Canning Tomatoes

by GettingFreedom on August 4, 2009

After all the fuss of no tomatoes ripening, I’ve been blessed! We returned home from visiting family back in our hometown at about 7:30 Sunday evening, and I decided to take a peek at the garden. I knew I had some green and purple beans that were ready, and probably some peppers. Boy was I in for a surprise!

I took an ice cream bucket and a big green bowl that I have, only to have to ask Willie to bring me a 5 gallon bucket! I picked about 120 tomatoes, 10 green peppers, some jalapenos, an ice cream bucket of tomatillos, and 7 quarts of green/purple beans! Yes–this is what I’ve been waiting for!

That night Willie and I decided to go ahead and can the green beans so I could get them out of the way and have basically the whole day to mess with the tomatoes. While I love the end product, canning tomatoes requires the most work and makes the biggest mess. After using the juicer with the blackberries and getting amazing results, I tried using it on the tomatoes. Yeah, that doesn’t work. So I’m back to using the tried and true method from last year.

First things first–Wash your tomatoes. Even if you haven’t used chemicals, they are still icky. Then you need to get a big pot of water and turn it to about medium, or medium high. You don’t necessarily want it to boil, but you need it to be hot.

Then, you need to cut out the stem and the core. The best thing I have found is a melon baller. They usually come with 2 different sizes, the smallest one is just about the exact same size as the tomato stem. Just push it down in and cut it out. When doing so you will see that inside the tomato (which is red) there is a green core. Make sure you get all of that out as well.

Once you have all of the tomatoes stemmed and cored, put them in the hot water for a few minutes. What you are looking for is for the skin on the tomatoes to start cracking. While they are in there, fill your sink with cold water. When the skins are cracking and starting to come away, plop them into the cold water. Not only will this cool them down and make them manageable again, but it will help the peels come off so much easier. If there is part of the peel that just won’t come off–put them back into the hot water and repeat.

Now comes the messy part of seeding them! Taking a paring knife, cut the tomatoes in half horizontally. This will show you the seed cavities and make it much easier to get them out. Stick your pairing knife into the little seed cavities, scraping around and getting all the gel looking stuff, as well as the seeds out–discard. (We’ve taken the seeds and peels, covered in water and boiled them down and strained to make a “juice”. While it may not be authentic, to my surprise, it wasn’t bad.)

Now that you have the hard part down you can do different things with your tomatoes. I usually dice them up and can, or you can leave them as is. You can also make salsa, sauce, or spaghetti sauce. One thing to keep in mind when making sauce–it takes GOBS of tomatoes. For instance today I had 100 Roma tomatoes (which are a sauce tomato) to make spaghetti sauce with. I ended up with about 2 quarts! One that I canned, and enough for us to have for dinner.

To can tomatoes:

  • Sterilize your jars and lids.
  • For every pint add 1 Tbsp Bottled Lemon Juice to the bottom, and for quarts add 2 Tbsp of Lemon Juice. This is used to maintain the acid level and it is a must–you cannot go without it. I have never noticed any taste difference.
  • You can either can them in their own juice or in water. I’m not sure why, but I’ve always canned them in water. After your tomatoes and lemon juice are in the jars, pour hot water over them, making sure to leave ¼inch headspace.
  • Put the lid/ring on.
  • Process in a boiling water canner. Quarts take 45 minutes and pints are 40 minutes.

To do a sauce:

  • Process your tomatoes in a food processor.
  • Put into a saucepot. If making spaghetti sauce, or other flavored sauce, now is the time to season. I used 2 green peppers and 2 red onions (all from the garden) and sauteed them in EVOO and garlic powder (processed them in the food processor once slightly tender) and seasoned with parsley, garlic powder, oregano, and basil.
  • Simmer/Cook until reduced by half. This takes quite some time, so patience is a virtue. The taste afterward is worth waiting for!
  • Sterilze your jars.
  • For every pint add 1 Tbsp of Bottled Lemon Juice, and for quarts add 2 Tbsp.
  • Fill your jars with sauce and add the lids/rings.
  • Proceed as above.

Out of all of my tomatoes, 100 were Roma, which went to the Spaghetti Sauce, and 20 were Black Krim. I diced up the Black Krim’s and canned diced tomatoes, and was able to get 4 pints (which is eqivalent to 2 quarts!). Definitely a big difference from the Roma’s. Honestly, while we really enjoy homemade, home canned spaghetti sauce–I don’t think I will continue doing it. After all is said and done I don’t know that it is cost or labor effective. While the green peppers and onions cost me nothing, I used the fire out of the seasonings–although they really don’t amount to much cost either. However, I was in the kitchen, processing tomatoes from about 12 until 5–with very few breaks in between. Considering I get my Spaghetti Sauce at Aldi (which out beat Prego and Ragu{amongst other brands} in our taste tests) for just over a $1, I’m thinking that is the route to go!

What do you do with your tomato harvest?

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