Tag Archives: Tomato

The Best of Canning Tomatoes

For the second year in a row my family has honored the new tradition of canning tomatoes.  This year my Uncle swore to a new method of cooking the tomatoes longer so they would puree better.  Here are some of my favorite pictures from the day including my brother stealing figs from the neighbor’s tree.  These are step-by-step directions that my uncle printed out for all of us.

1. Wash Tomatoes

2. Cut off the stem and make one slit 1/3  the way down the top of the tomato

3. Boil until mushy (1-1.5 hours depending on heat and number of tomatoes)

4.  Dry in strainers for about 1 hour (tilt and turn frequently)

5.  Pass through machine, then re-pass a second time

6.  Add 1 basil leaf and a teaspoon of salt to each pre-cleaned and dried jar

7. Fill jar with tomato puree and screw tight

8. Put towels on the bottom of a big pot and fill with bottles, wrapped in paper towels

9.  Fill pot with cold water 2 inches above the jars

10.  Boil for 45 minutes


		
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Put a Lid On It

Last weekend I fulfilled a long time goal of mine to learn how to can tomatoes.  Mastering this process is listed as number 7 in the ‘Guide to being Italian’ handbook, right after having a child with the middle name Marie.  Seriously, the Italians were on to something when they thought to preserve this staple ingredient for the winter months when tomatoes are not in season.  And although we rely on grocery stores to get us everything we need every time of year, often times produce is imported from far off places like Mexico or California that costs more to consumers and creates a greater carbon footprint.  And canning is just more fun!  Get the family together open a bottle of Chianti and play some Frank Sinatra.

Step by Step Guide to Canning Tomatoes:
1.  Wash and sanitize your Ball jars and lids.  Most dishwashers can take care of this.
2.  Rinse and remove the core from your tomato.  Roma’s work well.  Slit an X at the bottom of the tomato to help remove skin.
3.  Bring a big pot of water to a rolling boil and drop in the tomatoes.  Careful not to overcrowd the pot and drop the water temperature.
4.  Blanch for 1-2 minutes and place in ice water to stop cooking.
5.  Once cool, remove skins.
6.  Add one tablespoon of lemon juice to pint jars (2tbsp for quarts) along with a basil leaf and  1/2 teaspoon of salt to jars (1tsp for quarts).
7.  Squish tomatoes in jars letting the natural juices release and removing air pockets.
8.  Wipe the rims and tightly screw caps on.
9.  Bring large pot to a simmer and place jars in pot.  Use a rack or place a towel at the bottom of the pot.
10.  Once all jars are in, cover and bring to a boil.  Start processing time once water is boiling.  Boil pints for 40 minutes and quarts for 45 minutes.
11. Once complete, gently remove from water and let cool 12-24 hours.  Check lids and remove screw top.  Store in a cool dark place.

Geraldine’s Peach Canning from Arkansas
Compliments of my colleague’s Grandma
Canning peaches is very similar to tomatoes.
You’ll need about 2-3 pounds of peaches for each quart jar

1.  Wash and sanitize jars and lids.
2.  Blanch peaches, once cool cut in slices and remove pit and any fibers along the edge which can turn dark during storage.
3.  To prevent darkening, places slices in salt water until ready to can.
4.  Create a simple syrup with 4 cups water and 2 cups sugar simmer until dissolved.  You’ll use about 1 1/2 batches of the syrup for every 7 quart jars (17.5 lbs of peaches).
5. Put peaches in warm jars and cover with hot syrup.
6. Remove air bubbles and screw on caps.
7.  Follow steps 8-11 from tomato process

To spice it up, add 3 Tbs of crushed cinnamon stick and a bunch of whole cloves in a cheese cloth to boiling water.

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Eat Your Water

70% of our bodies are made up of water and it is estimated that we lose on average about ten cups of water each day through normal bodily functions such as breathing, sweating, and going to the bathroom.  While topping off eight bottles of Poland Spring sounds like the way to go, frankly it’s quite boring and an unrealistic expectation.  In fact, even if you do manage to make it to number eight you can still be dehydrated.  The secret is to have a good balance between two key minerals: sodium and potassium.  Sodium, from a culinary standpoint is a key ingredient to enhancing flavor but also is often abused and superfluous in our society.  But, for the purposes of this article sodium blocks water absorption into the body.  Bear with me for a minute while I get a little scientific.  The cells in our body have these little doors that open and close based on mineral balance.  Potassium triggers the release of sodium from inside our cells (bodily absorption) to outside our cells into bodily fluid that will eventually be excreted.  So due to our sodium rich lifestyles, we have a lot of sodium build up in our bodies and just because there is water coming through doesn’t necessarily mean the sodium is washing away with it.  Sodium needs the potassium to give it a little nudge and open the cell door to let the sodium out and the water in.  Phew!   

Okay so how do I get more potassium?  The potassium heroes are avocados, baked potato with skin, cooked spinach, lentils, and of course bananas.  Also, coconut water has a high percentage of potassium.  Try mixing coconut water with club soda and frozen fruit to off-set the initial unflattering taste.    

So now that we have our little potassium doorman in place try getting creative with alternatives to water.  Moisture rich foods include: cucumbers, all types of melons (which are actually 90% water and a good source of potassium), strawberries, lettuce, celery and even cold soups like gazpacho.  An additional benefit to eating foods with high moisture will help keep you full on fewer calories!  And while we’re on the topic of waistlines, retaining water happens when you don’t have enough fluid and your body fears famine and holds onto every ounce of water it can get.  Which results in bloating.  

Suggestions:
– Don’t always rely on thirst, sometimes by the time you’re thirsty you’re already dehydrated
– Beverages at moderate temperatures are said to be consumed in greater volumes
– Despite the popular myth, a frozen water bottle is a good way to ensure a cool beverage for a few hours

Avoid:
– Chugging your way through 8 cups of water – spread it out through the day
– Avoid frozen coffee drinks, sugary fruit drinks and teas.  Look for ‘no sugar added.’  Always read labels because ‘100% fruit’ and ‘All Natural’ can be misleading.   

Hydration Fruit in Season:
-Peaches – 89% water and a good source of vitamin C and moderate levels of potassium (285mg)
-Nectarine – 87% water and a good source of vitamins A and C and fiber
– Tomatoes – 95% water, and a half-cup is about 15 calories, and a good source of vitamins A and C and moderate levels of potassium (194mg)

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The Italian Nightmare – Tomato Shortage!

This is almost as bad as the olive oil scare a few years ago!

According to a Wall Street Journal article published yesterday, Florida’s tomato crop has suffered due to January’s freezing temperatures.

tomatoes growing in my Aunt Pina's yard in Paestum, Italy. The south-western coast.

From the article:

“Reggie Brown, executive vice president of Florida Tomato Growers Exchange, a Maitland, Fla., trade group, said Tuesday that a 25-pound box of tomatoes is trading for $30, compared with $6.45 a year ago.”

According to the U.S. Agriculture Department, about one-third of fresh vegetables such as tomatoes, bell peppers and sweet corn consumed in the U.S. this time of year come from Florida farms. About two-thirds of this type of produce is imported, and most of that is from Mexico. In recent weeks, weekly vegetable shipments from Mexico to the U.S. have soared by as much as 50% over year-ago levels, according to the USDA.

THIS IS WHY WE NEED TO EAT SEASONALLY!

Tomatoes, bell peppers and corn are not traditionally in season until June lasting to mid autumn.  While I feel bad for the major hit to Florida farmers (just pile it ontop of the US economic downturn list) people need to be educated on how their choices effect simple supply and demand across this country.

Hold off on fresh tomatoes during the winter months.  Towards the end of their season you might want to think about jarring, or freezing.

Here are some Freezing tips from the University of California Division of Agriculture

Freezing Tomatoes
Tomatoes may be frozen whole, sliced, chopped, or puréed. Additionally, you can
freeze them raw or cooked, as juice or sauce, or prepared in the recipe of your
choice. Thawed raw tomatoes may be used in any cooked-tomato recipe. Do not try
to substituted them for fresh tomatoes, however, since freezing causes their texture
to become mushy. Tomatoes should be seasoned just before serving rather than
before freezing; freezing may either strengthen or weaken seasonings such as garlic,
onion, and herbs.

Preparation

Select firm, ripe tomatoes for freezing. Sort the tomatoes, discarding
any that are spoiled. Wash them in clean water as recommended above.
Dry them by blotting with a clean cloth or paper towels.

Freezing whole tomatoes

Prepare tomatoes as described above. Cut away the
stem scar. Place the tomatoes on cookie sheets and freeze. Tomatoes do not need to
be blanched before freezing. Once frozen, transfer the tomatoes from the cookie
sheets into freezer bags or other containers. Seal tightly. To use the frozen tomatoes,
remove them from the freezer a few at a time or all at once. To peel, just run a
frozen tomato under warm water in the kitchen sink. Its skin will slip off easily.
If you prefer to freeze peeled tomatoes, you can wash the tomatoes and then
dip them in boiling water for about 1 minute or until the skins split. Peel and then
freeze as noted above.

Here is a fun little video about how jar tomatoes.  This woman probably devotes a whole day to this.  I love when she yells Basilico!  And please excuse the cheesy transitions and title cards.

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You feed me minced?! – You ever catch a minced fish!

I LOVE this little girl.  Probably the type of kid I’ll end up with.

You feed me canned tomato sauce?!  You ever see a tomato grow out of a can before?!

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Just Home for the Weekend

You’ve heard the term ‘roll out the red carpet’ well in my family it’s ‘roll out the FOOD.’  Here’s a little sampling of the Saturday night BBQ.

Pizza on the BBQ using a Pizza Stone
A little fresh basil ontop

A little fresh basil on top

Sausage and Peppers.  Love the little baby pepers.  They stay super moist when you don't cut them up.

Sausage and Peppers. Love the little baby peppers. They stay super moist when you don't cut them.

Classic mozzerella, tomoato and basil with a basamic glaze

Classic mozzarella, tomato and basil with a basamic glaze

The Spread

The Spread. Not pictured: Fingerlink Sweet Potatoes, Steak, Pulled Pork, Fresh Beet Salad...and so on

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