Sunday, November 29, 2009

Anne Willan's Home Canned Tomatoes and an Elegant, Easy Cream of Tomato Soup

This is one of the simplest methods for canning fresh tomatoes I have ever heard of. The method is the creation of Anne Willan, a respected chef who has written over a dozen internationally published cookbooks, and is the founder of one of the best cullinary schools in the world, La Varenne, in France. Once processed, the jars of fresh whole tomatoes will last for one year, and can be used for soups and sauces all winter long. Although you will probably use this method next summer at tomato harvesting time, I promised one of the blog followers to post the method over the weekend. (Sorry I am a day or two late.)
Pack whole, well washed, unpeeled tomatoes with stems and any leaves removed, into quart/litre jars with a few sprigs of thyme, a couple of bay leaves, and an onion slice or two. Close the sealer lids and set the jars on a rack in a deep canning pot. Add enough water to cover generously. Weight the jars down (with a brick or other weight) so they don't float. This can be tricky. My suggestion is to weight the jars down before adding all the water. One other tip: If you do not have, and can not find, a round rack to fit in the bottom of the deep pot, use a clean kitchen towell or two in the bottom of the pot. This worked well for me after I scoured my town for a round rack.
Bring the water to a boil, and then simmer for an hour and a half until the tomatoes begin to lose their shape and collapse. Let the jars cool in the water so the lids form a tight seal. When done, each jar will look only half full of tomatoes. See the photo.
Elegant, Easy Cream of Tomato Soup
Open one of the jars of canned tomatoes and remove the bay leaves and sprigs of thyme. Put the remainder of the contents into a blender and puree until smooth.
Add the puree to a soup or sauce pan, and add approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cup of organic heavy cream (or a combination of cream and unsweetened almond milk) to taste. Bring the soup to temperature, add just a touch of salt, and enjoy one of the freshest tomato soups you have ever tasted.
Note: I used about two tablespoons of cream and approximately 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk. Suit yourself. You won't believe how wonderful the soup tastes.