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Saturday, June 18, 2011

Canning Tomatoes

Since 20% of my followers were looking for something more than just menus and grocery deals that didnt apply to him, I mean them.  Today I thought I'd walk you through how to can tomatoes. 

First off, you have to succesfully grow some fruit.  I completely took this step for granted until last year when every tomato I grew ended up wtih blossom end rot.  Basically every tomato was ruined before it started to ripen.  It was tough to throw out tomato after tomato.  This year, I've had some instances of that again, but God was gracious to my harvest this year and over the last week I picked this sink full of beauties.  Well, I've kept them in the fridge all week as they ripened, not just in the sink.  

I have some nice volunteer basil that came up too, so I'll be making Italian flavored tomatoes as well. 

The bunnies like to eat tomatoes so this is what has ripened out of their reach.  I don't like bunnies anymore. 

The first step is to get your dishwasher empty and fill it with enough jars and bands and run the dishwasher so that it santizes the jars for you. 

Isn't that a lovely dishwasher?  It's the new one after the great dishwashing incident of January where water went everywhere while the old was disconnected.   

Next wash all of your tomatoes, basil, peppers (for Rotel).  Then get a very large pot of water on to boil.  It takes a while to get hot enough (just don't watch it or it never will boil) so you'll need to get it started while you are preparing your tomatoes.  You'll need a second pot of boiling water as well, but it only needs to be as deep as the tomatoes are tall.  Then get a large container filled with ice and cold water.  Pay no attention to the swimming goggles next to the coffee pot.

Cut off the top of the tomatoes where the stem goes and any obvious bad spots.  Place the tomato into the boiling water for about a minute and then using your slitted spoon remove the them to the cold water bath. 

By the time you have all of the tomatoes out of the boiling water, they will be ready to have their skin slide right off. 

After you have all of the tomatoes peeled, which took me just under 20 minutes for this batch, you are ready to fill your jars. 

Oh and another container to catch all of the skins, stems and bad spots is another good idea.  These you can throw into the compost or feed your chickens with, they eat EVERYTHING including baby birds, but that's another post. 

Since I've forgotten to add salt in previous canning sessions I've adopted the practice that the salt must go in the jar first.  I don't know if that is 'right', but it's what I do.  I'm filling pint sized jars so that means 1/2 tsp salt per jar.  I also had enough pepper from the garden that I was able to make 2 jars of Rotel.  I also chopped up an onion that I dug up this morning too.  So I put those items in after the salt.  I picked enough basil to add to four jars and then I had four more jars ready with just salt. 

Then it's time to dice up the tomatoes.  There's plenty of juice on these fruits so periodically you have to dump the extra juice into the current jar you are filling.  Also because the tomatoes don't just fill all the empty space you have to mush them down every once and a while into the jar to be sure that all of the space is taken up. 

When the jars are full of tomatoes with just 1/2" of space left at the top (called headspace in canning lingo) you are ready to get a clean dish towel, or if you are a wild spendthrift a paper towel, and wipe the edge of each jar so that there is no tomato goo or juice left on any of the jars.  Then place the fresh canning lids on top and then use your bands to lock 'em down. 

After that they are ready for the water bath canning in the giant pot.  If you dont have a pot this large, you can get the same affect/effect (ugh) by boiling the jars upside down in a pot that is more shallow, but mostly covering them.  You want the food inside to actually come to a boil as well. 

You can see I've used my trusty sharpie to write on the lids which ones are Italian and which are Rotel.  Yes, you'll still be able to tell once they are canned, but it takes the guessing away that will come in December when you are using these. 

Oh one more tip.  You'll notice in the picture of all the jars in the pot that one jar is off to the side and sort of laying on the top.  Turns out that you shouldn't do this.  About half way through the water-bath processing we heard a pretty loud clink.  It was that jar breaking open from the bottom.  Opps.  I've never had just 8 jars to process and my canner only holds seven.  So that's what I get for being impatient and not wanting to do the processing twice. 

The jars will need to process for 35 minutes at a full boil.  You'll want a lid on your pot just to keep the steam down in the kitchen and you'll also want to turn your A/C on a little cooler as you go sit down to wait on the canning process. 

Canning tongs will help get your jars out, but if you dont have those, well be creative, but be careful those jars are REALLY hot when they come out of the boiling water; it's my scientific side coming out. 

After you take your jars out, place them on a towel on the counter and using pot holders tighten down the lids/bands a little more.  You will also need to check to make sure the jars actually sealed, you know to avoid botulism and all that jazz.  Press down on the lids to check them if they dimple back (a technical term I just made up) they aren't sealed yet.  The seal often happens as they begin to cool off, just keep checking them.  Any jars that don't seal should be either used right away or put in the fridge.

Let the jars cool completely before you put them in the pantry.  If you had a mini catastrophe in your canning process, like me, you might need to wash off the jars before they go in the pantry as well you know to get off the extra tomato juice from the outside.

So for eight seven jars of tomatoes I spent about 30 minutes in the kitchen and at ~$1 per container of tomatoes I saved myself $7, but I also have something freshly packed to eat this winter and there's plenty of satisfaction in that. 


Anonymous said...

See, that wasn't so hard. You even un-wittingly foreshadowed to another post (the goggles). I now feel empowered to try and can some of my toe-maaat-os should they every fruit. I also think that your readers would like to hear about and meet your chickens.

Andrea S said...

'Nobody here but us Chickens' premiers on this channel Friday morning 7am. So set your clock, Mr. Anonymous.