Aug 132012

I’ve whined, sniveled and complained enough this summer about how the blight ruined the tomato plants that I started from seed and nurtured in my greenhouse until it was time to go in the garden.

Rick felt bad for me, too.  My goal was to can enough tomatoes so that I wouldn’t have to buy any this winter.  I put an order in with Todd at the farm for a bushel, but those aren’t ready yet.  Then Rick came home on Saturday with this

Aren’t they beautiful!!  There was a roadside stand in town that was selling organic (YAY !!) vegetables and he decided to lift my spirits by purchasing 25 pounds of tomatoes and 4 dozen ears of corn (corn was another item that I didn’t want to buy this winter either).

I was in canner’s heaven.

Sunday morning was the start of phase one:  Canning tomatoes.  Mind you, I’m a canning rebel, which means I don’t do anything the easy way.  And the easy way would have been just to peel the tomatoes and cold pack them for canning (cold pack is just quartering them and packing them in jars).

Naw… easy way out.  Besides, I’m not a fan of all the liquid that settles at the bottom of the jars when you do it this way.  It basically looks like you have a half a jar of usable product, or you have to add tomato paste in order to get a sauce consistency.

Nope, ain’t gonna do it.

Instead, I’ll spend 7 hours in the kitchen peeling, cutting, squishing, cutting, squishing again, and cooking the tomatoes to get a great jar of tomatoes that will taste oh-so-wonderful in the middle of winter.

So, if you’ve never canned tomatoes before, you’ve come to the right place today to learn.  If you are an expert at canning tomatoes… well, I’ve got nothing for you today.  Thank you for stopping by and come back soon, ‘k?

Alrighty then, let’s start off by getting those ‘maters nice and clean.  Even though you’re going to be peeling them, you don’t want any unwanted dirt or bugs in your end product.

The easiest way to peal these bad boys is to blanch them in boiling water.  (There are other ways, but we’ll go with easiest today.)  This will take no more than 1 minute to do once you place the tomatoes in the water.  Any longer, and you are basically cooking that poor thing in it’s own skin.

Get your (clean) sink full of ice water for the cooling off period.  We want to stop any further cooking action at this point. Now don’t let them sit in that water for too long, because if you do you run another risk of the tomatoes getting soggy (they’re made up of enough water the way it is).   A couple minutes is plenty.

*Random fact:  Did you know that tomatoes can be up to 95 percent water?  That’s more than watermelon!*

See how nice the skin has started to peel back from the meat?  Beautiful!

Cut out the core and any owies/booboos it may have and let that skin just slip away.  A paring knife is all you need to get the action going.  A good time saver:  quarter the fruit right after you’ve peeled them.  If you wait until they’re all skinned, you’re adding another step (totally up to you).

Now here is where I get a little anal about canning tomatoes.  I’m gonna take all these wedges and squeeze as much liquid out of them as possible.  My strainer in the sink is going to catch any seeds and juice (and any errant tomatoes that slip through my fingers).

Then I take those once plump quarters and cut them into small pieces.  Before I toss them into another pan, I’m gonna squeeze them again, removing yet more of the liquid.

You know you’ve been successful in squeezing out the liquid when you find that you have tomato seeds/liquid/meat all over your counter/windows/clothes/hair/cat.  Bonus points for hitting the wall 5 feet away (that is talent right there!).

When you’re done with the peeling, cutting, squeezing, etc, etc, you get a nice looking batch of tomatoes.  Now, if I was making salsa, this is where I would add my peppers, onions, and other ingredients.  But since I’m not making salsa (this time), I’m just gonna take this pot over to the stove and heat it up.  This is also the time that I will start the water to boil in my water bath canner*.

Since the tomatoes are in nice small shapes, they are easier to break down in the boiling process.  This will insure that I don’t have all of that water/liquid in the bottom of my jar when they are done in the canner.

I’ll cook the tomatoes until the water in my canner has reached a boil, and then I’ll fill my jars.  I stop at the bottom ring of the jar, which is about an inch.

Then I’ll add 1/2 teaspoon of salt.  Rebel canner alert:  I have never added lemon juice or citric acid to my canned tomatoes (as recommended by “the experts”).  Back in the day (when I learned how to can from my Mama), a little bit of salt was all that was needed as a preservative.  I could go into the why’s and wherefore’s for my reasoning to not add those other things, but that can be another post all of it’s own.  Besides, no one has ever gotten sick from my canning, so that there is proof enough that the method works.

If you want to add those other things, that is completely fine.  We each have our own methods and what we feel safe with, so please don’t blast me for mine.

Thank you.

Alrighty then, let’s get these babies in the canner!  You want at least 2 inches of water covering the jars after you have set them into the canner.  Put the lid back on and boil 35 minutes for pints, 45 minutes for quarts.  These times are based on my altitude (sea level), so if you live higher up in the hills, do a Google search for times based on your location.

When the timer goes off, lift them out of their bath with a jar lifter (a must-have for any canner) and set them on a dry towel to cool.  When you start hearing that “pop” “pop” “pop” sound, do a little happy dance because those puppies are singing that beautiful song of sealing.

After 12 hours, remove the bands and make sure that each of the lids has a tight seal (depressed lid).

Store and enjoy!

And if you’re wondering how much I got out of those 25 pounds?

Just over 12 pints.  Now this might not seem like much to you, but considering that it’s just Rick & I, that gets us about half way through the winter.  I’m planning on picking up some more the next time I’m in town, and when I get my order from the farm (crosses fingers) I’ll use that for salsa.

Again, this method is very time consuming, but for me the end result makes it all worth while.  And if I can enlist Rick’s help, I can cut that time in half.

Our next adventure will be canning sweet corn.  Aren’t you excited?!?


* You can also use a pressure canner when doing tomatoes.  The PH level in the fruit is so close to the cut off point for acidity that either option will work.


  4 Responses to “Phase One: Canned Tomatoes”

Comments (4)
  1. They’re gonna taste great in the middle of winter 🙂

  2. Canning is something I have wanted to learn to do. Great tutorial 🙂

  3. I really hope you get a chance to learn it. Once you start, there’s no turning back… you’ll be hooked!

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