Archive for the ‘Tutorials’ Category

Canning tomatoes, the old fashioned way…

canning tomatoes

I got to spend a few days in Kentucky with my mom and dad last week and we canned some tomatoes…  five bushels to be exact.  It was a lot of work, but great fun.  I’m ready to do it again. 

I decided to document the event so you could see the process we used in canning.  I will tell you right off the bat – this method is not a method recognized as safe or correct by the “professionals”  (whoever that is), but I can promise you millions of American families have been canning tomatoes this way for generations.  My family has canned tomatoes this way for as long as anyone can remember.  So far… we’ve not killed anyone.  Well, not from canning tomatoes anyway.   *ahem* Anyway… on to the tomatoes!

The tomatoes

We didn’t grow any tomatoes this year.  Not me.  Not my parents.  That even feels weird just typing it but for various inexcusable reasons, we just didn’t.  Next year though…

My dad did manage to snag our five bushels from a kindly Mexican farmer with three boys for $20 a bushel.  I know, right?  $20 isn’t bad!  We’ve been waiting all summer for tomatoes and last week the call finally came.  They are ready now.  They’ve got to be picked tomorrow.  We can’t wait for the weekend.   And boom! just like that, we were in the Yukon with our yummy bento snacks on our way to Kentucky. 

You should have seen the sight we walked in to… 

canning tomatoes

Five bushels is a lot of tomatoes. 

We didn’t do any canning the day we arrived.  We decided we would start in the morning.  I was thinking we would get two or three bushels done the first day of canning then do the last two the next.   Yeah, no.  We did them all in one day. 


The Setup

We used basic equipment for this process.  Most everything can be found easily at a local store, I’m sure. 

  • large bowls, several for washing and cooling tomatoes
  • a large heave stock pot
  • a wide pot for sterilizing jars
  • a smaller pot for sterilizing lids and bands
  • cookie sheets for work surfaces
  • towels to protect the table tops
  • ice cream buckets for holding tomatoes waiting to be cooked
  • a sharp knife
  • a 5 gallon bucket for dumping skins and cores
  • jars with spotless rims
  • new lids
  • new or used but clean bands
  • a jar lifter
  • a canning funnel
  • a magnetic lid lifter
  • a teaspoon (for quarts)
  • a 1/2 teaspoon (for pints)
  • canning salt
  • slotted spoon

canning tomatoes setupThe counter near the sink, we cleared for bowls of tomatoes ready to be blanched.  The stove was prepped with a  pot of boiling water for blanching and a large stock pot for boiling quartered tomatoes.  At the table we placed cookie sheets on top of towels to catch the mess of juice, skins, and cores.  We placed bowls of cold water at the center of the table for the cooling tomatoes and an ice cream bucket at the side of each work station for catching all the quartered tomatoes. 

Near the table on the floor stood a 5 gallon bucket for dumping the scraps. 


The process

Like I said earlier, this is not the “proper” way to can tomatoes, though I would argue it’s one of the more traditional ways.  

*Can at your own risk* 

If you choose to use the same method I use as described here in this blog, you assume all responsibility for the outcome.   This is NOT an instructional post.  For precise instructions on canning tomatoes, try this book.

 The basic process for canning tomatoes we use goes like this:

  • wash tomatoes
  • blanch tomatoes
  • remove skins, cores, and bad spots
  • quarter tomatoes
  • boil tomatoes
  • sterilize jars, lids, bands
  • fill jars
  • add salt
  • clean rim
  • apply lid and band
  • let sit for 24 hours and listen for the “pops”

washed tomatoesWashing tomatoes

The very first thing we did was get the tomatoes clean.  We filled a sink with water, added a bunch of tomatoes, and got all the dirt off.  A quick rinse and transfer to a clean bowl, the first batch is ready for blanching. 






blanching tomatoes


Blanching the tomatoes

Blanching the tomatoes makes it much easier to remove the peels.  We set a good sized pan of water to boil and add a few tomatoes at a time.  In just a few seconds the peels loosen from the fruit and they are ready to be removed.  Using a slotted spoon we transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of cold water and let them cool down a bit.





Removing the skins, cores, and bad spots


peeling tomatoes


After the tomatoes cool a little, it’s time to remove the skins.  I like to cut a small slice in the bottom of the tomato and peel them towards the core.  At this point, I cut any bad spots off that are on the tomato.  My family laughed at me all day because I tend to smell any tomato that I’m unsure about.  It I feel an extra soft area or after I cut out a bad spot, I will almost always smell the fruit to make sure all the bad is gone.  After smelling a ton of tomatoes, you catch on to what’s normal and what’s not.  Next, I cut the core out, removing all the tough, white areas. 

Quarter the tomato and add it to the pot. 


Cooking the tomatoes

After a bushel of tomatoes have been prepared, we cooked them in a large heavy pot.  You want them to boil up for twenty minutes or so.  The tomatoes will break down as they cook and make lots of juice.  The tomatoes will scorch and stick to the bottom if left to boil, so we kept them stirred every few minutes.  While the tomatoes cooked, we prepared the jars for filling.


Preparing the jars, lids, and bands

It’s very important to have clean, sterilized jars.  One technique I like to use is keeping the jars in the oven at 215 degrees after they’ve been washed.  This time we just boiled the jars, lids, and bands a few at a time as we filled them.  Another very important item – being certain all the jars have clean, solid rims with NO chips.  In order to get a tight seal, a perfect rim is a must.  We checked all our jars before we started the process.   We put two pans of boiling water on the stove – one for the jars, one for the bands and lids. 



Filling the jars


filling jars

This step is made a little easier by a few small tools. 

#1 – a canning funnel

#2 – a jar lifter

#3 – a magnetic lid lifter

#4 – a large Tupperware 8-cup measuring cup

We take a jar out of the water, place the funnel in the mouth of the jar, and fill it with tomatoes using the large measuring cup.  It’s good to leave some room in the top of the jar to give it room to seal.  We remove the funnel, pour in a teaspoon of salt, and wipe the rim.


  canned tomatoes

After the rim is cleaned off, we used the magnetic lid lifter to grab a lid and place it on the jar.  Then we grabbed a band with the magnet and screwed it on the jar tight enough to hold the seal in place, but not too tightly.  Finally, we set the jars on a towel-covered table to sit for 24 hours.  Usually, within a matter of 10, 15 minutes the popping starts.  As the jars cool down, the pressure decreases inside causing the center of the lid to become concave with a “pop”.  This creates a tight seal and if the jars do not “pop” or the lid does not sink in the center, it most likely did not seal properly.  If this happens, it doesn’t mean the tomatoes are bad, just that they need to be kept in the refrigerator and eaten soon.  All of our jars sealed well.   


Take a look at all those tomatoes put up for the winter!

93 quarts

We got a decent yield out of this batch.  We had one large bowl full of tomatoes that we didn’t can.  Generally, you get about 18 – 20 quarts per bushel so I think we did fairly well. 

I could eat canned tomatoes each and every day so we’ll see how long my 40+ jars last.  I’m not positive I’ll make it through the winter!


How about you?  Do you put up any veggies for the winter months?  If so, leave me a comment below and tell me what you put up and the methods you use. 


Cayenne Salve…

by guest, Rosalee de la Forêt


One of the reasons why exploring herbalism is so much fun is that it goes beyond book work and theory to become more practical and hands on. Herbalism inspires us to get into our kitchens to make powerful herbal remedies.

Exploring herbs in this hands-on fashion also allows us to use our senses when learning about herbs. One of the most important senses in herbalism is our sense of taste.

There are five categories or tastes in herbal medicine: pungent, salty, sour, bitter and sweet.

Even though this recipe isn’t necessarily about tasting an herb, this recipe explores the qualities of the pungent taste. Pungent herbs are hot and stimulating. They get things moving!


Cayenne salve stimulates blood flow, which can decrease pain. Cayenne also blocks substance P, the neuropeptide that can relay the pain signal. This salve can be used externally on arthritic pain, neuropathic pain and old achy injuries.


The following recipe is part of the upcoming Taste of Herbs Course.

What you’ll need…

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • two heaping teaspoons of cayenne powder (or 15 grams)
  • 1/2 ounce of beeswax
  • double boiler
  • cheesecloth

Begin by infusing the cayenne into the olive oil over a double boiler. I heat the oil and cayenne until it is warm, turn off the heat and let it sit (warmly) for about 20 minutes, then turn the heat on again. I do this for at least one hour to a couple of hours; you could do it for 24 hours if desired.

Once the cayenne and olive oil have been infused, strain off the powder through a cheesecloth. Reserve the infused oil.

Heat the beeswax until it is melted. Stir in the infused oil until the beeswax and oil have been thoroughly melted together and combined.

Immediately pour this mixture into jars or tins (it makes roughly 4 ounces). Let it cool and then label it.


Using your cayenne salve

This cayenne salve can be used on aches and pains, from sore muscles and joints to bruises and even nerve pain. It is best for closed wounds and may sting a bit on open wounds. Even on closed skin you may feel a bit of burning or heat in the area where it is used. It should be applied externally only and used within 6 months for the best results.

If using it for arthritic pain it may take up to a week or two to see results. In this case you want to use it daily to decrease chronic pain.

Caution: When cayenne comes in contact with your mucosal membranes or eyes it will burn! Be sure to wash your hands thoroughly after touching cayenne or use gloves to apply the salve to the desired area. If you are using the cayenne salve on your hands, consider applying it at night and then sleeping with gloves on.

Some people with thin or sensitive skin may find that cayenne salve causes blistering. If this happens, stop use until it heals, then resume using a smaller amount, or remake the salve using less cayenne.


This recipe is an excerpt from the upcoming course, Taste of Herbs. Taste is an amazing way to learn HOW herbs work.

Rosalee created the Taste of Herbs Flavor Wheel to help people learn herbalism using their sense of Taste.

Get the free Taste of Herbs Flavor Wheel here.




***Rosalee de la Forêt is the creator of Taste of Herbs, a new course by LearningHerbs and Mountain Rose Herbs. Rosalee is a clinical herbalist, herbal educator and founder of Herbal Remedies Advice.

Messy Monday


Spring has taken its own sweet time arriving here in Middle America.  We would get a glimpse of her one week only to find snow falling two days later.  After the steady showers we’ve gotten this week, I’d say she’s made a good showing and to celebrate, I thought we’d find some colorful ways to add a little Spring to our homes.

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Printing your Instagram photos at home…


I love me some Instagram.  It’s a super quick way to get delicious photos from my phone in pretty much no time at all and I look like I know what I’m doing with a camera.  My only beef with the app is that I have to send my photos off with some other app to be printed… not so instantly.  Printing them with my regular one-hour service is not an option (at least not yet) so I decided I need to learn to do this myself.  And why not share my newfound knowledge with someone else whose as impatient as I am?  I’m sure there’s someone else out there…


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