So, you've been growing tomatoes.
Lots of tomatoes.
What to do with them?
How about canning them?
To get started, you'll need a few things:
1. A large cutting board - I like to use one with a "drip catcher" all around because the tomatoes are very juicy. I also put a kitchen towel under the cutting board to catch any overflow.
2. Jars (we'll talk about them next), jar lids, and bands.
3. A sharp knife
5. Jar lifter
7. Lemon juice and measuring spoon
8. Small pan with simmering water to heat jar lids in.
I clean and sterilize my jars in my dishwasher. When they're done washing, and before the go to the dry cycle, I put them on a cookie sheet in my oven and set it on 170 degrees.
I fill my large canning pot up with water (it's so big that I have to set it on the stove and fill it with pitchers full of water). I set the heat to high right at the beginning because it takes awhile to bring that much water to a boil.
I also fill my large soup pot with water and bring it to a boil. That pot serves two purposes as you'll see later.
On a small back burner I have my small saucepan, set on low, holding my jar lids. I usually only heat up 4-6 jar lids at a time.
On to the sink prep:
In the large bowl on the left, I have ice water. This is where the tomatoes go to cool before peeling. In the right side of the sink sit two bowls. One is for the peeled tomatoes and one is for the tomatoes peels (which will be emptied into the compost pile later)
Lastly, I'll need tomatoes. I grow two heirloom varieties, specifically for canning. One is called Marglobe and it is a round, firm tomato. The other one is called Big Month because most of its harvest is ready during the month of August, ready for canning.
Now for the actual process:
I toss several tomatoes into the boiling water in the soup pot for 1-3 minutes. This will cause the skins to burst and be easier to remove. Canning tomatoes with their skins on leaves little chunks of tough skin in the mix - yuck.
When you notice the skins starting to split, lift the tomatoes out and put them into the ice water. Let them chill for a minute or so (hot tomatoes are difficult to handle and will burn your fingers) Ask me how I know!
After they have cooled slightly, take a small knife and peel the skin off. I also cut the core out at the same time. The two varieties of tomatoes I used this year were very easy to peel. I'll definitely be ordering them again next year from Baker seeds.
You'll get a lot of juice in your bowl of tomatoes so you'll want to drain off most of that.
I boil, cool, and peel all of my available tomatoes at one time so I can wash and use my soup pot again.
After washing out the pot, I start prepping the tomatoes.
I dice them and throw them into the pot. I don't add anything else.
Put the pot on the stove and bring the mixture to a boil. You want it to be heated through.
While the tomato mixture is heating up, you'll want to get your jars out of the oven. Use a pot holder because they'll be hot.
Put 1 Tbl. of lemon juice into each pint jar or 1 tsp. into each 1/2 pint jar to raise the acidity level. Most old recipes omit this step but I like to err on the side of caution when it comes to bacteria. You can also add citric acid powder instead of lemon juice.
Bring your pot over to the jars and carefully ladle some of the mixture into each jar.
Fill each jar to within 1/2 inch of the top. You'll need to leave this extra head space for the canning process. Wipe the rim of each jar with a damp paper towel to remove any tomato juice. Then add the lid from the hot water (I use bamboo tongs) and finally gently screw on the ring. You don't want to tighten the ring, just screw it on lightly.
Place your filled jars into the canner and lower the rack into the boiling water. The water may stop boiling for a minute but should come back up to a boil quickly. When the water is back up to a boil, put the cover on the canner and set your timer for 35 minutes.
When the timer goes off, carefully remove the jars from the canner and place on a cooling rack. Repeat with process until you've canned all of your peeled and chopped tomatoes. If you don't have enough tomatoes to fill your last jar, just put them in the fridge and use within a few days. It's not safe to can a partially filled jar.
One of my favorite sounds is the "ping" you'll hear as your jars cool slightly. When you hear that sound, you'll know that you have a good, safe seal on your jar. Before storing your jars, make sure you press down on the center "button" on each jar lid. It should be sunken in and not move when pressed. If you can press the "button" down, then your jar is not sealed. You can store it in the fridge and use it up or you can reprocess it for another 35 minutes.
Every once in awhile, I'll get a defective lid and it simply will not seal. The tomatoes are still good and I just refrigerate the jar and use the tomatoes within a few days.
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