Photos and recipes by Holly Roberts Walker
Late summer is the best time of year for plum-like tomatoes that are ready for canning; and in many cases, the tomato plants will keep producing until the first frost. In western Kentucky, the 2021 tomato growing season has produced flavorful red, yellow, green, orange, pink, and purple fruits. Now is the time to prepare winter pantries with delicious stewed tomatoes, tomato sauces, and salsa.
A good friend and gardening expert, Holly Roberts Walker, shares two tomato canning recipes to delight the taste buds. If you're interested in a sweet and savory tomato sauce or batch of stewed tomatoes, two recipes will follow for the readers of WKY Community Living.
To prepare tomatoes for roasting, one must core, score, freeze/thaw, and take the skin off. Scoring the tomato makes it easier to remove the skin.
25 lbs. of assorted tomatoes, peeled and cored
6 bell peppers, roughly chopped (combination green and red)
4-6 medium yellow onions, roughly chopped
Worcestershire Sauce, to taste (up to ½ cup)
Liquid Aminos, to taste (up to ¼ cup) can substitute soy sauce
8-10 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 bay leaves
1-2 teaspoon olive oil
⅔ cup brown sugar (packed)
4-6 6 oz. cans tomato paste
Seasoning Blend (see below)
1 -2 T. salt
Combine: tomatoes, bay leaves, Liquid Aminos, Worcestershire sauce, 1 -2 T. salt
In a 22-quart roaster pan set to 250 degrees. Roast/stew for 3-5 hours. To each Quart jar add 2 Tablespoons of lemon juice. For a Pint jar add 1 Tablespoon of lemon juice. Can immediately while the liquid is hot using the water bath method for 40 minutes leaving ½” headspace.
Tomato Sauce Base
Combine: Onions, Peppers, & Garlic
In a Dutch oven, place olive oil and set over medium heat. Sauté mixture until onions are cooked through. Add the mixture to the roasted tomatoes and cook for five additional hours at 200 degrees.
Add: tomato paste (start with 4 cans) Check the consistency and add the brown sugar. Using an emulsion blender, puree the batch thoroughly.
Italian Seasoning Blend (in a bowl)
4 Tablespoons dried oregano
4 Tablespoons dried basil
2 Tablespoons garlic powder
4 Teaspoon dried thyme
4 Teaspoon dried red pepper
To each Quart jar add 4 ½ teaspoons of blend and 2 T. Lemon Juice Pint jar add 2 ¼ teaspoons of blend and a T. Lemon Juice
Fill jars with hot tomatoes leaving a ½” headspace.
Wipe rims and seal.
Water bath for 40 minutes.
To Use: Shake jar to blend before opening.
Varieties of tomatoes are ready for roasting. All photos by Holly Roberts Walker on Facebook.
"You like potato and I like potahto. You like tomato and I like tomahto. Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto! Let's call the whole thing off!"
From the movie, 'Singin' in the Rain' starring Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, and Ginger Rogers, came the famous lyrics to the song 'Let's call the whole thing off.' Whether pronouncing the fruit as tomato or tomahto, nobody would ever suggest 'calling off' nature's sweetest summertime harvest.
Holly Roberts Walker and her husband Eric have a fantastic backyard garden called 'Urban Gardenology' nestled in the sleepy, little town of Paducah, KY. In the garden there are 184 tomato plants with 23 new varieties planted this year; that's a whole lot of sweetness being cultivated from this backyard blessing. Holly's famous tomato taster, Eric, shares his talents with those interested in choosing tomato seeds for next year's garden from the overwhelming selection of products on the internet.
In addition to testing, Holly has supplied the readers of WKY Community Living with her famous salsa recipe and 'best picks' seed companies.
The Marglobe tomato is a determinate (meaning they are bred to stop growing usually around 3 - 4' tall). These heirloom tomatoes were created a century ago and are designed to be crack and disease resistant. This variety is a favorite among home gardeners and one of the best on the market. "It's thick-skinned and an amazing slicer...a 10!," said Eric.
The White Tomesol is a pale yellow-white fruit with a blush of pink. It's an heirloom tomato that is fragrant and bursting with flavor. It's an 80 day tomato that is indeterminate (meaning they could grow between 6 - 20' tall and produce fruit until the first hard frost). It's sweet and good to eat!
The Mountain Gold is an 80 day determinate that yield 8 to 12 ounce golden yellow tomatoes. It's disease resistant and grows well in the south. The tomato was released in 1991 by a horticulturalist in North Carolina. "It's very flavorful and clean tasting. A bit heavy on the pulp," said Eric.
The Green Zebra is chartreuse in color with deep lime-green stripes and determining when it's ready for pickin' can be tricky. For starters, feel the tomato for firmness with some give, look to see if the lime-green stripes have turned yellow, and watch for the yellow stripes to begin to show a blush color. "It's light, refreshing, with an apple consistency," said Eric.
The Black from Tula is a beautiful tomato and a good slicer. It's been described as 'mealy' with soft flesh. Eric said it wasn't as flavorful as some of the other varieties.
Brad's Atomic Grape are indeterminate elongated multi-colored cherries that grow in clusters. The interior is green with a blushed red when extra ripe. The heirloom tomato is rugged with high productivity. Eric said that it's crunchy, firm-skinned, and middle of the road in terms of flavor.
The Evil Olive average 75 days to maturity and is one of the most gorgeous heirloom tomatoes. It's a very productive, non-determinate, cherry tomato that's good for salsa, snacking, and salads. "It's meaty, (not mealy), sweet-sour, perfect for hamburger slicers," said Eric.
The Violet Jasper is a pretty violet-purple fruit and is known for its jewel-like glow. They average around one to three ounces and are high producers. Eric said it's a 'big flavor' for a cocktail-size tomato. It will be on Holly's 2022 grow list!
The Bosque Blue Bumblebee is a bright yellow with dark-blue marbling. They develop dark-blue coloring as they continue to grow. The more the sun shines, the deeper the color. It's tart in flavor.
Of course, this is only a small sample of the selection of heirloom tomatoes from Urban Gardenology. As far as seed companies go, Holly said, " I have between 80 and 100 seed companies I use to search and find specific seeds I want." Her top 10 companies are Baker Creek, M I Gardener, Botanical Interests, Trade Winds Fruit, Urban Farmer, Johnny’s Seeds, Fruition Seeds, Seed Exchange, Renaissance Farm, and Annie’s Heirloom.
Holly went on to say, "It also depends on what seeds I am searching for at the time. Some companies are wild plant-based, some are Heirloom fruits and veggies, some are focused on developing new species, and some deal in large bulk (for farms). I have specific herb-based companies...it really depends!"
Holly's Salsa Recipe:
7 lbs. tomatoes (cored and quartered)
10 total jalapeños and nadapenos (slice in half and roast. For mild sauce use 3 jalapeños and 7 nadapenos. For a hotter sauce, use half and half).
Two onions quartered
1-2 cloves garlic
1-2 bunches cilantro
Fresh lemon/lime juice (either will work)
Roast tomatoes, onions, garlic cloves, and jalapenos/nadapenos for 45 minutes to 1 1/2 hours at 300°. Char/blacken to desired amount. Ninja all roasted items. Add leaves of cilantro and juice of one lemon or lime. Mix thoroughly. Yields three pint-size canning jars. Use immediately.