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.