Heirloom Tomatoes

It’s a particularly fun time to shop for fruits and vegetables in Ontario. For a short period, there is an abundance of lovely locally grown produce available to us. I try to savour each peach, tomato, berry and corn on the cob. Here and there I kept hearing Gayla Trail tweet about making pickles, buying canning jars and ‘putting up’ all kinds of fruits and vegetables. It hadn’t really occurred to me that preserving some of this fresh food will allow me to enjoy it in the cold winter months. I was over the moon when Gayla agreed to share her experience and teach a workshop on Canning Heirloom Tomatoes at the workroom.

Firstly, Gayla is a fountain of incredible knowledge. Her book and website, You Grow Girl, have fostered a community of gardeners and provide endless inspiration. She is an amazing photographer (check out her ‘daily botanical‘), crafter and she lives right here, in Parkdale.

To start off the workshop, Gayla laid out a beautiful collection of her preserves, pickles and syrups. Just seeing all the colourful possibilities laid out in glass jars was enough to get me dreaming of starting my own collection. We were even allowed to sample her peaches in brandy, oven roasted tomatoes in olive oil and cherries in red wine. So delicious!

Then, it was down to work. Canning is definitely work. The jars need to be sterilized and the tomatoes need to be washed, scored, blanched, peeled and cored. Food preservation is pretty serious and safety is a major concern. As we worked on getting the tomatoes ready, we chatted and asked about a million questions. I felt that each of the students was like a sponge trying to soak up every word Gayla said.

It took us longer than expected, due to the slow heating elements on our electric stove, but we canned fourteen beautiful pint jars of tomatoes. Two jars for each student! More importantly, we learned from someone who loves canning and has been doing it for over ten years. The little tricks, words of advice and anecdotes are why I love taking classes so much. Gayla is a fantastic teacher. So much so, that I went off on my own this past weekend and bought myself a bushel of San Marzano tomatoes. (that’s over 300 tomatoes, people!)

There was an article on Saturday in the Globe & Mail about the popularity of canning right now, featuring Gayla. She also has a new book coming out in February called “Grow Great Grub: Organic Food from Small Spaces“, just in time for us to plan our gardens for next year. She’ll be sharing some of her recipes, including her pickles. I’m crossing my fingers hoping she might want to teach a pickling workshop. I don’t think I can wait until February to learn more of her secrets. I’m addicted.

I know for a fact that many of you are making delicious jams and pickles. Maybe you’ll share your trusted recipes?

Gayla Trail : website / flickr / shop / book / new book

Blanched & Peeled San Marzano Tomatoes

Gayla's Preserved Crab Apples & Lemons

Gayla's Oven Roasted Tomatoes

Canned Tomatoes