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Making Yellow Tomato Preserves

October 11th, 2010

This year I started 2 small yellow cherry tomato plants just to make a recipe from Preserving the Taste. I checked it out of the library a few years ago and bought a copy when I found an old version because I loved the recipes so much.

It’s a small cookbook packed with delicious recipes like: caramelized apple marmalade with thyme, rose geranium jelly, pear ginger jam, cranberry ketchup, and more. I made the apple marmalade last year and it quickly became a favorite of all who tried it. My favorite thing about this cookbook, is that she uses herbs and spices in almost every recipe.

This little cookbook really takes canning recipes to the next level and makes them healthier as herbs and spices are packed with vitamins and minerals. I’m always trying to find ways to incorporate herbs into my food and this is a great way.

Yellow Tomato Preserves
(makes 4 half-pint jars)
from Preserving the Taste

4 cups sugar
5 cups very small yellow pear shaped tomatoes
3 fresh jalapeño peppers, seeded and minced
3 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

In a 4-6 quart heavy nonreactive pan, stir together the sugar and 3/4 cup of water. Set over medium heat and bring to a boil. Wash down any sugar crystals that accumulate on the sides of the pan with a pastry brush dipped in cold water.

Insert candy thermometer and continue boiling until until the syrup has reached 234 degrees F, the soft-ball stage.

Immediately stir in tomatoes. The mixture might seize up, but after a few minutes will again become liquid. Stir in the chilies, basil and lemon juice and turn heat to very low. Continue simmering for 3 hours, stirring occasionally. The mixture will have thickened and darkened in color.

Ladle into hot, sterilized jars, wipe rims clean with a damp towel, and seal with new lids and metal rings. Process in hot-water bath canner for 10 minutes. Preserves will continue to thicken as they cool.

I’ve been waiting for enough little yellow tomatoes to ripen so I could make this recipe. I didn’t get enough (must plant a few more next year) so I had to settle with a half batch. Since I only ended up with a few handfuls of tomatoes, I only got two small jars of preserves. It was well worth the effort to fire up the canner though, I’ll be happy to have a jar for the winter.

These preserves have a wonderful sweet tomato taste with a hint of spice from the jalapeño and the basil really adds a wonderful touch. The little tomatoes become almost candied in the sugar syrup and the peels seem to melt into the preserves (so don’t be worried about leaving them in). I enjoyed some on toast and now am trying to figure out where I can tuck in a few more yellow cherry tomato plants next year!

Have you discovered any new canning recipes this year? Do you like herbs and spices in your preserves?

Making a Piece of History

September 23rd, 2010

Earlier this spring I collected a bunch of my grandmother’s and my great grandmother’s recipes from my mom’s side of the family. I’m hoping to make them, take photos and make up a family heirloom cookbook. I’ve been waiting for the time to harvest green tomatoes so I could make this recipe, it’s one of my great grandmother’s.

I cleared out a raised bed in the back and pulled out all the tomatoes to make room for fall spinach. I ended up with 7 pounds of green tomatoes, the perfect amount for this recipe. Last year I made green tomato chutney with all the green tomatoes and we’ve been enjoying that on sandwiches and on burgers.

I had to make a special trip out to find pickling lime. I thought about making my own with some wood ash, but decided for my first try at pickling with lime I’d rather buy actually pickling time. Perhaps in the future I’ll try making my own.

I finished up the recipe yesterday morning. So far I’m not loving the flavor, we’ll see how they age. I think I may add some mustard seeds before canning them as I thought they could use a little more flavor. If we don’t end up liking them I’ll probably turn them into chutney.

Do you have any heirloom canning recipes you use?

Stocking the Pantry with Tomato Soup

September 16th, 2010

I’ve blogged about my home canned tomato soup many times. It’s one of my most popular posts, people are always writing asking the recipe and telling me how much they love the soup. It’s one of the few things I can every year without fail. The first year I canned only 30 pints of it and it was gone way too soon. Last year I did 31 quarts and 7 pints and we only have 2 quarts left.

Yesterday I made the first batch of soup this season, most of the remaining tomatoes will be used for soup since I already have 44 pints and 8 quarts of crushed tomatoes. I’m hoping to get at least 35-40 quarts of soup again this year since it makes a perfect quick meal that’s healthy and delicious. It’s also great added to chili and vegetable soup.

I use an old Squeezo to make my soup, this one was handed down to me by my mom. It’s the one we used for applesauce & tomatoes growing up. It’s a relic but still works great, and I love that it doesn’t have any plastic parts. I love pulling it out, I even use the same block of wood on the counter that we used growing up.

I only made one batch of soup yesterday, I’m hoping to make another tomorrow or Sunday. I prefer making double batches so I don’t have to spend as much time canning, but I only had enough tomatoes for one batch. In case you’re interested in the recipe, here it is again. Yesterday I changed it slightly by using whey instead of lemon juice (didn’t have lemon juice but had plenty of whey in the fridge). I also added a few sprigs of fresh Italian parsley since I had some in the garden.

6 onions, chopped
1 bunch celery, chopped
8 quarts fresh tomatoes (or 5-6 quarts of juice) *I coarsely chop mine in quarters leaving the stems on them since I’m putting them through a food mill. (10-12 lbs of tomatoes)
1 cup sugar (I find this is too much and I use less usually 1/2 cup)
1/4 cup salt (I usually add 2 T and then taste before I add more)
1 cup butter
1 cup flour*
1/4 cup lemon juice

1. Chop onion& celery. Place in large kettle w/ just enough water to keep them from burning. While this simmers, cut tomatoes (remove stems if not using strainer).
2. Add tomatoes to kettle & cook until tender.
3. When tender put through Victorio or Squeezo (or similar food mill) strainer. (reserve 2 cups for mixing with butter/flour)
4. Return to kettle, add lemon juice, sugar & salt.
5. Cream butter and flour together& mix thoroughly with two cups of reserved juice (chill so it’s cold), until dissolved (or blend together in a blender), to avoid lumps of flour in the juice. Add butter/flour mixture to warmed tomato juice. (Add before it’s hot, to avoid lumps of flour!). Stir well.
6. Heat just until hot. (If it gets to a boil, it can make the flour lumpy). Just prior to boiling, turn off the burner. (It will continue to thicken as it cools.).
7. Ladle into hot jars with 1/4 headspace, close securely with lids.
8. Put in canner & process 30 minutes (start timing when it’s at a ‘rolling’ boil).**
9. Remove from canner & allow to set until sealed (approx. 12 hours) To serve, mix equal parts tomato concentrate to milk, and add 1/2 t. of baking soda per pint as it cooks (1 t. per quart). I actually prefer to add chicken stock to mine instead of milk & baking soda. I serve with a sprinkle of freshly grated romano cheese, a sprinkle of cayenne and a little freshly ground black pepper.

*feel free to omit flour if you don’t want it in your soup, the soup will be a little thinner.

**Some people say this isn’t long enough in a canner, some people say you should only pressure can this recipe. I’m happy with it and am quite comfortable making it and processing it in this way. If you’re uncomfortable with this method use whatever canning method you’re comfortable with.

This is one of our favorite quick meals throughout the year, each quart gives us two meals. I usually make mine with half chicken stock and half whey and we enjoy it with some crusty bread. My pantry will never be without some home canned tomato soup.

What item is your pantry never be without?

Squirreling Away for Winter

September 3rd, 2010

I had great plans of writing a post about making zucchini bread including my recipe, but I was up late filling the pantry with all kinds of goodies for winter. I feel like it’s a better use of energy when I can a bunch of things in one evening. Then I only have to fire up the canner every so often. I’m not canning as much this year since I’m trying to focus more on growing throughout the winter and I grew a lot potatoes, sweet potatoes, and squash that don’t need preserved.

I ended up with: 28 pints of crushed tomatoes, 5 quarts of sauerkraut, 5 pints of bread & butter pickles, and 3 pints of fire roasted red peppers. I also started a batch of watermelon rind pickles, we’ll see how those turn out. I think all I have left to can is some tomato soup, ketchup, and perhaps a batch of green tomato pickles.

What’s your favorite home canned item?

Putting up Tomatoes for Winter Sauces

August 18th, 2010

My tomatoes are finally starting to ripen up en masse as are the ones in my mom’s garden. I’ve been picking big bucketfuls of all colors shapes and sizes. When I see these sitting in the kitchen, I know exactly why I grow a variety of heirlooms, how beautiful!

On Sunday evening I worked well into the night canning up some tomatoes for enjoying this winter. I’m trying to focus more on eating seasonally and growing foods that don’t need to be preserved by canning, but tomatoes are an exception. I’ll always can tomatoes for making sauces and soups. I also dry a lot of tomatoes, but sometimes a rich hearty meat sauce is the perfect dinner, and I need canned tomatoes for that.

I can all of my tomatoes as crushed tomatoes, and I never remove the seeds. Some people say the seeds can make your tomatoes bitter, but I’ve never noticed that it does. I’ve read so many different directions for canning crushed tomatoes, some of them say to process them for an hour and half in a water bath canner. I follow the directions from this great brochure from the University of Georgia – Tomato Canning. I also use the directions from Well-Preserved.

What do I do? I simply peel the tomatoes and cut them up, add them to a large pan, heat them to boiling and continue to cook them for 5 minutes. Then I fill hot jars allowing a 1/2 to 3/4 inch head space (I find that with tomatoes you want your head space to be slightly more, never less than 1/2 inch). I add a basil leaf to each jar and add the lid and ring. Then I process in a water bath canner for 35 minutes for pints, 45 min for quarts. When processing time is finished, leave jars in canner with heat turned off for 5 minutes, then remove. I find that this step helps with sealing on tomatoes, they have a tendency to expand when you take them out the canner and kind of boil up.

Do you grow enough tomatoes to can? What’s your favorite way to preserve them for the winter?

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This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but just recently moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine.