My boyfriend’s “Nonna” – his Italian grandmother – grows and cans her own tomatoes and the resulting tomato sauce over fresh gnocchi is simply to die for. This year, my friend and I wanted to start canning our own tomatoes. I felt like I was preparing for the apocalypse, stocking my pantry with so many mason jars of canned goods! We didn’t have time to go and pick our own tomatoes, so we ordered two crates from the West End Food Co-Op a grocery store where you can order large quantities of produce from local farms.
For nine hours we slaved over 50 pounds of perfectly ripened, shiny red tomatoes, making homemade ketchup and 15 liters of canned tomatoes! I absolutely loved the homemade ketchup (featured below in the large jar). Homemade ketchup is a thinner consistency than store bought ketchup, but much tastier!
The canning process is very simple, we just had A LOT of tomatoes. I can’t wait to make to make fresh pasta sauce this fall! Now I just need to master making homemade gnocchi, and then I can recreate “Nonna’s” food at home.
Prep the jars in a water canner. Set them on a rack and fill with water until jars are covered and boil for at least 10 minutes. Keep hot until ready for use.
Place lids in hot water (not boiling) until ready for use.
Blanch tomatoes in a another pot of boiling water for 45 - 60 seconds. Immediately place in an ice cold water bath.
Remove skins (they should peel off easily - otherwise adjust blanching timing), remove stems and any bruised or discoloured areas.
Pack whole tomatoes into the hot mason jar, pressing them close together. Try not too pack them too tightly or too loosely, they should be comfortably placed together so that they're aren't any big gaps . Use a wooden chopstick to help pack the tomatoes and remove air bubbles.
Add two tablespoons of lemon juice, leaving 1/2 inch headspace from the top rim.
Wipe rim and carefully place down lid. Screw on the bands until they are just tight (do not overtighten).
Place jars in canner, ensuring the top of the jars are covered with an inch of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 85 minutes.
Remove the jars without tilting and cool upright for one day.
Check seals (they should be curved downward, and when the band is removed you should be able to hold the jar by the edge of the lid).
Store in a dark, cool place.
Each mason jar holds 7-8 tomatoes each.
I prefer canning whole tomatoes with no added salt so that I leave my options open for when I decide to use them.
I’ve always been curious to try to the row of food stands on Dundas just west of Bathurst on the south side. The Market 707 shipping container food court boasts an interesting variety of international foods and has been on my “to-eat” list for awhile now, so when my friend suggested we try Mnandi Pies before heading to the AGO, I was game.
When Evis Chirowamhangu came to Canada as a refugee in 2005, she missed the meat pies from her homeland of Zimbabwe so much that she decided to recreate her favourite childhood food. Developing the recipe solely on the tastes and smells from her memories, she opened up a stand here earlier this summer.
A simple menu lists four different kinds of pies: steak and onion, chicken and mushroom, carrot and kale and beef and kale. I opt for the beef and kale pie: stewed beef and kale cooked in a tomato gravy and seasoned with a special Zimbabwe spice mix. The tender, savory filling is perfectly packed into the light, flaky pastry, oozing out with every bite. I was tempted to try all four at once, but was glad I held back because the hand sized pies are surprisingly filling! I guess I will just have to come back…
An inspiring story and a testament to the diversity of the Toronto food culture, I’m so happy that our city welcomed Evis’ Zimbabwe pies with open arms. “Mnandi” means delicious in Ndebele (a tribal language spoken in Zimbabwe) and nothing could describe her pies more accurately.
I feel like I just finished making cherry jam…summer canning season is tiring! But the fabulous Bourbon Peach Jam we made last year has been in the back of my mind. Also, my boyfriend who has never had a sweet tooth, loved the jam and will not let me forget it! So, we headed out to the Winona Peach Festival, indulged in a fresh peach sundae, then scooped up two baskets of fruit and headed home.
Peach Sundae, Winona Peach Festival
This is the first jam my friend and I canned together, and it has been a clear winner. The bourbon isn’t too overpowering and adds this wonderful buttery element to the sweet peach jam. This recipe is taken from the Better Homes and Gardens Canning Late Summer 2015 edition, and I wouldn’t change a thing! This jam is particularly tasty drizzled over some goat cheese, baked over a wheel of brie or smothered over a crisp pork chop. If you go peach picking this summer, you simply have to make this jam!
We were feeling ambitious this year so we also made peach salsa and a healthier low sugar peach jam. The peach salsa I’m keeping for myself, but the low sugar jam will be a great gift for the older folk in our family. The Bourbon Peach Jam though…only special friends who have proven their worth will be the lucky recipients of this one!
Bourbon peach jam, low sugar vanilla bean peach jam and peach salsa
1/2 of a 6-ounce package (1 foil pouch) liquid fruit pectin
In a large pot combine sugar, peaches, bourbon and lemon juice.
Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring to dissolve sugar.
Quickly stir in the liquid pectin and bring to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly.
Boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Remove from heat and quickly skim off foam with a metal spoon.
Ladle jam into hot sterilized half-pint canning jars, leaving a 1/4-inch headspace.
Wipe jar rims; adjust lids and screw on bands until just tightened.
Process filled jars in a boiling-water canner for 5 minutes *start timing when water returns to boiling. Remove jars and cool on wire racks, turning and tilting jars after 20 minutes to distribute fruit evenly.
Trust me, as a person who tries to avoid sugar - using seven cups of sugar is a bit cringe worthy...but you'll forget all about it when you taste this jam!