Friday, August 15, 2014


Time to can some summer tomatoes. I use a very simple recipe that comes from Anne Willan's cookbook, From My Chateau Kitchen.  If you have not canned before this would be a good place to start. Only four ingredients: Tomatoes, sliced sweet onion, fresh thyme and bay leaves. Use any onion you like but I like to use one of the sweet onions.
This is it - all the ingredients that you will need, thyme (preferably tinder not woody stems), a couple of big sweet onions and some bay leaves.  I bought about 20#'s of tomatoes and had another approximately 10 pounds from my garden for a yield of 12 quarts.
First thing to do is to put the jars, lids and rings in the dishwasher and when it is done I then slice the onions (thick slice) and gather the bay leaves and the thyme.
 Into each jar goes a couple of bay leaves, a big slice of onion and some thyme.
Then fill the jars as tight as you can with whole tomatoes (try to not touch the rim of the jar and if you do wipe it off with an antiseptic wipe).  Not all of my tomatoes were small enough to fit in the jar so I just cut them in half.  I will put Anne's recipe exactly as she has written, at the end of the post.
Place the jars into your pot (I have one of those stainless steel canning racks that helps keep the jars from hitting one another) fill with water - over the top, put on the lid and bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer and process for 90 minutes.  To keep them from "floating" some people say to put a brick on them but I have a ceramic pie plate that fits over perfectly and keeps them in place and acts like a lid.  You do not have to have a special pot - this is my tamale steamer pot. The pot needs to be deep enough to cover the jars.
 After the 90 minutes, set them on a towel and let them cool and you will hear the "pop, pop" as the lids seal.  All of mine sealed perfectly.  I went to The Graphics Fairy and found a frame, put in the date on the label, printed them out and while the jars were still just a little warm put on the labels.

 Here they are, a nice dozen quarts of tomatoes for the pantry.

Recipe as written by Anne Willan in From My Chateau Kitchen: "Simply wipe the tomatoes, scoop out the cores, and pack them whole, skins and all, in quart/liter jars with some thyme sprigs, a couple of bay leaves and a slice or two of onions. Close the lids and set the jars on a rack in a deep pan. Add enough water to cover them generously and weight them down with a brick if they show signs of floating. Simmer them for an hour and a half, longer for large tomatoes, until the tomatoes lose their shape and collapse. "They start to melt" explains Madame Milbert. Then leave the jars to cool in the water, once fully cooled they should have formed a tight seal, each jar will only be half full of cooked tomatoes, don't worry about it."

As you can see my jars are more than half full - maybe I pack them more, but some are fuller than others and as Anne says "don't worry about it." You can use these tomatoes as you would any other tomatoes, drain the liquid (save for use in soups, etc.) and chop them if you need chopped tomatoes, etc.  If you need a quick tomato soup just pull out the bay leaves (and the thyme of the stems are woody) whirl in a food processor (or blender) add cream or milk, season and heat.  In this same cookbook Anne has a recipe for Graintéed Tomato and Orange Soup."
  Note about Anne's cookbook: This is one of my favorite cookbooks and over the years I have given this for gifts many times. The price of this cookbook ebbs and flows.  Right now on Amazon you can purchase "new" from a vendor other than Amazon for $23.70 plus shipping, on I see it "good" for $5.30 plus shipping.  At times it can be VERY expensive depending on supply and demand. Anne Willan is a prolific writer and an authority on French Cooking.  My very favorite and most decadent potato recipe is also in this book - on Pg. 23, Gratin of Potatoes with Bacon and Cream - oh my, so rich, so delicious, so only for company once in a while. This book is full of delicious stories too.


Canning jars, grocery, farm and specialty stores
Labels, Martha Stewart at Staples, free template at
Anne Willan's From my Chateau Kitchen, as mentioned above.
USDA information on home canning, Link
Jar rack for canning, Prepworks from Progressive International CKC-400 Reversible Stainless Steel Canning
French Frame for Label, The Graphic's Fairy Link 
Font used on label,  Comic Sans MS

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