Ah for summertime, fresh veggies and fruits. What a wonderful treat they are, whether they are grown in your garden, a gift from the neighbor, bought fresh at a roadside stand, or bought in the market on sale as so many of these things are right now. Corn, tomatoes, grapes, cherries, melons, blueberries, cucumbers, green beans, color bell peppers, all fresh, are just some of the mix of beautiful colors the grocers are putting on sale. And this time of year. Many of your veggies are being brought in quite locally, as opposed to from South America or such. Every week I am more tempted when I get the sale paper to get more fruit, tho’ I have oodles of jam already and cannot eat it all fresh myself.
There are a few fresh corn recipes I hope to get to and share with you, and other fresh veggie ideas. And yet as often is the case, one cannot eat all you can buy on sale really cheap, find, be given, or grow. So what do you do? This is the time of year when you "CAN" things. You make tomato sauce, can green beans… etc… stock up for use later this winter, with what you can get now. Late summer is the time to can the large quantities of those fruits and veggies.
When I was a child we had three very prolific peach trees, 2 plums, an apple, a pear and a fig tree, as well as two huge “paper-shell ex-long” pecan trees. So there was always plenty of stuff to use and to can for the winter. Peaches seemed to be the thing, however, that we would be giving away pecks of. In June/July when they would begin to ripen, fresh peaches would be such a juicy and sometime messy treat right off the tree. Not to mention homemade peach pie, shortcake, cobbler, ice cream and more. Then my mother would “put up” jars and jars of peaches for winter. And she would make peach preserves, and one of our favorite treats, peach, and fig tarts!
As winter wore on, and fresh peaches were no more, we’d have the canned ones often for dessert as we had PLENTY. There would come a time when we got sort of tired of the canned peaches for dessert, but it always seemed about that time we’d run out. So by summertime we were again excited for the return of the fresh peaches.
Other things my mother used to do was make pickles, as cucumbers are easy to grow a lot of. And she'd can tomatoes. This recipe I’m about to give you though, came about when my own kids were growing up. One year with so many tomatoes and zucchini from our garden, the children’s mom and I decided to can them together. And it was such a success that we forever after did this and enjoyed them through the winter. We used to use Italian seasoning, and sometimes fresh herbs. This way the canned tomatoes and zucchini were perfect for Italian recipes.
Now days I have a very good herb garden so I use fresh herbs in my canning and making tomato sauce, where I simmer a cheesecloth bag of herbs in the sauce.
Below is a method that while a little time consuming is still simple and so worth the time taken. It seems I had some tomatoes and a little squash on hand, Roma pears and zucchini. Then the around the corner neighbor brought me over a bunch of tomatoes and greyzini and zucchini squash from his garden. So… time to can!
I started with about 5 lbs of tomatoes and approximately the same amount of squash.
-5 lbs tomatoes
-5 lbs zucchini squash
-3 or 4 fresh lemons and the same of limes
-2 bulbs of garlic
-Various fresh Italian herbs, or Italian seasoning mix. Fresh herbs I used were oregano, both
regular and purple hot-oregano, thyme, rosemary, basil, mint, sage, and lemon balm.,
of course the dried mix works fine.
-dried hot Thai peppers, or fresh. Optional!
-sea salt or kosher or pickling salt, I used a combination of smoked Mexican sea salt and red
Hawaiian sea salt, combined with white Mediterranean, but its surely not necessary.
-freshly cracked black pepper or pepper corns, I used black and Peruvian red pepper
corns…again not necessary to use both I just had these things on hand and thought
it would be fun.
Now for the process. Many folks boil their jars to sterilize them. I actually just run them through the dishwasher, the water in the dishwasher is heated way beyond what your hot-water heater does, and it does fine to sterilize. As well I have the washer on heated dry, and continue to add more time there if needed, so as I work it is keeping the jars hot and clean until the moment I take each one out to can with.
Most of the canning is quick and I usually get it done in one cycle of heated dry. So plan accordingly as to the timing of your dishwasher so it hits the dry cycle about the time you are ready for jars.
If you don’t wish to use this method, or have no dishwasher, boil the jars for 10 minutes on full boil. Drain and set on a rack to use. Use them hot if you can.
I will say if you can get a canning jar lifter tool, you need it. For both the sterilized jars and the hot processed jars later.
You will want to prepare your ingredients and your work space. First wash the tomatoes and zucchini of course. Also wash the herbs and set in a strainer. Place a pot to boil on the burner and blanch each tomato for about 12 seconds so they will peel easier. Peel and place these tomatoes whole in a bowl of cold water. Now empty your pot and refill it with water to boil. Place all your jar lids and screw bands in a glass Pyrex or other deep bowl. When the water boils pour it over the lids to sterilize them.
While the water is boiling take all the leaves off the herbs. it seems tedious yes, but you don’t want the stems, because these herbs will be eaten later not just simmered in a bag and tossed. You can strip an herb stem by simply running your fingers along the stem from the top end to the bottom… going against the grain of the direction of the leaves. This works well for oregano sage and thyme, and maybe mint. After you have all the clean herbs in piles of leaves, chop them fine. And place them in a small bowl, just large enough to hold them all. Small is better for the space in your work area.
Now peel the garlic bulbs into individual peeled cloves and cut each clove into 2 to 3 pieces. Place these into a small bowl. With a mortar and pestle crush your dried Thai peppers and black pepper corns, or use a grinder. Place the crushed/cracked peppers in a ramekin. I combined my salts next into a little ramekin. If using just one king of salt place some in a ramekin anyway, you will need about ¼ cup. Next cut your lemons and limes in half then into quarter sections.
Next chop all your zucchini into large chunks. Place these into a streamer basket and steam them for about 4 to 6 minutes. If you have no steamer microwave them for about 3 minutes and toss and then 3 minutes more. You want them to just be steamed through but still crisp. If you have neither a steamer or microwave steam them by placing a bit of salty water in the bottom of a large stock pot, add zucchini and bring to a boil with lid on, after a few minutes remove lid by lifting the side away from you first, directing the hot steam away from you. With a large wooden spoon toss the chunks of zucchini and return to boil with lid on.. While they are steaming or after set up your space with all you have just prepared
A cutting board is a good surface as you will need to cut your tomatoes some, plus you will be setting a hot jar down to work. I set myself up as follows you should do similar. First my dishwasher is just behind where I work, handy for me to grab one jar at a time from the heated dry cycle.
I had a large cutting board in place. And a good knife I will need for tomatoes. To the left I had my “drained”, steamed zucchini still in the steamer basket, and had a slotted spoon or large fork for spooning them out. To my right I had the peeled tomatoes now drained of the water. Just right of that was my sterile lids still in the water (have some tweezers/tongs if water is too hot to get lids out.) and also my lemon and lime quarters. You will need a small strainer for these.
Behind the cutting board, at say 12 o’clock, I had my herbs, garlic, salt and pepper, and 1 or 2 tablespoons and 1 or 2 teaspoons for measure.
Cut about 2 to 3 raw peeled tomatoes into large pieces. Preserve the seeds and watery pulp, do not lose any of it if you can by placing your tomato pieces cut side up like a little bowl. You will need the seedy watery pulp for the canning to have enough liquid.
Next take a hot jar from the dishwasher or rack. Place it on the cutting board and place chunks of alternating tomato and zucchini in the jar, packing them down with a spoon as you go. When half way full, add -1 tbsp. chopped herbs, -2 or 3 garlic pieces, -1 tsp of the salt, and -½ tsp of the pepper. Next squeeze through the strainer -the juice of one of the lemon sections. Continue to pack tightly, the tomato and zucchini pieces. When the jar is fully packed add the same amounts of each herbs, garlic, salt and pepper. But this time squeeze a lime section through the strainer. You may have to add a few more chunks of veggies to have them packed tightly (without being mashed), to the top. There should almost be enough liquid in the jar from the zucchini and tomatoes to already cover the veggies at least half way up. Processing is going to release a lot more liquid.
Now making sure the lip of the jar has no debris what so ever on it, so you get a fine seal take one of your lid seals and place on the jar, next take one of the screw bands and screw it down very tight to push the seal in place. You will probably need a pot holder to hold the jar while you do this.
Now complete the above steps with the remaining jars until all the veggies are packed in jars and sealed. The next step is processing. Normally you need only about 10 minutes processing time in a boiling water bath to do tomatoes, but considering I added zucchini, and especially the garlic, herbs. I want to cook into the mix a bit, we will process them more.
Place your jars in a large stock pot or some such pot that has a nice fitting lid. Fill with very hot tap water until the jars are covered with the water. Place on the heat to start boiling. You can set the lid to the pot on to build up heat. Once the jars start to boil time for one hour, with the lid on. Note you should check after 30 minutes because some of the water will have escaped as steam. Have a large container you can fill with very hot tap water to gently pour into pot until the jars are submerged again. Replace the lid and return to boiling. You needn’t take time off the hour s measured time for this step as it reduces the water temp for just a tiny amount of time. Use this time to clean up everything else.
When the jars are done turn the heat off under the pot or take it off the heat. Take the lid off and let them set in the water for 10 minutes. Next using your jar lifter take each jar out and place it on the cutting board. Let them cool for about an hour then screw the lids on the jars even tighter if you can. This sometimes is possible after they cool the band has contracted, and you want it to be tight. After the jars are well cooled wipe them off and label them.
These jars of Italian tomatoes and zucchini are ideal for adding to spaghetti sauce or to lasagna. They are already seasoned and salted. Another good use is to pour it over to cook cuts of meat like pork chops or chicken breasts, or to use anyway so see fit. Blessings mes amis