Gardening, Cooking and Decorating on the Prairie of Kansas

Welcome to Linderhof, our 1920's home on the prairie, where there's usually something in the oven, flowers in the garden for tabletops and herbs in the garden for cooking. Where, when company comes, the teapot is always on and there are cookies and cakes to share in the larder.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

You Say Tomayto -- I Say Tomahto!

I didn't grow up on a farm -- I grew up in the city.    Our food was bought at the market but in summer, vegetables were always bought from farm stands.    Mother was particular about her vegetables and so in summer we always ate fresh vegetables. 

Growing up, we never had a "garden" but Mother always planted a few tomato plants and sometimes she would branch out into okra or whatever might suit her fancy that summer.     And, to me, there is nothing better than a just picked, still warm from the sun tomato!

Mother, however, preferred home canned fruits and vegetables.    What to do if you don't grow them?   Buy them, of course.    Always, a bushel of green beans and the canner was kept going all day.   In a kitchen with no cross breezes, in a house with no air conditioning!    It was a labor of love -- those beans!  

And peaches -- at the height of Missouri peach season, a bushel of peaches would come home and mother would spend the day putting those golden nuggets into jars making sure each jar had a peach pit or two!

In the garden, we had a grape vine and she made the best grape jam -- actually, as long as we lived in that house the only jam or jelly we had was grape!     And we had a pear tree -- not a "new fangled" dwarf pear but a tree that grew past the second story.      Any pears we could salvage were made into pear butter.

Of course, with the tomato plants, there was always a few more than we could eat and whatever could be spared from the table, Mother would can.      Sometimes quarts and sometimes pints and sometimes some of each.    Depending upon how many "spare" tomatoes she had.

It was an old house, the house I grew up in, and in the cellar there was a fruit cellar and Mother's bounty was always placed on those shelves.       We enjoyed this bounty of summer during the winter -- mostly for Sunday dinners.

Mother didn't teach me to can.     I learned from a Farm Journal cookbook!     Over the years, I've put a lot of food into jars for winter use.    I also froze a lot of food as well for an early Anniversary present was a big freezer.

But the last few years, the only thing I made for winter use was pesto.      And that suited me fine.     Canning is hard work, peeling the vegetables, sterilizing the jars and lids, often bringing the vegetables up to temperature and then putting them into jars, and then processing the sealed jars of food.    All done in a warm kitchen in the heat of summer!

Then I saw an episode of French Food at Home with Laura Calder.    I became a Laura fan last fall when I found her newest cookbook in Canada.    I found her this summer on television and I ordered her other two books.     She makes everything look so easy.

And I loved her version of canned tomatoes.   (Which actually is Anne Willan's version).    It's simple and you can do other things (like paint the larder) while the tomatoes happily simmer away.

Last Saturday at the Farmer's market, I brought home my basket full of tomatoes.    Then I got to work --

Filled jars awaiting their lids

I first sterilized the jars, then filled them with tomatoes, a slice or two of onion, thyme and bay from the garden.  

Lidded and sealed -- all ready for their hot water bath!

Then I screwed on the caps, lowered them into my canning kettle (which is my mother's), held them down with a cast iron lid, and let them simmer, totally covered by water for 90 minutes.

They may look like half jars of tomatoes but I bet they're full jars of flavor!

I then let them cool in the kettle and once cool, I took them out.     It looks a little strange, these half jars of tomatoes.    But that is what they are -- tomatoes and a few herbs.     I am thinking that they are really summer in a jar!

Unfortunately, I didn't "put them by" for winter.     They're for the Farmer's Market on Saturday for I'm guest chef for the Tomato Festival!    I'll do with them as Laura Calder did with hers.    I'll make soup out of them.     Saturday, I'm giving tastes of everything I make.    And everything I make is a tomato food!

If you're in my little town on the prairie on Saturday, stop by Skubitz Plaza from 8 to noon and say "hi", have a sample (and pick up the recipe as well), and sign up to join me for a luncheon at Linderhof -- not just for you but you and two friends.


MarmePurl said...

I have never seen canning without liquid. How interesting.
I always love a good 'mother' story.

lindaraxa said...

I'm going to have to show this to my sous chef...the one with two legs not the other one, I have never seen this method of canning for I am not a canner either...too much work and, as you say, in this heat?! Our tomatoes are coming in, fast and furious. Heaven!

Meredith said...

I might have to try this idea with all the tomatoes I'm collecting...I've made several batches of salsa, but canning this way is a great idea!

william said...

Martha, your tomatoes are a gorgeous work of art and I shall enjoy the fruits of your labor vicariously! Canning is a useful thing to do. But not for me at this time in my life! I did get 11 jars of pesto into the freezer Saturday morning and felt very productive. I love the simplicity of the method you showed.


Unknown said...

I've never seen tomatoes done this way, but I'm thinking they would indeed make some fabulous soup. Growing up, we had a large garden and I learned how to preserve the vegetables. We were poor, and the food we preserved, fed us during the winter. My Mother cooked everything ready for the table when she preserved, seasoned, and everything. It was extremely hard work, but so worth it in the winter. I canned/froze everything when I was younger, but no longer do it. :( Hope you have a great time at the Farmer's Market.

Pondside said...

What a great idea, Martha. Thanks for putting me onto this - I may look for that cookbook, or I may just print this post....and of course, keep coming back for more. One of the things I love about your posts is that they are so eclectic.

Kelly said...

Wow Those tomatoes look fantastic. I have never seen them canned without liquid but I bet they are fantastic. Thanks for sharing and inspiring....

asunny said...

They look beautiful. The first summer my husband and I were married his parents had a big garden and they said we could have all the tomatoes we could pick while they were on vacation. We picked a lot and so I proceeded to can 13 quarts of tomatoes - my first canning experience. Anyway, I was afraid to eat them (because I had canned them) and there was quite a bit in the "news" about tomatoes needing even more acid added to them when canning, think 1972. :) A neighbor/friend ended up wanting them so I gave them to her and thankfully she survived eating them. But what is really better than home canned food? I especially like home canned green beans.

On Crooked Creek said...

I never learned to can...still have no desire to learn. I do... however; LOVE home canned tomatoes in the Winter!!! The year I was 9, my Dad and I planted tomatoes in the KC area. Raining and muddy!!! Dad picked me up, put me at one end of the garden, told me to walk across the row to the other side. I wore my rubberboots. Each step made a whole in the mud. In each hole Dad put a tomato plant! I learned to eat the tomatoes fresh from the vine in mid~afternoon that year,also! Nothing compares to a hot off the vine!!! Thanks for the memory!

Tea Party said...

This is so interesting!

Hope to see and hear about your "tumato" soup!

Michelle said...

Love the bits about you growing up and I had to smile because I used to read Farm Journal growing up! =)