices and one without.  I think they are equally delicious but we’ll be putting them to a taste test on Sunday at Thanksgiving dinner.

So the recipe is: 

4 cups of fresh cranberries {but frozen would work fine too}
1 1/2 cups of water
2 cups of sugar

1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon {optional}
1/4 teaspoon of cloves {optional}

makes 4x 250ml jars

Our version is entirely organic. The Big Carrot and Better Bulk {both on the Danforth in Toronto} have  awesome organic spice sections and it is getting easier and easier to find organic ingredients at the grocery store.

I wish I could have found Ontario Cranberries today as they certainly grow pretty close to home, but it seems there are only three commercial cranberry producers in Ontario. The store had frozen and organic from BC, Some from Maine, and then the f
resh organic Quebec ones I ended up choosing. I’m going to keep my eye out at the farmer’s market this weekend as I have a few more cranberry recipes I need to make and the foodies & farmers of twitter tell me there are smaller scale cranberry growers to look for.

Let’s can some cranberries while there’s still enough time to do this for Thanksgiving dinner this weekend:

Prepare your jars and lids by washing and bringing your jars to a boil and in a separate pot bringing your lids to a simmer.

In your best non-reactive pot, combine all your ingredients over medium heat.

Cook for 10 minutes or so.  You’ll see / hear the cranberries burst / split / explode. Here’s a photo of them splitting. They really pop.

I then squished a few up with the back of my spoon just to mix things up a little.

Quickly jar up the preserves with a 1/4inch head room, wipe the rims, put on your warm lids, screw finger tight and then heat process for 10 minutes.  That’s it! You’re done and the star of Thanksgiving dinner with some extra to bring again at Christmas; Ensuring that you remain your parent’s favourite daughter.

All kidding aside, I’m really pleased with how these turned out and would recommend making some both to the seasoned canner and the tenderfoot who is looking for an easy to make preserve that will certainly be well received.

If you would like detailed step by step canning instructions just check out  I really couldn’t lay it out any better and there are even instructional videos.

Canning Tomatoes for the First Time: Some Lessons Learned

Tuesday, September 13th, 2011
Although we’ve now been canning, mostly successfully, for a few years, this year we’ve been taking on bigger projects.  First those pesky peaches and now 3 bushels of blasted tomatoes.

We shot this great time lapse video of our twelve hour day that certainly demonstrates the busy-ness but there’s much it is not showing.  

Here we are first thing in the morning…

… and a tomato toast 12 hours later.

Here are our notes for next year:

1. Source your tomatoes early.  We bought one gorgeous organically grown bushel from Highmark Farms but should have ordered more.  By the time we figured out how much we actually needed, they were sold out and we were out of time. We ended up getting some lower quality ones from an Italian Grocer on the Danforth but they were a pain to work with and I probably should have headed straight for the food terminal.

2. Next year we’ll grow more paste tomatoes.  We grew some Amish Paste, Romas and San Marzanos but not nearly enough.

3. We teamed up with our friend Catherine and foolishly believed that the three of us could handle two toddlers while processing these tomatoes.  
We had a plan.  I made home made play dough.  We rented movies.  But troublesome toddlers don’t care for duplo towers with Ryan when they could be standing behind you when you are blanching tomatoes in boiling water.  Thanks goodness for Ergos.  Next year the toddlers will be banished to their grandparents. They added a significant amount of stress at random intervals.


4. Packing tomatoes in water is a crock. We tried a few different methods as this was our first attempt with tomatoes but this simply did not work and we even read the instructions. We ended up hot packing half tomatoes and it worked out beautifully. See lesson #6.

5. We really needed more people. Two couples would have made this much easier.  With 3 couples (and zero mobile babies) we could easily double our yield.

6. Next year we will do things in the reverse order.  I can’t remember the reasoning but we packed half tomatoes and them made sauce.  If we had made sauce then packed tomatoes we would have let the sauce cook longer with less urgency and would have had tomato juice to top up the tomatoes. That said we have used all that delicious tomato juice to make bread, cook couscous and I think Andrew and Catherine are making ceasars right now.

7. We need those cool outdoor propane burners like Well Preserved have.  We have one burner on the BBQ that held the big canner and we kept the lids warm on the actual bbq.  The running back and forth to the kitchen was pretty intense.  We do have a sink and water outside and otherwise it was a pretty good set up, but we’d like to move more of it out side next year. The kitchen was trashed. We also need a bigger pot and like 6 more pairs of oven mitts.

That said, it really was a smashing success. We did a few things right, like preparing the day before, having multiple sets of tools and extra pots, and spending a beautiful September day out on the deck   We have a nice haul of tomatoes and sauce for both our families and we had a pretty great time and even got the babies bathed at the end of the day. Sigh.

Any other tips for us?   
How does your family make sauce and can tomatoes? 
Anything else we should know for next year?

Twelve Hours of Tomatoes in Two Minutes

Sunday, September 11th, 2011









This video is meant to be part of a much larger post about our adventures in canning tomatoes but that will just have to come later in the week as Ryan and I are just too excited to share this.

Here is a time lapse that Ryan and I made yesterday.  We are canning three bushels of tomatoes with Catherine, her little girl Penelope and Rebecca.  Hazel and the kittens pop in and out too; Mainly to eat the tomato skins.  We turned the camera on at 9:00 in the morning and took the last shot 12 hours later when the kitchen was almost clean.

We’re really quite pleased with it and would love it if you took a look and let us know what little detail caught your eye.