Sunday, June 20, 2010

Canning Tomatoes

Canning Tomatoes

Canning Tomatoes

What's the best way to guarantee you'll have fresh tomato salsa all year 'round?

Can a big batch of it at the end of the tomato season, and you'll be good to go until next spring (depending on how much salsa you eat!). There are still a number of farmers who have their stands open around Hwy #18. It might not be too late in the season to find some field tomatoes and peppers!

My Mother has been canning salsa for years, but it wasn't until this past Fall that I got in on the action. It was a great way to spend time with someone I don't see very often and get 12 jars of fresh salsa. Oh, and it's easy. Surprisingly easy.

The following is a photo essay on my afternoon of canning with my Mother, using all fresh produce (and vinegar!) from beautiful Essex County.*

The Recipe:

Tomato-Pepper Salsa
9 cups of chopped & seeded tomatoes (we used an entire bushel of plum tomatoes)
6 cups of chopped & seeded sweet peppers (we used mostly red, but added in some other colours for variety and some hot peppers for kick)
1-1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar (we used Heinz)
1 package of Bernardin salsa spice mix (not exactly homemade, but definitely simple!)

Sterilize the jars and lids in boiling hot water for at least 15 minutes. Use new lids if possible and don't use damaged jars.

Blanch the tomatoes and peppers in a boiling water bath, then a cold water bath. The hotter and colder the better! Then peel, seed, and juice the lot. This part is especially messy.

Mix the vinegar and the spices together in a large stock pot, and get it simmering on medium-high.

Grind the tomatoes and peppers down to almost a pulp, but keeping some chunks. My Mother uses this archaic grinder she got at a Tupperware party in the 80s.

Mix the tomatoes and peppers in the pot with the spices and vinegar. Bring to a boil (stir!) then reduce to a simmer until the mixture is heated through. Portion the salsa in the jars, leaving half an inch for head space. Carefully attach the lids (without tightening them completely) and get them going in a boiling water bath for 20 minutes.

Remove the jars from the water bath and leave them to cool. My mother and I enjoyed a tasty bloody mary with freshly squeezed tomato juice as a reward for our hard work. It also helped pass the time while we waited for the lids to seal!**

After about an hour, we had 12 jars of home canned fresh summer salsa. And even though we used a packaged spice mix, it tastes amazing. Like home!

* It's hard to say that my salsa is locally sourced because the produce had to travel 357 KM from Kingsville to Toronto. But it still tastes like home!
** There was so much fresh tomato juice that it was a shame to let it go to waste. I froze a bunch of it in containers and in ice cube trays for soups and sauces.

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