Five items percolate to the top of every Italian family's “to do” list at this time of the year:

  1. Eat as many fresh, ripe figs as possible;

  2. Pick, roast and jar peppers for eating throughout the year;

  3. Clean and freeze romano beans to last through the winter’s Pasta Faggioli nights;

  4. Make wine from fresh grapes (actually, it’s still a little early for this... October is the big month for wine-making); and, perhaps most important,

  5. Pick and jar tomatoes for pasta sauces throughout the year.

Canning your own tomatoes isn't the easy way to eat tomatoes, and truth be told, it's not the cheaper way either.  But our motto is "Live to Eat" for a reason!  The flavour of fresh summer tomatoes can’t be beat - especially local, organic tomatoes.  If you’ve never canned your own tomatoes, get some friends together, split the costs and final products, and get ready for a memorable afternoon.

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Thanksgiving falls early this year - October 9

Now's the time to plan your family feasts!


We will be selling a limited number of fresh, pasture-raised, drug-free Turkeys grown exclusively for The Healthy Butcher.  Of course, we will have a wide selection of roasts, duck, geese, bison, elk, pork, and more.  And yes, we will again be making a very limited number of our infamous Turduckens (a deboned turkey stuffed with a deboned duck which itself is stuffed with a small deboned chicken, and all gaps filled with a seasoned stuffing).

Call us today to order your Thanksgiving Feasts!   416-ORGANIC (674-2642)




Back by Popular Demand

It seems like people can't get enough of making their own sausages!  We've added yet another class.  Learn the basics of Charcuterie’s most popular art...

Tuesday, September 12, 2006 7:45pm - 10:30pm

Click here for more info







Team BBQ Effect won gold in both the brisket and pork categories last month at the Canadian BBQ Championships using The Healthy Butcher's meat!   Click here for more info








There are three ways to preserve tomatoes: whole, diced, or crushed (it’s no coincidence these options correspond to the canned tomato options available in supermarkets).  Well, there’s a fourth option as well – to can seasoned, finished tomato sauce a la Prego for quick dinners throughout the year – but this option doesn’t really count for a self-respecting Italian household.  For quick tomato sauces when time is of the essence, the crushed option is best.  But leaving the tomatoes whole or diced leaves the most options – you can make your sauces chunky, or use a blender to make smooth, thick sauces. For all three options, this is what you’ll need:

  • Large Mouth Jars – 1L Mason jars are the jar of choice for my family;

  • New Lids – thin, flat, round metal lids with a rubbery gum material that seals against the top of the jar. Lids can only be used once;

  • Rings – metal bands that secure the lids to the jars. Unlike the lid component, rings may be reused many times;

  • Pot – a very large pot (for the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume you don’t own a pressure canner); 

  • Rack – a metal rack that sits at the bottom of your pot to prevent direct contact between the heat source and your jars… if you don’t have this, no worries – just line the bottom of your pot with a couple of rags;

  • Burner – for most people who are canning small quantities, your home stove is more than sufficient. If you move to larger quantities, like a typical Italian family that makes an average of 100 jars per year, you’ll need the use of a ginormous pot in conjunction with an outdoor propane burner; 

  • Miscellaneous Tools – colander, jar grabber, tongs, large spoon, rubber spatula, ladle, jar funnel;

  • Fresh basil, salt; and of course

  • Fresh Tomatoes.

For canning crushed tomatoes only, you’ll also need a tomato processing machine that extracts the skin and seeds, leaving you with a smooth puree.  This same type of machine can be used to make apple sauce and other fruit sauces.  If this is your first time canning tomatoes, don’t worry about making this $30+ investment – stick with the process for whole or diced tomatoes below.

Tomato selection is key – not all tomato varieties are suitable for canning.  First, some varieties do not have the required acidity to prevent bacterial spoilage.  If you google tomato canning recipes on the web, you’ll likely come across many recipes that require the addition of a teaspoon or so of lemon juice or citric acid to ensure your jars of tomatoes contain sufficient acidity.  Although we have never added additional acid in our homemade jars of tomatoes and have never had a problem, just know that adding acid is an option to ensure safe canning.  Further, always select disease-free, vine-ripened, but firm fruit (not soft and overripe). 


Second, the majority of tomatoes are too watery, making it difficult to achieve a high quality, thick tomato sauce.  Roma tomatoes (pictured at right) are the tomato of choice for most Italians and also among the most common at this time of year;  Roma’s have thicker, meatier walls and less water than other varieties and generally have sufficient acidity for safe canning.  A bushel of Roma tomatoes (around $15) will yield approximately 12 L of finished, jarred tomatoes.


  • Run your jars through your dishwasher – make sure you let the rinse cycle complete. If you think you’re being smart by washing the jars ahead of time, you’re really not… the dishwasher is a perfect tool for warming your jars before use;

  • Place the lids into a small pot of simmering water for 5 minutes or so and leave the lids in the hot water until needed;

  • Wash and remove stems from tomatoes;

  • Boil tomatoes whole for about 3-5 minutes (or until skins split), then remove from hot water leave in colander why you peel the skin off each tomato (During my life, the peeling of tomatoes was always accomplished while the tomatoes were extremely hot… needless to say, we all walked around for a couple of days without much sense of touch in our fingers. Another option is to plunge the hot tomatoes in a bowl of ice water right after boiling, and this eliminates the finger burning and still allows for easy peeling… your choice);

  • If you wish, you can cut tomatoes in half and remove the seeds - but it's not necessary;

  • Pack tomatoes in jars, squishing them by hand and then smooshing them down the jar. Mix in salt – about 1 tbsp per litre;  the salt is only for seasoning, not for preservation purposes.  Leave about ½ inch of headspace in each jar. You need to make sure the jar fills up and don’t have air pockets. Run a rubber spatula around the inside of the glass to remove bubbles.  Some recipes call for the addition of water to make sure the holes are filled up, but this is ridiculous in our opinion as you’ll have to waste time boiling the water off when you make your sauce in the future… so just do a decent job of smooshing.

  • Add 2-3 leaves of fresh basils in each jar.


  • Apply lids and rings until the ring is “fingertip tight” – i.e. do not force too tight, you want the air to vent out during the canning process;

  • Carefully place jars in pot, all jars fully covered with water with at least 3” of water above jars;

  • Boil for 45 min (for 1L jars) (time starts ticking when a boil is reached);

  • Ensure free circulation of water around each jar;

  • Gently remove jars upright and place on towels or newspapers in an area that is free from cold drafts. Let them sit for a day;

  • The day after canning, you can test the seals by pressing the centre of the lids – they should be slightly concave and not move.  If a lid does move, then treat that jar as fresh food and either refrigerate and eat within a couple of days or freeze. The properly canned jars should be stored in a cool, dry place and eaten within one year.

Couple of funny side notes:

  • While I was growing up, I used to wait around waiting for the "bang" to happen... often times, the kids used to place bets on how long it would take before a jar exploded.  Inevitably, one or more jars will “pop”… and do they ever “pop”!

  • The scheduling of when to can tomatoes for many Italian families revolves around the phases of the moon. Like the planting of the actual tomato plants, families would aim to can during a waning moon (i.e. after a full moon). Sounds like a ridiculous superstition, right?  Well I still remember one year about 15 years ago when my parents canned on a Sunday that fell exactly on a full moon (they had no choice because of other commitments)… well, 58 out of 60 jars exploded.  Needless to say, they stuck with their lunar planning schedule from then on.


This method will produce skin-on diced tomatoes.

  • Wash jars, heat lids, wash tomatoes and remove stems as described in Method 1;

  • Cut the tomatoes in half, and remove cores;

  • Dice tomatoes, add fresh basil & salt;

  • Fill jars as explained for Method 1, leaving ½” headspace and ensuring no air pockets exist;

  • Follow “CANNING PROCEDURE” above;


  • Wash jars, heat lids, wash tomatoes and remove stems as described in Method 1;

  • Boil tomatoes and remove skins as described in Method 1;

  • Process the tomatoes through the tomato machine;

  • Add salt, fresh basil, fill jars, as explained for Method 1;


Canning tomatoes is a great way to learn how to preserve, and the results are so tasty during the winter!  Use your tomatoes for tomato sauce, pizza, chili, or any tomato based recipe.


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