How to Can Fresh Tomatoes

August 18, 2010 11:49 by Suzy

Before you pass over this blog post, thinking "Ha! I could never can tomatoes, or anything else! It's too complicated! Besides, store-bought canned tomatoes are the same, right?" allow me to say this to you:


So now that we've got that out of the way, let's get to it...

Home-Canned Tomatoes
adapted from the UGA's Home Food Preservation website

First of all, you will need some quart jars and lids. Most grocery and discount stores have them. Be sure you get both the LIDS (the flat circle part) and the RINGS. You don't need to sterilize the jars; just wash them well (the dishwasher works great) and keep them clean and dry until you use them. I usually leave them in the dishwasher until I'm ready.

You will also need canning tools like these...jar lifter, magnet lid lifter (not required but very helpful) and a plastic pusher/measurer thingy (also not required but nice to have).

Next, get your tomatoes. If you don't have home-grown tomatoes, go to your local farmer's market and get some.

Wash them well.

Get a big pot of water boiling. Blanch tomatoes for 30-60 seconds, remove and cool. Working over a bowl (so you catch the juices), peel and core the tomatoes. I usually cut the big ones in half or quarters.

Now get your canning pot about half-full of water and boiling. The pot needs to be tall enough so the jars can be covered with at least 1" of water. It also needs to have a lid. On another burner, bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer, and put in your lids and rings.

Now put 1 teaspoon salt (optional) and 2 tablespoons bottled (not fresh) lemon juice into each jar. If you have fresh thyme, you can also put a sprig or two in there if you want.

Fill the jars with tomatoes, using the plastic pusher thingy to pack them in and get some juice. Leave 1/2" headspace in the top of each jar; use the plastic measuring thingy for this as well.

Wipe clean the rims of each jar. Use the magnet lid lifter to put a lid on each jar, and screw a ring on each. Don't screw the rings on too tightly.

Using the jar lifter, carefully place the jars into the canning pot. Add more boiling water as needed so the water level is 1" above the jars. Cover pot and boil for 85 minutes (check the UGA website above to confirm the cooking time for your elevation).

After 85 minutes, turn off the heat and leave the jars in the pot for 5 minutes.  Remove the jars and place on a towel to cool 12-24 hours. Don't worry if the tomatoes seem to have separated from the liquid. Once the jars are cool, check the seals (if the lids pop up when you push them, it didn't seal). Keep any unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use them first. Remove rings, date the jars and store in a cool dry place away from light.

Now, whenever you make chili, spaghetti sauce, or anything that needs tomatoes, you have a little bit of summer in your pantry!

Red Beans with Sausage

June 6, 2010 20:34 by Suzy

This is another favorite of JD's.  Wonderful flavor.  Not glamourous, but sooooo good.

Red Beans with Sausage
recipe adapted from Mark Bittman's How to Cook Everything

1 pound pinto or kidney beans, rinsed and picked over
sliced ham hocks
1/2 pound Italian sausage (I use sweet, not hot)
1 large onion, chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
5 sprigs fresh thyme (or 1 teaspoon dried)
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 cup chopped tomatoes (canned or fresh)

Put beans in large pot and add water to cover.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Add the ham hock slices and reduce heat to simmer.  Cover loosely.  Add more water if necessary.

Meanwhile, put sausages in skillet over medium heat.  Turn occasionally until browned on all sides; remove from pan.  Sausages will not be done in the middle, but don't worry about that.  Cut sausages into chunks.

Add a little canola oil to the skillet and add onion, bell pepper and garlic.  Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened...about 10 minutes.  Remove from pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Return the sausage chunks to the pan and cook over medium heat until browned all over.

Add the onion/peppers, thyme, bay leaves, allspice and tomatoes to the pan.

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook 10-15 minutes.

Remove the ham hocks from the pot of beans, remove bones and chop. 

Return chopped ham to the pot of beans along with the sausage/vegetable mixture.

Cook at a simmer until the beans are very tender.  Remove and discard bay leaves and thyme sprigs.

Serve alone or over rice; sprinkle with chopped parsley.

"Yankee" Chili

May 26, 2010 21:42 by Suzy

When I was growing up, chili came from a can, it always had beans, and I never understood what all the fuss was about. After I met JD, he raved about this "Yankee" Chili that his mom and grandmother made, so I picked both their brains, made my own modifications, and discovered the difference between homemade and canned chili.

This is a very simple, but completely delicious recipe for chili. I pay no attention to the many chili-related arguments...beans or no beans? Ground beef or cubed? Kidney, pinto or black beans? What follows is what works for me, and it's always a hit with family and friends.

You'll need this stuff. Not the butter, though. That was out in prep for cookies. Mmmmm...cookies... 

Suzy's Yankee Chili

1 pound ground beef
1 medium onion
2 cans dark red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
3-5 heaping tablespoons chili powder, or more to taste
1 5.5 ounce can Low-Sodium V-8 juice
1 large can tomatoes, or 1 quart jar homemade canned tomatoes, if you are that lucky
Few dashes Cholula hot sauce
Optional garnishes (grated cheese, diced onion, sour cream)

First, chop up your onion.

Start browning your ground beef in a large pot.

When it's about halfway done, add the onion and finish browning. Drain the excess fat if you want. I usually keep it. Remember, Fat = Flavor.

Drain and rinse the yucky slimy stuff from the beans...

...and add them to the pot.

Now add your chili much as you want...

...and give it a good stir. See the lovely red color?

Stir in the V-8 juice.

And the tomatoes.

And a few dashes Cholula hot sauce. Add salt to taste.

Smoosh the tomatoes with a big spoon to break them up.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer. I try to let it cook for at least 30 minutes, but 45 minutes to an hour is best to get the flavors mingling.

Taste and add salt or chili powder if needed. Chili is always better the second day, so if you can, let it cool and stick it in the fridge for tomorrow night's dinner.

Yum. Serve with the optional garnishes and some cornbread. Yankee or not, this stuff is good.