The 2011 Tomato Canning Extravaganza

Yesterday was the big canning day in One Woman’s Kitchen.  About 90 pounds of whole tomatoes became 22 quarts of peeled, crushed tomatoes and 9 cups of smooth tomato sauce.  It took 7 1/2 hours to complete, not counting the sauce, and made for two very tired women in this kitchen.  The results were a little disappointing this year.  We had a lot of rot in the tomatoes this year so a lot of them ended up mostly or completely in the trash.  Next year I’ll choose a different source for my tomatoes.

A number of you have asked me about canning at various times.  This time last year I wrote a general description of the process. This year I thought I’d try to be a little more specific for anyone who wants to try it.  A word of advice – start small.  No need to do 90 pounds right out of the gate.  And don’t feel like you need to buy a lot of equipment.  Any large pot will do.  That said, having the proper tools does make things easier and you can get a starter kit for about $30.  The starter kit will include:  a small rack, a jar lifter, a jar tightener, a venting stick, a metal ladle, a metal jar funnel and a lid magnet.  The one item I’d say is critical is the Ball Guide to Canning.

So here’s how it works:

  1. Core your tomatoes and cut any bad places out
  2. Put the tomatoes in boiling water until the skin blisters and starts to peel.
  3. Lift the tomatoes out of the boiling water and put them in ice water.
  4. Slip the peels from the tomatoes.  Put the peels in the trash and the tomatoes in a bowl for canning.
  5. Cut or crush the tomatoes if desired.
  6. Put some lemon juice (for the acid) and some salt (if desired) in the bottom of each clean, warm jar.  I use 1 T juice and 1/2 t salt for each quart sized jar.
  7. Fill the jars with tomatoes leaving about 1 inch at the top of the jar.
  8. Ladle some of the tomato juice into each jar to fill in the spaces and to fill each jar leaving 1/2 inch space at the top of the jar.
  9. Clean the top rim of each jar.
  10. Add a lid and screw on a band to fingertip tight.
  11. Place the jars into the canning rack and lower into boiling water.
  12. Make sure the boiling water covers the jar tops by about 2 inches.
  13. Place the lid back on the canner and process 45 minutes.  Take the top off of the canner and wait 5 minutes.
  14. Lift the jars out of the water and place them upright on a towel to cool and seal.
  15. Let them sit undisturbed 24 hrs.  The “button” on the lid will be depressed if the jar has sealed properly. (It also makes a lovely “plink” sound when that happens).

And that’s how it works.  A few tips. When I’m doing large volume canning I use the dishwasher to clean and heat the jars.  Just leave them in there until you’re ready to fill them.  If I’m just doing a little I put the clean jars in the canner with the water.  As the canner heats so do the jars.  Then I use the jar lifter to remove them from the canner and dump the water back into the pot. I use a small pan of water to heat the lids.  You can also heat some water in the microwave and then put the lids in it to heat.  They don’t have to boil.

Tomato tips:  Cut out all the bad spots.  The peels cling to the bad spots making the peeling more cumbersome than it needs to be.  Also, cut an “X” in the bottom of each tomato.  That helps the skins split and makes peeling easier.  When you’re peeling, let the tomatoes sit in the ice bath for several minutes.  Remember, the tomatoes have been in boiling water for a while.  When you pull the tomato out of the ice bath and slip the peel off the tomato may fall apart and the insides will be very hot if you try to peel them right away.

Here’s a pictorial of the first part of the process.  Once I got into the middle of it I forgot to take more photos!  Then a photo of the end results.

 

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