Canning Tomatoes

If you’ve read my book, Ditching the Drive Thru, you know that the very first thing I ever preserved was tomatoes.  Every year, I spend quite a few mornings canning tomatoes.  I used to go through the tedious process of peeling all of the tomatoes, which is very time consuming and I would end up with pruney fingers that don’t go away for like a week.

One year, after canning something like 30 quarts of peeled tomatoes, I stood in the kitchen watching my husband squash up the canned tomatoes.  Every dish he made, he was squashing up the tomatoes that I had so painstakingly peeled and gently placed in jars.  It made me furious.  I finally asked him how many recipes he used that called for whole tomatoes.  He replied that most of them do, and the directions say to break them up.

Squeezo

Well, the heck with that.  The next summer, all of the tomatoes went through the Squeezo, that removes the skins and seeds and speeds up the whole process.  I mean no disrespect to the recipe writers, but if you are instructing people to break up the tomato in the directions of the recipe, what was the point of using a whole tomato in the first place?

Canning tomatoes is pretty easy, and since they are cheap this time of year, and they don’t really have a texture change if you have to re-process them, I feel as though tomatoes are a great place to begin your canning career!

 

 

Here is my method:

  1. Wash off the tomatoes, to remove any dirt, little bugs, etc.
  2. Fill a large pot about three quarters of the way full with tomatoes and cook until they are soft enough to put through a food mill.
  3. While the tomatoes are cooking, prepare your jars following manufacturer’s instructions. I keep my jars hot in the canner. Be sure to check the top of the jars for nicks.  I have found nicks on new jars, which was disappointing, but this important step can mean the difference between a jar sealing or not.
  4. When the tomatoes are ready, put them through the food mill. Do NOT put the seeds into your compost, or you will have volunteer tomato plants all over your garden! Put the pulp back on the stove and heat to a simmer. At this point I add ½ teaspoon of citric acid per quart of tomatoes, to insure they are acidic enough.
  5. Put the tomatoes in the prepared jars and process in a hot water bath, according these guidelines from Viriginia Extension Office.

Jelly Didn’t Set? Don’t fret!

jarsOr jam didn’t set.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, I’m not exactly a jamming expert.  That doesn’t stop me from making jelly and jam, though.  But what does one do when the jelly doesn’t set?  How much grape syrup can a person actually use?  Quite a bit less than the amount of grape jelly a mom with two children who eat PBJ’s at least four days a week uses.

So rather than having 4 pint jars of grape syrup that just sit on the shelf with my other canned goods and never get used, I re-cook the jelly.  Once again, props to my mother-in-law who, when I called her, distraught about the wasted fruit, sugar, and time, calmly replied, “Oh, well, you just have to re-cook that” [please read that with a Minnesotan dialect]. The best part?  It is easy and you end up with jam or jelly, not another jar of fruit syrup or ice-cream topping.

Here’s the method:

  1. Empty your jars of jelly into a large bowl.
  2. Clean your jars and re-prep them for processing (I leave mine in the simmering water in the canner and pull them out right after I take the jelly off the heat).
  3. Prep NEW lids (do not re-use the lids from the batch).
  4. For every cup of jelly or jam, measure one tablespoon of water and one teaspoon of pectin into a non-reactive pot large enough to hold your batch of jam (If you made 8 1/2 pint jars of jam, that would be 8 cups).
  5. Mix this over a medium heat until the pectin dissolves, then bring it up to a boil.
  6. Slowly add the unset jelly, stirring constantly, until the pectin mixture is fully incorporated into the jelly.
  7. Bring to a rolling boil that cannot be stirred down, and boil hard for 1 minute.
  8. Ladle into jars, and process according to the original recipe instructions.

Yes, it takes a little time, but the other morning I re-cooked two batches of jelly (one grape and one crab apple) in under an hour, and now I have 10 jars of jelly that will get used as opposed to 10 jars of syrup that probably wouldn’t.