Home Gardens Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes

Canning Tomatoes

If you’re interested in learning to preserve your own food, can tomatoes.  If you love the flavor of real sun ripened home grown tomatoes and miss it in the winter, can tomatoes.  Worried about BPA in liners of canned tomatoes?  Can your own tomatoes! If harvested tomatoes are building up on the counter, can tomatoes.


Canning tomatoes is one of the simplest recipes, is a great way to gain comfort in canning, preserves that amazing taste of in season tomatoes, and is easy to use for soups, chili, and sauce throughout the winter.  Here’s how:

1) Check your supplies: you’ll need tomatoes, a pot big enough to fit all of your tomatoes, a ladle, a funnel, clean Ball jars (we use mostly quarts), lids, caps, a large canning pot, and a rack.  Canning supplies and equipment can usually be found at your local hardware store in August and September.


chunked-tomatoes2) Clean your tomatoes.  Core them and cut out any bad spots.  A bit of rotten tomato could ruin the flavor of your entire batch.  Cut them into large chunks and put into your pot.

3) Bring to a boil and then simmer until air is released (it will be foamy at first.  Then juice/liquid will start to look clear).  Add salt if desired.

4) Ladle hot tomatoes into ball jars, leaving 1/2 inch head space.  Put on lids,  gently screwing on caps (they should not be cranked tight, but shouldn’t be so loose that tomatoes could leak out).

5) “Process” in a boiling-water bath for 30 minutes.  This means: bring water to a boil in your canning pot, put your jars in your canning rack, and then submerge your jars/rack in the boiling water for 30 minutes.

6) Let cool.  After 24 hours, rims may be removed to store.


Want to learn more about canning?  The Ball Blue Book is a great resource that covers all of the basics, and more!  Also try asking your elders – canning was a common household task for most of our grandparents.   Wondering how to use your canned tomatoes?  Heat and add pesto for a yummy tomato basil soup.  Try as a base for chili.  Or add a can of tomato paste to turn your tomatoes into sauce without needing to boil for hours.  Enjoy!

Home Gardens Recipes Uncategorized

Zucchinis Galore

zucchini-harvestIt’s August, and that means we’ve got plenty of zucchinis… in fact, we may have a few zucchinis too many.  One of our favorite ways to use a bunch of these prolific vegetables each year is in a big batch of zucchini relish.  We love using the relish all year long on sausages, hot dogs, and mixed with mayonnaise to make tartar sauce.  This year, I adapted our family’s recipe, souring it via natural fermentation.  Enjoy!

Canned Zucchini Relish

  • zucchini-relish-shredded-mixtureGrind the following ingredients using the grater attachment of your food processor (the one you might use making latkes):
    -10 cups summer squash or zucchini
    -4 cups onion
    -1 green bell pepper, 1 red bell pepper
  • Add 5 tablespoons salt.  Mix and let stand, covered, overnight.  Drain and rinse in cold water (don’t worry about getting rid of every drop… some moisture will help in the canning process).  Place in a large pot with:
    -2 1/4 cups distilled vinegar
    -4 cups sugar
    -1 tablespoon ground nutmeg, mustard, turmeric, cornstarch
    -1/2 teaspoon pepper, celery seed
  • Bring to boil, and simmer for 30 minutes uncovered.  Stir occasionally to help all of the air out.  By the end of the 30 minutes, most of the air or bubbles should have escaped from your mixture.
  • With ladle and funnel, fill hot sterilized canning jars and cap  -or-  fill jars and can in hot water bath for 10 minutes. 


Naturally Fermented Zucchini Relish

  • soured-mixtureGrind the following ingredients using the grater attachment of your food processor (the one you might use making latkes):
    -5 cups summer squash or zucchini
    -2 cups onion
    -1 red bell pepper
  • Pack into a 1/2 gallon ball jar with 1 tablespoon sea salt and 1/2 cup fermented pickle/sauerkraut brine or whey.  Cover and let sit, stirring to release bubbles daily, until sour.  This took about 5 days for me.  It can vary, depending on the temperature of your house and your preferred level of sourness.
  • After souring, in a large bowl, mix:
    -Shredded mixture
    -1 cup sugar
    -1 teaspoon ground nutmeg, mustard, turmeric
    -a dash of pepper and celery seed
  • Repack mixture into 1/2 gallon glass jar and refrigerate until ready to serve.


Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes

Marmalade Season


It’s getting to be the end of citrus season, so I made a point of fitting a marmalade canning session into my February vacation schedule.  My dad’s family has been making marmalade since the 50s, as proven by the old jar and handmade label that sits on one of our kitchen shelves.  It is nice to have a canning project so far removed from the crazy late summer food preservation season.  Here’s how we make a yummy fruity not-too-sweet marmalade:

Ingredients: 14 organic oranges, 2 organic lemons, 1 cup orange juice concentrate, 5 cups water, 3.5 cups fair trade organic sugar, 2 tablespoons Pomona’s Low Sugar Pectin and 8 tablespoons calcium solution (comes with the Pectin).  Yield, approximately 22 pints.

Orange-Preparation1) Slice, chop, and slice. This is the labor intensive part… it’s vastly improved by dividing between multiple people and having good music on in the background!  Wash oranges and lemons thoroughly (you’re eating the rind, after all).  Slice into wedges.  Cut peel off fruit (try to leave very little white pith on the fruit).  Slice the remaining pith off of the rind (for the compost heap).  Julienne the rind into thin matchstick pieces.

Cook-Peels-in-Juice2) Cook Rinds. Simmer rinds in orange juice concentrate and water, along with 1/2 teaspoon baking soda, for 20 minutes.  We sometimes substitute fruit purées, such as peach, apricot, or mango, for some of the orange juice concentrate.

3) Sterilize Jars. We rinse our jars and microwave them for 5 or 6 minutes.  We simmer the canning lids in water.  You can do this prep now so that you’re all ready to can when your marmalade is ready.

4) Add in the Oranges.  Bring your mixture back up to a boil.

5) Add Pectin and Sugar.  Mix these two dry ingredients first in a bowl to avoid clumps of jelly-y pectin in your final product.  Then add the powdery mixture to your pot and stir quickly.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

6) Add Calcium Solution.  This comes in the Pomona’s Pectin box and is part of the process of jelling your liquid.  This is a good time to taste your marmalade and add more sugar if needed.

7) Pack and Lid.  Using a funnel and ladle, fill each canning jar up to the little ridge (about 1/2 inch down from top).  Screw on lids.

8) Can.  Use a canner to submerge your jars in a hot water bath for 20 minutes.  This increases the shelf life of your product and is not as necessary if you sterilized materials well and are planning to eat the marmalade right away.

9) Enjoy!  We love this fruity marmalade on toast, mixed into plain yogurt, on top of ice cream, and sometimes by the spoonful.


Personal Sustainability: How-To Recipes

DIY Gifts for Food Lovers

Want to give gifts that are useful?  Do you want them to have a personal touch?  Would you rather not spend very much money?  Here’s some of my favorite food related DIY gifts:

IMG_9216Vanilla Extract:  Vanilla extract is easy to make – for step by step instructions, check out this blog post.  For great gifts, buy a nice quality rum or vodka in nip bottles.  Following the recipe on a smaller scale, putting one halved or quartered vanilla bean into each little container.  These will need to sit for a month or two before the extract is fully flavored.

Dried-HerbsHome Grown Tea or Herbs:  Drying herbs and flowers from your garden is a great way to enjoy these home-grown flavors all year round.  Read this blog post to learn how.  Herb or tea mixes are beautiful and useful, and friends will love to know that you grew and dried them yourself!

lentil-soup-mixSoup Mix: Soup mixes are perfect winter gifts.  Make some nice soup flavor combinations using a mix of dried ingredients.  Thes best place to find a good selection is in the bulk section of your local co-op.  Click here for a great lentil soup recipe, made all of dry bulk ingredients.  You can mix everything together in a bag or layer ingredients in a ball jar for a beautiful and long-lasting edible gift.

rainbow-fermenting-veggiesPickles:  You may only want to give fermented foods to select friends and family.  For those who enjoy saurkraut and would have fun trying new fermented veggies, however, this can be a very special gift.  Try layering slices of different colored veggies and adding flavors like garlic, onion, or ginger.  For easy step-by-step instructions on fermenting an assortment of veggies, check out this post.

JarsHome-Canned Food: What did you preserve this year?   Jams, jellies, pickles, salsa, hot sauce, apple sauce – these all make great gifts.  Don’t have a garden?  Consider making a batch of cranberry sauce or orange marmalade – both use ingredients that are abundant in stores at this time of year and make beautiful delicious products to distribute to all your friends and family.

Children and Nature Recipes School Gardens

Making Apple Sauce with Kids

appleIt’s apple season!  This year was a great one for fruit trees in Vermont.  Even unpruned apple trees on the sides of roads and in yards are bearing beautiful and delicious fruit.  When a nearby business mentioned free apple picking opportunities in their parking lot, I jumped on the opportunity.  Walking one mile with 3 1/2- to 9-year-olds can seem like a marathon, but we made it in good spirits.  Everyone loved apple picking.  Older students climbed the trees (my guideline: if you can climb up, you may climb up using care and remembering to hold on well at all times) while younger ones stretched their arms to their limits.

apple-peeler-corer-slicerapple-peeled-sliced-coredOn the next several rainy days, we used an old fashioned apple peeler-corer-slicer to prepare the apples for sauce and crisp as a team.  These crank machines are great because they can be used safely by all ages and eliminate the need to use several different sharp kitchen tools with kids.  They’re fun to use, so all students were happy to wait in line for their turn.  As a reward, we got to eat the peel of each apple we prepared.  Given our attention span and energy levels after school, I decided to freeze our chopped and peeled apples.  We’d prepare apple sauce and apple crisp on another day.

canning-ladleingOn Apple Sauce Day, we simply dumped our prepared apples into a big pot with an inch of water on the bottom.  We added a tablespoon of cinnamon, and left on the stove until it had boiled for 15 minutes.  This allowed the air to come out of the fruit and made sure everything was cooked completely.  The room smelled wonderful!  A willing helper ladled  the sauce into sanitized jars, and two artists drew on round labels that would fit under the Ball jar rim.


I knew we’d be canning that weekend, so I brought our full jars home and sanatized them in a boiling water bath along with my family’s stewed tomatoes.

This was a great multi-day project that didn’t seem to add stress or strain to my after-school day.

This winter when we open our apple sauce at snack time, we will be so proud and excited to enjoy the bounty of our labor!


Home Gardens Recipes Uncategorized

Preserving Hot Sauce

This year we added another product to our list of canned goods: Hot Sauce!

We did two versions – one cooked and canned and one naturally fermented.  Both used the same basic ingredients: equal parts of onions, carrots, tomatoes, and hot peppers (about 4 cups of each) and a smaller part garlic (one head).  Depending on the hotness of your peppers, you may want to adjust the proportions to achieve your desired heat.



JuicerWe started by putting all our veggies through our juicer.  If you don’t have one, you could blend or purée your product after it has cooked and softened.  If blending, you’ll want to decide whether or not to include whole hot peppers, or to remove the seeds.  If removing the seeds with your hands, I recommend wearing rubber gloves to keep the hot oils off your skin!

JarsCanning: We put our juice into a large pot and added 20% (by volume) white distilled vinegar and salt to taste.  After boiling for 20 minutes, we ladled the hot sauce into 1/2 cup Ball jars and put them into a hot water bath for an additional 10 minutes.  These will make great gifts this holiday season.


fermented-hot-sauceFermenting: I put 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 cup whey* into a quart ball jar.  I then filled the jar the rest of the way with our uncooked hot sauce juice.  I left the covered jar out on our counter for several days, stirring about twice a day and tasting occasionally.  After four days, the hot sauce developed  a nice sour flavor in addition to the hot, oniony, and garlicky flavors.  I then put the jar into the fridge for storage.  For an additional fermented hot sauce choice, I followed this recipe for a delicious salsa verde.

*To get whey, I strain plain yogurt (make sure yours has live cultures).  You can use a strainer or cheese cloth over a bowl to separate the solids from the whey.  After several hours, you’re left with whey (full of lactobacillus) and greek yogurt.  You can also use juice from a pervious naturally fermented pickle or sauerkraut jar as a way to ensure there are plenty of good bacteria in your fermenting hot sauce.