How To Can Tomatoes At Home
I come from a family of canners. I grew up helping my Grandma and Mom every summer put up whatever bounty came from our gardens. Some years were better than others and on the leaner years we would go to the famer’s markets and stock up on “seconds”. I have to admit it wasn’t one of my favorite activities. It is a lot of work and as a tween and teenager I had more important things to do like my hair and make up. Now, I am dragging my kids into the kitchen for all hands on deck during canning times and hope they will feel the same as I do NOW about canning.
Disclaimer: I am NOT a canning expert but I have learned a few tricks and tips over the years. I recommend that you read about canning SAFETY before you get started and familiarize yourself with YOUR canner, jars, lids, and bands directions.
This year the deer got the best of my tomatoes that we planted in our raised bed garden. Apparently they thought it was a salad buffet just for them. I am devastated and as soon as deer season opens up I believe I’m going to go all Georgia Pellegrini on them.
I have cherry tomatoes (from my deck container garden) coming out of my ears but no big boys. Sigh. Which meant I was destined for a trip to the farmer’s market to stock up on seconds. BUT then the tomato fairy, my friend, showed up with THREE HUGE gift bags of tomatoes for me. What’s a girl to do with all those maters? Can them of course. We had approximately 30 pounds of tomatoes which made 14 quart jars.
I quickly went to the basement and retrieved as many quart jars as I could find and got started. STERILIZE. You must wash sterilize and dry all the jars (btw most newer diswashers have a sanitizing feature which is what I use – total time saver). They are washing away while we’re getting everything ready.
Now is the time we get the pots going. The canner, the large stock pot (for blanching the tomatoes) as well as a smaller sauce pan with water to sterilize the lids. You’ll look like you’re cooking for an army at this point.
CHOOSE. Choose tomatoes that are ripe and free of blemishes or bruises.
SCORE. BLANCH. SHOCK. Tomatoes need to be peeled. We prefer the score, blanch and shock method. To do this cut a small X into the top of each tomato, place them into a large stockpot of boiling water when they start to blister (less than one minute) quickly remove them and place them into an ice bath (if you’re doing a large batch like we did a cooler full of ice and water works wonders). PEEL. Once they’ve been through this process the skins come off without a lot of fuss. CORE. Instead of a knife I use an apple corer for this. Nothing fancy, it’s a cheapy thing a ma bobby that I picked up from the dollar store but it works on tomatoes like a charm.
Tip: don’t throw those cores and peels away take them to your compost heap
FILL. Now here’s the part where extra hands come in handy. Your canner should be ready to go. I have a canning pot that we picked up from Wally World a few years back. It’s nothing fancy, basically a wide mouth over sized stock pot that has a rack for the jars to sit on (it’s important that the jars do not touch the bottom of the pan, they need for water to circulate around the whole jar). I keep my tomatoes whole. Feel free to halve them or even quarter them if you prefer. Stuff the tomatoes into the WARM jars. Leave at lest 1/2″ of space. Add 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice to each quart jar. Believe it or not tomatoes are not as acidic as we might think. To make sure you don’t have any air bubbles we run a chopstick around the edges of the jar.
SEAL. Wipe the rims of the jars clean. Top with lid and bands. Careful NOT to screw them on too tightly. Just tight enough. BOIL. Place them into the canner, making sure they’re covered with 1″ of water. Once the water returns to a boil, leae them in 45 minutes.
COOL. Lift them out of the canner and transfer them to a counter space where they won’t be bothered. I typically lay out a towel. Jars should NOT touch each other. Allow them to cool overnight before transferring to storage area.
CHECK. To be sure your jars are sealed properly just press down on the lid. No noise means you are good to go. If you hear a POPPING sound you do NOT have a seal. It happens sometimes, just transfer that jar to the refrigerator and plan on making sauce.
Now what are you going to make with your canned tomatoes?