Gayla Trail, The Globe and Mail's Real Dirt columnist, is a longtime canning enthusiast. Among her favourite foods to preserve are the tomatoes she grows on her balcony garden in Toronto.
The canning trend is also being fuelled by newcomers to the practice, such as James Padwick and Tracie Donald of Toronto. The couple grows a variety of fruits and veggies, including tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers, on a rooftop garden in the city's west end.
Recently, Donald and Padwick began preserving some of this summer's bounty. Here, Donald ladles a zesty salsa made with banana peppers and tomatoes into jars using a wide-mouth canning funnel.
The sealed jars of salsa are then transferred to a boiling water bath.
In addition to salsas, tomato sauce and chutneys, Padwick and Donald also tried their hand at jumbo garlic dill pickles.
Trail, meanwhile, delights in canning a wide array of heirloom tomatoes, including Black Krim (centre top) and pumpkin-hued Amana Orange.
According to Trail, jarring up high-acid preserves such as tomatoes, pickles and chutneys is a good way for novice canners to get their feet wet before attempting trickier projects such as jams and jellies. It also diminishes the risk of botulism and other bacterial nastiness that thrives in low-acid environments. Before preserving whole tomatoes, Trail makes two criss-cross slits on the bottom of each and cuts off any hard cores or bad parts.
She then blanches the tomatoes for 45 seconds to make them easier to peel.
After being blanched, the tomatoes are plunged into cold water to stop the cooking process.
Once the tomatoes have been peeled, Trail drops a tablespoon of lemon juice into each sterilized jar and pushes the tomatoes in with her fingers or a wooden spoon, using a funnel to prevent spillage and leaving half an inch of headspace from the top.
When sealing her jars, Trail doesn't touch either the lid or the lip: She uses a magnetic lid lifter to lift each prewarmed lid onto the jars.
After the jars have been processed in a boiling water bath, Trail removes them from the pot, sets them aside to cool and waits for the popping sound that indicates a successful seal. The result: an array of delicious tomato preserves to see her through the winter.
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