Tomato Canning Party

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Today was such an amazing experience.  My back-door neighbor and friend, Crystal, is super good at all kinds of canning.  She was raised on a farm in Idaho and learned from a young age how to can just about anything.  She’s such a country girl that she even makes her own laundry soap…but that’s a post for another day!  Today was all about canning tomatoes, using her Grandmother’s recipes.  Get ready, because THIS is a perfect Family Food Roots story and I’ve been waiting for one of these for months!  Here we are looking a little tired…


We wore these cute old fashioned aprons that Crystal made.  I must admit, this could be a new wardrobe addition-comfortable and great at hiding figure-faults!  In the photo below, Crystal is showing the jars that belonged to her grandmother that she still uses today.  I also noticed that her food storage room was super organized too which should motivate me to work on mine..


Not only is home-canned food pure and made from fresh ingredients, but we used recipes that were passed down from generation to generation in her family.  Her Grandma Cynthia (Nebeker Johnson) and mother taught her to can, which means she’s not afraid to work hard!  And we did for several days!

Crystal recalls a cute story that her Grandma told when they were canning one time.  For Christmas Grandma bought Grandpa a new suit.  When he asked how in the world she was able to make this purchase because  finances were tight, she replied “I sold one of your steers”.  Grandpa was surprised…”You did?  Which one did you sell?”  Grandma said “Well if you haven’t missed it for this long, then it doesn’t really matter does it?”

Crystal and her family would sit out in the yard at Grandmas under the trees, snap beans and tell childhood stories.  Her Great Aunt Becky would come too and help with the projects.  Wonderful memories were created as they worked together while talking, laughing and bonding.  

Crystal says, “when I hugged Grandma, I always knew if she had been canning because she smelled of spices, salsa or tomatoes.  She spent lots of time in the kitchen because she loved to cook.”

We made Grandma’s chili sauce and a dear friend’s spaghetti sauce.  Grandma used the chili sauce to flavor various foods, even round steak cooked in the crock-pot.  Then she would make a little gravy to go with it too.  “Yummiest round steak you’ve ever had”, according to Crystal.  The spices in the chili sauce seem like they would be in cookie dough, not tomato sauce.  But that’s what makes the recipe so good.  It’s spicy, sweet, savory and delicious.  Here’s a photo of the sauce simmering away on the stove, using Grandma’s huge pan:


To prepare for canning day, the first step was getting the tomatoes.  One morning, we went to Crystal’s friend’s home and picked a bushel.  The next day, I went out to a “You Pick” farm and picked another bushel.  I’ve never done anything like that before and it was really fun (besides touching rotten tomatoes and all the mosquito bites)!  Next week we are getting 2 more bushels of tomatoes to make marinara sauce and more spaghetti sauce!  I guess this canning activity is becoming rather addictive…probably because I felt such a sense of accomplishment with all those jars lined upon the kitchen counter.

Here we are “par boiling” the tomatoes to get the skin off.


Grandma Cynthia’s Chili Sauce

  • 35-40 tomatoes
  • 6 green peppers
  • 4 large onions
  • 2 1/2 cups vinegar
  • 3-4 cups sugar
  • 1 T cloves
  • 1 T cinnamon
  • 2-4 T salt
  • 1 T Nutmeg

Par boil the tomatoes for a couple of minutes, then place in cold ice water.  Peel and core the tomatoes and puree in a blender.  Pour into a large pot, add spices and cook for 2 hours.  Put into jars and process for 30 minutes.  Use a steamer or large pot to process the jars.

Crystal got this Spaghetti Sauce from a dear friend’s Grandmother:

Nina’s Spaghetti Sauce

  • 4 quarts tomatoes (run through blender)
  • 2 T oregano
  • 2 T basil
  • 2 T garlic salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • ½ cube butter (or ¼ cup margarine)
  • 2 T olive oil
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cans tomato paste or 4 cans tomato sauce
  • 2 large onions (chopped fine)-or 1 cupSimmer mixture for 3 to 4 hours. Process jars in water bath or steamer for
    40 minutes.

If you need more information on canning, here’s a good site.



Here are the tomatoes we picked at the U-Pick-Farms.  Only thing that would have made this experience better would be if I had planted and grew my own tomatoes.  That’s a project for another year.

Recipe ideas:

–  Beth’s Meatballs.  Combine 1 jar of chili sauce and 1 jar of grape jelly in a crockpot with about 40-50 meatballs.  Cook on high for 3 hours.  Makes a sweet and savory sauce that’s a definite crowd pleaser!

–  Grandma Cynthia’s round steak.  Simply pour chili sauce over steak in the crockpot.  Make your favorite gravy on the side.  Serve with mashed potatoes and enjoy the comfort!

–  Crystal’s summer vegetables.  Cut up zucchini, yellow squash and anything else you like (bell peppers, red peppers etc.).  Place in crockpot.  Pour in 1/2 jar chili sauce and 1 small can tomato paste.  Add 1/2 pound ground round that has been pre-cooked with a chopped onion.  Cook on high for 2 hours.  Serve with rice.

–  Pour 1/2 jar chili sauce over a block of softened cream cheese.  Serve with crackers.  Great party snack.

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