Spicy Tomato Vegetable Soup

I first made this soup back in the pressure canning week of my Master Food Preserver class, and I could not wait until tomato season rolled around so I could stock up on this deliciousness. This soup is so good, and I just love that every ingredient is in season right now, which means every ingredient I either grew or picked within 10 miles of my house. That’s the best! This recipe is from So Easy to Preserve, which by the way is now out with its newest edition if you’re looking to get your hands on that. I just ordered a couple copies for myself and others. 🙂

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Ingredients:
6 cups chopped tomatoes
2 cups chopped tomatillos
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped green pepper
1/2 cup chopped and seeded hot pepper
6 cups whole kernel corn, uncooked
2 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp black pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp hot pepper sauce
5 cups tomato juice
2 cups water

Here’s how we made it:

Chop, chop, chop, and chop some more. But really, that’s basically all there is to it. When I made this recipe at home by myself I got a hand cramp from too much chopping, so invite a friend over for goodness sake. For the tomatoes, core, blanch and peel them before chopping. For the tomatillos, remove them from the husk, wash and chop them without peeling. For the onions and carrots just peel and wash them and chop them into soup sized pieces. Wash and seed the peppers and use gloves to cut up the hot ones. For the corn, either cut it off the cob and measure 6 cups, or use frozen corn.

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Combine all the veggies in a large stockpot. Add in the tomato juice, water, and all the seasonings. For the tomato juice, you can either make juice by pressing some tomatoes through a food strainer, or use store bought. I bet you can guess which one I prefer. I think that the ratio of solids to liquids in this soup is a bit off, so it could probably use more like 6 or 7 cups of tomato juice. And just to justify this, the reason I think it’s OK to adjust the recipe in this way is because these are the National Center’s soup recommendations. The processing is the same with whatever combo of foods you have, unless you add seafood, and they just say to cover with liquid. Plus, tomato juice is the most liquidy and most acidic ingredient in this recipe. Anyways, bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. While the soup is simmering, prepare your canner, jars and lids. This yields about 9 -10 pints of soup.

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When it comes time to fill the hot jars, it’s important to follow these instructions for filling them to ensure safe processing. Using a slotted spoon, fill the jars about half full with solids. The head space for the soup is going to need to be a full inch, so when filling halfway, keep in mind that you should be filling it halfway to that point. After the jars are half full with solids, fill them with liquid, leaving an inch head space.

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Such pretty jars.

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Remove air bubbles, adjust head space, wipe rims, and apply the lids and bands, tightening to finger tip tight.  Place the jars in your pressure canner with 3 quarts of water and begin heating the canner. Once all the jars are in the canner, close and lock the lid and get the canner heated up. Once your canner starts to vent a steady stream of steam, continue to vent for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes, apply the weight. Bring the canner up to 11 pounds of pressure (10 for weighted gauge; sea level). The processing time for this recipe is 60 minutes for pints or 75 minutes for quarts. Begin the timer once at or above the correct pressure, and maintain that pressure throughout the canning time. After the processing time is complete, turn off the burner and carefully remove the canner from the heat. Wait until the pressure is completely returned to zero and the safety nubbin thing drops. Remove the weight, wait 10 more minutes, and then remove the lid of the canner and remove your jars to a hot pad or towel.

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While the jars can, eat any leftovers that you had.

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Ta-da! Gorgeous soup. And so damn delicious. After 12-24 hours, remove the bands, check the seals, wipe clean, label and store. Then repeat a week later because this soup is super good.

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Master Food Preserver Class – Week 5

Tomatoes are one of my very favourite things to preserve, so I was pretty happy that week 5 of our Master Food Preserver class was devoted to tomatoes (and also cheese!). No, it’s not tomato season here in the PNW, but hey class has to cover everything before the season ramps up, so we got a little tease and now have to wait a few months before we can make all these recipes.

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Canning tomatoes is awesome and amazing and definitely something that you should do, but it’s an area where you definitely need to be following tested and trusted recipes for things like salsas and sauces. Tomatoes are acidic enough to hot water bath can, but they are on the borderline between low and high acid, so we must add a little extra acid when we can them. This is because some may not be quite acidic enough, and if they are not remember we have the potential for botulism growth. We also learned that there are a couple bacteria that are only really found on tomatoes, and these bacteria can reduce the acidity and create conditions that are ideal for botulism. Adding that extra acid eliminates these risks.

In class we canned crushed tomatoes. When filling the jars, you add a bit of extra acid to each jar. 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per pint or 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid. This ensures your tomatoes are definitely out of the pH range in which botulism can grow. It takes two extra seconds to do, so don’t skip it.

The hardest part of canning tomatoes is the peeling. I always can with a friend doing tomatoes because it’s a lot of work. But totally worth it. Look at those naked ‘maters!

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For the crushed tomatoes, we hot packed them. Here we are bringing them to a boil. Hot packing tomatoes is definitely the way to go, or else they have to process for 85 minutes!! That’s crazy talk!

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Crushed tomatoes!

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My favourite thing to do with tomatoes is to make salsa. We made three different salsas in class this week. Two tomato salsas and a tomatillo salsa. Salsa are delcious and amazing, but again, this is one area where you really need to follow a tested recipe, such as a recipe from Ball, So Easy to Preserve or from an extension service publication or the National Center for Home Food Preservation. The reason for this is that adding peppers and onions to the tomatoes to create salsa reduces the acidity, putting it into a range where botulism can definitely grow. Vinegar or lemon or lime juice must be added to compensate for these low-acid foods. But do you know exactly how much acid is needed for a cup of peppers or a cup of onions? No, so try out some of those tested recipes and find one you like. There really are a good number of options out there.

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The one that I helped make is actually this one that I posted last fall. It’s a great one if you like a salsa with a lot of peppers in it. I would recommend making about a million jars of this come tomato season. It’s that good. Although one alteration from the way I did it would be to make the recipe as written, then repeat rather than trying to bring twice as much to a boil. It just took forever to boil and I think holds together better if you get it boiling and into the jars faster. You live and you learn.

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OH MAN I JUST WANT TO EAT IT ALL RIGHT NOW!

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The second recipe was also an OSU extension recipe but it’s more similar to the other one from Ball I posted last year, found here. This one has proportionally more tomatoes than pepper and onions, and has a bit of added tomato paste. They are both delicious and which one you like better will just depend on your taste for salsa.

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Beautiful little fellows.

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Finally, we made a salsa verde using tomatillos. You could also make this with green tomatoes as I did last year with this recipe.

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Filling the jars.

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OK. Well now I am drooling and wishing tomatoes were ready…. but never mind let’s not wish the summer away. Let’s talk about some salsa and tomato rules.

– I already mentioned this, but always follow a tested recipe when canning salsa
– Never reduce the vinegar or lemon juice or add extra vegetables
– Altering spices is OK, like adding some cumin, cilantro or oregano to your taste
– You can swap peppers for different peppers, like if you want your salsa milder or hotter – just ensure you use the volume of total peppers called for in the recipe
– Don’t can overripe, spoiled tomatoes, or those from frost-killed vines. They have lower acidity so may not be safe to can
– Tomatillos and tomatoes are interchangeable in salsa recipes
– Use 5% acidity vinegar and bottled lemon or lime juice in salsa
– Equal amounts of lemon juice can be substituted for vinegar but not vice versa since the lemon juice is more acidic
– Don’t use thickeners in canned salsas, this can cause uneven heating and produce and unsafe product

Whew! OK that seems a bit overwhelming, but basically just be safe and smart making salsa. Follow a tested recipe, don’t be stupid, and you will enjoy many a delicious jar of salsa.

The last thing we did in class was learn to make soft cheese! Honestly, I thought it was a bit of a gross process, but maybe now that I’ve done it once it won’t be so bad next time. ha. And the cheese did taste pretty good. We made queso fresco. I’ll do a full post on it when I have a chance, but here are some pictures.

Milk and buttermilk

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The formation of the curd.

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The curd is setting up.

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Eww. Straining it.

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Squeezing out the whey.

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Ta-da!

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I think it was just the early stages and the smell that bothered me a bit. But it actually tasted surprisingly good. Have you ever made cheese? What’s your favourite kind to make?