Big Day at the Tomato Ranch

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Each year I make “chili”.  It’s really tomato chutney, but for some reason we call it chili.  I use the same recipe, and never change it.  My (ex) mother in law gave me this recipe, and she got it from her dear friend and neighbour Marg.   So this is Marg’s chili – we eat it with eggs, with tourtière, with brie cheese, with grilled cheese sandwiches.    I haven’t made this in two years, and my son who is heading back to university soon, asked me specifically.   So, of course, I obliged.

The recipe is:

  • About 35 field tomatoes. Frankly, any tomatoes will do.
  • 3 green peppers and 3 red peppers
  • 1 hot pepper, or you can use chili flakes. This chili is not spicy, but to balance out the sweetness, you need the heat.
  • 1 whole stalk (head) of celery
  • About 6 good sized onions
  • 1.5 pints of apple cider vinegar
  • 1 lb of dark brown sugar
  • 1 TB salt
  • 1 TB cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cloves (ground)
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 TB of pickling spice, wrapped and tied in a piece of cheesecloth or loose tea ball.

You’ll need your average canning equipment: food processor, big pot for cooking, big canning pot for water bath, jars, lids, rings, jar funnel, and that magnetic thingy to pick up the hot jar lids.

Instructions are simple:  peel tomatoes, put all the vegetables through the food processor, put all in a big pot with the rest of the ingredients and cook them for about a day.  Then can them.

Here are some details:

You need to peel the tomatoes. I find the easiest way to do this is to boil a big pot of water, and place beside it a bowl of cold water with icecubes. Core the tomatoes and drop them into the boiling water.  In less than a minute, the skin will start to come off. Take them out and put them in the cold water.  You can pull the skin off easily with your fingers.  Cut the tomatoes in half and put through the food processor, then dump them in the big pot you will cook in.

Peel and cut in half the onions. Put through the food processor and dump into the big pot.  Wash and cut into large pieces all of the celery, you know the drill — food processor to big pot.  Core the peppers, zip and dump.

Add all of the other ingredients.   This needs to cook on low simmer for a long time.  It will darken, and drop to half it’s original volume.  That’s when you know it’s done.

Let cool while you put your canning water on to boil.  For the jars, I put them through the antibacterial cycle of my dishwasher, I include the jar funnel and the rings.  I leave the jars in the dishwasher until I’m ready to can them.  When I’m just about ready, I pour boiling water into a bowl and put in the snap lids to soften.  Once the water is boiling, take a jar out of the dishwasher (I always cover my hand with a dishcloth because they are hot!), put the jar funnel over top and ladle in the appropriate amount of chili.  You don’t want to leave too much air space, but don’t overfill either — fill just to the top so you have less than a millimetre of space once the snap lid is on.  Using a magnetic snap lid handle, take a lid out and put it on top.  Put your jar onto a rack.  Keep doing this till all your jars are full.  I use different sized jars, so I have some to give away and some to store.   Once all the jars are full, put the rings on.  Using a jar lifter, put the jars in the water bath for 10 minutes. You’ll probably need to do two or three batches.  Take the jars out using your jar lifter and place on the rack again.   Hopefully you will hear the pop pop of the snap lids sucking down to the jars.  That’s when you know you’ve got a good seal!   Tighten the rings again, and voila — chili!

Canning really is easier than you think, if you’ve never tried it.  The chili will last a long time in those jars, but we always finish the jars before they would turn anyway!

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