Category Archives: Preserving

Cayenne Chili Sauce

This year, the cayenne harvest was HUGE, and I found myself with about five pounds of leftover chilies when I was done making the ristras. I looked on-line for recipes, but I didn’t see quite what I had in mind. I did find a cool recipe for fermented chili sauce like Tabasco and Sriracha, but I didn’t have the lactic acid culture it called for, and I’m impatient. So I improvised.


From harissa, I borrowed coriander, I added a good amount of garlic, and I used white vinegar in place of the lactic acid that would be present from the fermentation.


I took out about 3/4 of the seeds and white flesh to reduce the heat so the sauce could focus on the chili flavor.


Then I cooked the spices and garlic in olive oil to toast both.


Then I cooked the chilies, covered, with the vinegar, for about an hour, stirring regularly.



When the skins had separated mostly from the flesh, I processed the mixture through the finest die of my food mill.


I finished with salt and fish sauce to taste, jarred and processed. I opened one jar a week later, and it’s pretty yummy. Not quite the same as sriracha, but close, and more complex. Next year I will try the fermented version.


Spicy Tomato Sauce

One final method for preserving summer flavor, this tomato sauce is ready to go right out of the can. You can also very quickly turn it into tomato soup. Adjust the amount of chili to your personal preference.


12 lbs. tomato
4 oz EVOO
.1 chili flakes
1.75 oz. garlic, sliced
1lb. onion, chopped
1 oz. salt
.15 oz. black pepper
3 oz. basil leaves


Saute garlic and pepper flakes just for aroma,


then add onion and sweat until soft.


Add tomatoes, and season with salt and pepper.


Bring to a boil, stirring regularly until the tomatoes begin to melt.


Simmer one hour. Add basil and stir to combine. About this time of year the basil is getting tall and leggy. I just chop it down, and let it grow again. Use the tops for this recipe. Remove from the heat, and allow to stand for ten minutes to infuse.


Process through food mill, medium die. I turn four rotations forward, then one backward to scrape the die clean. The medium die will keep the skins and seeds out of the finished sauce.


At this time, I adjust the seasoning with more salt and pepper.


Fill warm, clean pint jars. Add 1/4 t. of citric acid and one basil sprig. Process 40 minutes.

Sundried Tomatoes

Toward the end of the san marzano tomato season, right about now, I have lots of cases of canned crushed tomato and spicy tomato sauce, but there are still more tomatoes coming in. Soon the vines will come out, and the green tomatoes will go into chutney, but the last 30 pounds of tomatoes I dry.

Sundried tomatoes went out of style after being over-used (nearly to death) in the late 80s and 90s. Now some sad version of them still lurks in the corners of your local grocery store, but they area usually hard as leather, and dark in color, a far cry from freshly made dried tomatoes. The key is to dry them just enough, rather than to dry them until they are completely dessicated.


I use the smaller tomatoes and cut them in half, or the larger and cut them into thirds. They I pick a few stalks of the overgrown basil so that the plants will start new, tender growth.


There are still lots of tasty leaves if you are willing to pick them off.


To six pounds of sliced tomatoes, I added 1/2 oz. of basil chiffonade, 1 t. of kosher salt, 1/2 t. of black pepper, and 1 1/2 oz. of EVOO.


Then I tossed everything together to coat evenly.


I bought the cheapest dehydrator available on Amazon that had high ratings. It has six trays and holds about 6 pounds of sliced tomatoes. It takes about 24 hours to get the tomatoes where I like them, and I rotate the order about half way through, bottom to the top, etc.


It is also important to check each layer as you get toward the end of the cycle. Some sliced will dry out an hour or two before others, depending on thickness. I store them in a zip-lock bag, and keep them in the refrigerator. They will last most all winter like that.

Dried chilies for the winter

This year I once again planted too few cayenne chilies for the year. They always seem to go so much faster that I had planned. I crumble a chili up and add it to almost everything I make.Think of chili flakes that have flavor rather than just heat.

I have saved seed (in the form of that last dried chili) for the past three years because I was so happy with the cultivar. I will do the same again next year, but plant six bushes instead of three. I’ll have extra seeds if you want to try some.



If you decided to grow your own, I suggest waiting to pick until they have already started to shrivel on the plant. Use a heavy sewing needle, I prefer a curved needle, and pull a double line of heavy-duty upholstery thread to string the peppers through the stem end.


Then hang them up, and let them dry. I usually tie the ends of the thread to a clothes hanger to hang them all in one place.

Preserving Tomatoes

This year’s tomato crop was early and enormous. I have canned 48 pints, and there is another 36 on the vines. Here’s a photo essay on how I do it.


Wait until the tomatoes are fully ripe for best flavor. A couple of orange shoulders won’t ruin the batch, but when in doubt, wait another week.


Cut the stem ends off, then slice through the skin from end to end.


Prepare to blanch the tomatoes for 20 – 30 seconds each. You will need a second pan to transfer the hot tomatoes to cool and a slotted spoon to remove them from the water.


Drop a few at a time into rapidly boiling water, then give them a little stir. As soon as the skin starts to loosen, remove them to the second pan. Allow the water to return to a boil before adding the next batch.


Ripe tomato skins should easily peel off after a quick blanch.


When the tomatoes are all blanched and cooled, slip the fruit out of their skins,


Then crush them into a suitable bowl. You can leave them whole, or puree them, but I like the texture of a simple squish to cook with.



Meanwhile, put your canning jars in the dishwasher on a short or light soil cycle, then hold them warm when they are done.


Place the lids in a small pot over low heat to soften the seals. Don’t let them boil, or you will weaken the soft sealing ring.


Ladle the crushed tomatoes into the warm jars, using a small tool to poke the air pockets out. I fill the jars just to the bottom of the filling funnel. If you fill too full, the jars will likely break inside of the canning pot.


I add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid to each pint. Some people use lemon juice, but I don’t like the flavor.


Place a warm lid on each filled jar, then screw the ring on snugly. Don’t tighten them too much. When the tomatoes get hot, the trapped air needs to be able to escape to create the vacuum that will eventually seal the jars.


Place the finished jars on the rack, and submerge them into the boiling canning pot. Cover the pot, and wait for the water to return to a boil.


When it does, (don’t be confused by the air bubbles that will start to escape from the jars as soon as they get hot) set the timer for 40 minutes. Wen the pot gets to a crazy boil, I reduce the heat so that it is just a steady rolling boil.


Remove the processed jars to a safe place to cool. You will hear the clink of the top sealing as they cool, and the centers will be indented. When they are completely cool, I remove the rings and wash and reuse them. I also wash the jars because they will be sticky from the tomato juice that escapes from the jars during processing.



After they cool, the tomato pulp will rise to the top. I give them a good shake, and everything goes back together.


Happy Canning!

Preserving the last of summer

After the tomatoes are gone, the basil relegated to the greenhouse, and cabbage and onions planted everywhere, the tenacious eggplant and chilies still cling to the faint rays of November sun. As the first frost approaches, I fill my basket with thick-skinned eggplant, and fiery habanero chilies, and heat up the canning pot.