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Thursday, August 19, 2010

What to do with all of those tomatoes? Can 'em!

Tomatoes chilling in an ice bath.
Canning can be a looming task to food preservation/gardening newbies. This blog entry is to reassure those of you nervous ladies and gents out there that it really is quite a simple process that's well worth the effort.

The first food that we ever canned was a batch of diced tomatoes. So versatile, we used them in winter spaghetti dishes, as pizza toppings, and in soups. Since year one, they've been a staple item in our pantry.

Lemon Juice
Salt (optional)
Sugar (optional)


1. Sterilize quart jars and lids by placing them in boiling water for 1-2 minutes. Or if your dish washer has a sterilize cycle, use that.

2. Prepare tomatoes for processing. Cut an X onto the bottom of the fruit. This will help make peeling super easy.

3. Prepare an ice bath. We usually fill our sink with cold water and ice, but a large pot or bowl works too. 

4. Boil water on the stove. Put the fruit into the boiling water for a few seconds (and no longer than a minute) to loosen the skin. When you see the skin split and loosen, remove the tomatoes.

5. Immediately after removing from the boiling water, put the fruit into the ice bath.

6. Take the fruit out of the ice bath. The skin should slip right off  (I like to save the skins for the freezer to make broth later and/or to give the warm tomato skins to my chickens.)

7.If desired, remove the guts from the center. Simply cut the tomato lengthwise, and with your fingers or a spoon, remove the seeds and pulp from the center.

8. Dice the fruit to desired size.

9. To ensure non-spoilage, add 2 Tbs. of lemon juice to each quart jar. Sometimes, we add sugar to make sure that the tomatoes don't have a lemony flavor. If desired, add a pinch of salt here.

10.Pack the jars with the fruit, leaving 1/2-inch head space at the top of the jars. Be sure that the jar lids are dry to ensure a tight, secure seal.

11. Process using a water bath or a steam canner.

 If doing pints, process for 40 minutes. If doing quarts, process for 45 minutes. Specific times are below (taken from: source):
Recommended process time for Crushed Tomatoes in a boiling-water canner.
Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size 0 - 1,000 ft 1,001 - 3,000 ft 3,001 - 6,000 ft Above 6,000 ft
Hot Pints 35 min 40 45 50
Quarts 45 50 55 60

For you novice canners, a word of caution: canning is touchy. You have to follow a recipe exactly to avoid potential spoilage. Read the directions for your specific canner, and cross-check other sources for processing times to ensure a good, healthy, safe, product. We like:

With that said, please do can! It's a wonderful way to preserve farm-fresh produce for the fall, winter, and early spring months. Nature has seasons. Here, in Wisconsin, we're not meant to go to the store in December and find red, ripe tomatoes. It's not possible to grow them anywhere around here at that time. Duh, right?

One way to embrace the seasons (and avoid blindly trekking food across the country or world via excess petroleum, while dishing out money to Dole fruits or some other big name) is by eating fresh, yummy tomatoes in the summer, and then embracing in the delight and beauty of your Ball jar filled with prepared tomatoes in the winter. It's amazing how great both can taste when you give yourself time to miss them. Plus, you'd be amazed as to how beautiful a pantry full of a variety of canned food looks.

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