Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I can tomatoes today for tomorrow.

Today was the first day of many days to come of harvesting and preserving the bounty of our garden.
After the wet/cold/snowy spring and wet/cold/snowy early summer we had, I really didn't think we'd be harvesting much from our garden this year. But here we are and out there sets a garden heavy laden with blessings for our table. We indeed are blessed.

So I thought I'd share how I can our tomatoes.  This is a super simple way to preserve these tasty little fruit. I've bottled salsa for years without the aid of a food processor and so the whole process can be a bit labor intensive. However, bottling just the tomatoes takes about half the time and then you can use them in a variety of different ways, soups, casseroles, sauces, etc.

What you'll need:
  • Tomatoes......as many as you have or you want to can.
  • Glass Jars (Pint or Quart depending on what size works best for your family), (Check your local thrift store or Craig's list for a more economical option than new, simply sanitize them in your dishwasher or with boiling water)
  • Sharp Knife ( I like one with a bit of serrated edge)
  • Tomato Corer (Kind of optional but makes your life much easier and they aren't very expensive)
  • New Canning Caps (as in never used for canning before)
  • Rings (can be reused)
  • Salt
  • Wooden Spoon
  • Cutting Board
  • Canning Funnel thingy
  • A large pot with a lid for processing your cans. I used an extra large water-bath pot. Like this
  • Lots of boiling water
  • A dishrag and a towel (at least one of each)
  • Apron

Exactly how many tomatoes are you going to need? Really that's up to you and how much you want to preserve. I would guess about 18 medium size tomatoes will fill 6 pint jars, that's about 3 tomatoes per jar.

This little tool, the tomato corer, will make your life so much easier. You can find them pretty much anywhere kitchen supplies are sold and I highly recommend picking one up.
It works a lot like a melon baller only it has those little teeth to cut through the tomato skin.

First I twist off the stem, then used the corer to scoop out where the stem was.

After coring all of your tomatoes place them in your plugged sink. Poor boiling water over the tomatoes. Let them set for a couple of minutes.
The skins on the tomatoes will start to split and peel away from the tomato.
After 2 or 3 minutes you can drain the water off of the tomatoes.

At this point the skins should just slide right off of the tomatoes. You can use your knife to slice away any of the skin that sticks.
Also cut away and discard any rotten or excessively damaged parts.

On a cutting board coarsely chop the tomatoes and place tomato pieces in clean jars.

This is the point in the process that can get really messy. That tomato juice likes to go every where.
I like to lay a towel on my counter and then place the cutting board on top of the towel so as the juice spills over the edge of my cutting board it gets soaked up immediately by the towel.

**One more thing. When I say coarsely chop the tomatoes I mean really what ever size you want go for it, quarter it, half it, chop it, whatever! There is no wrong way to do this.

Fill your jars really smashing the tomato in there.
Use a wooden spoon to slide around the inside of the jar and get all of the air-bubbles out.
Make sure you leave about a 1inch space between the tomatoes and the top edge of the jar.

On top of the tomatoes poor salt.
  • 1/2 tsp for a pint
  • 1 tsp for a quart

Meanwhile in a small saucepan boil a couple of inches of water. Once the water is boiling take the pan off of the heat and place your canning caps in the hot water, let them set while you take care of the next step.

With a wet, clean cloth wipe off the top edge of the jars. This will remove any little bits of tomato or tomato juice that may have gotten on the lip of the jar that may prevent the jar from sealing.
With each jar use a different part of the cloth to wipe way any drips.

Use a fork to remove one canning cap at a time place on top of the jar and secure with a ring (no need to use excessive force finger tight is great).

Place closed jars in canning pot and cover with water. Each jar should be covered by about 1 inch of water.
Cover pot and bring the water to a boil.
Process (boil) 30 minutes.
After boiling turn off the heat and carefully remove the jars from the water (They are extremely hot!). I like to use a jar lifter like this.

Place the jars on clean dish towels with a couple of inches between each jar so the air can circulate around the jars.

As the jars cool the caps will suck in and will seal.
Sometimes they make a pinging sound as they seal and that is seriously one of the sweetest sounds in the world.

I wanted to share this because I think sometimes canning or preserving food can be intimidating. It's really not hard!
From the tomatoes pictured (in the sink) I was able to can 8 pints and 2 quarts in just a couple of hours (that includes the processing time). And, my time spent will be so worth it when I can grab a jar from my food storage this winter and make a delicious stew, marinara sauce or chili relleno sauce for my family.....my mouth is watering already!

1 comment:

A.L.L. said...

Yes, it can be intimidating! Especially to people like me. But this tutorial is great, simple and looks doable!