Monday, August 20, 2012

Canning Tomatoes

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Tomatoes from Peter's garden
Tomatoes from Peter's garden

My sister recently asked Peter and I separately what we thought was the most important thing we put up each year. We both answered without hesitation, "Tomatoes!". Home canned tomatoes keep that fresh flavor without a tinny, metallic, or overly sharp aftertaste that you often find in commercially canned tomatoes. I am sure you have heard this many times from those who put up their own food, but ... if you put up nothing else you should do your own tomatoes.

Peeling tomatoes for canning
Peeling tomatoes for canning

Remember how much I loathe peeling tomatoes? Let me share how I peeled 20 lbs. of them quickly and easily, far faster than any other method I have ever used before:
  • Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Wash and remove any blemishes from your tomato then slice it in half and place it on your baking sheet cut side down, filling your first sheet.  Put it under the broiler and char the skin of the tomatoes until it is blackened. 
  • While this is happening, prep your second baking sheet with tomatoes. 
  • Once the tomatoes are well charred, remove sheet one and let them cool just enough to be able to handle them easily. Pop in sheet two.  Pull the skin right off the charred tomatoes on sheet one and place them into a large bowl, saving all juices.  Repeat until all tomatoes are done. 
You will find that in the time it takes you to cool, peel and transfer the charred tomatoes, slice fresh tomatoes and refill the baking sheet, the ones under the broiler will be done. VoilĂ , peeled tomatoes in record time!

You can put up any amount of tomatoes using this method so the recipe below will show you how to make a quart jar.  You can increase the quantity of tomatoes to tailor this for your own needs and you will know how to prep each jar for safe canning.  Quick tip:  when I am putting up quart jars of tomatoes I always prep one extra pint jar to catch any overflow.  Process the pint jar for the same amount of time as you do quarts.

P.S. - my 20 lbs. gave me 9 quarts this year.  Some years that would only be 7, it varies by year and tomato variety.

Canning Tomatoes
Canning your own tomatoes is the best thing you can do for yourself, out of all the canning projects you might consider taking on. Do it!
  • 2 1/2 - 3 lbs fresh picked, ripe tomatoes, peeled (scale up for more jars)
  • 1/2 tsp per quart, 1/4 tsp per pint citric acid

  • Wash and peel your tomatoes and set them aside.  See steps above on a quick way to do this.
  • Prepare your jars, lids, rings and canner. If you are new to water bath canning, or it has been a while, be sure to refresh your skills from a reliable and official source to guide you through this process. My tips and tricks can be found here.
  • In the bottom of each quart jar put 1/2 tsp citric acid (or 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice). If you are using pint jars, put 1/4 teaspoon citric acid (or 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice). Fill your hot jars with the tomatoes, pressing them in firmly, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove any bubbles and adjust the headspace one last time.
  • Clean the rim of the jar thoroughly, apply your hot lid, and then the ring. Tighten the ring just until "finger tip tight", not too tight, but not loose either.
  • Process your jars in a hot water bath for 45 minutes measuring the time after the water returns to a full boil. Adjust your processing time as necessary depending on your elevation.
  • When 45 minutes is up, turn off the flame on your canner and take off the lid.  Let the jars rest in the water bath for 2-3 minutes.  This will prevent boiling over due to a drastic temperature change.  Remove your jars from the water bath to a cloth covered counter. Let them cool completely for 12-24 hours before testing the seals. Any jars that do not seal properly are still perfectly good to eat, just keep them in the refrigerator.
  • Store your canned tomatoes in a cool dark place. These tomatoes can be eaten immediately, no wait time necessary.
Prep time: 1Cook time: Total time: Yield: 1 quart or 2 pints
Last, but not least, if you are brand new to water bath canning be sure to follow best practices outlined by reliable sites such as the National Center for Home Food Preservation or the University of Missouri Extension. Home canning is something anyone can do!