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How To Can Tomatoes

How To Can Tomatoes

Old-fashioned canning is new again. Plan ahead for delicious summer tomatoes all winter long!

By Familytime

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Want to preserve summer’s flavors and freshness? Try canning!

Tomatoes are naturally a little acidic and so do well when canned. Do not use this method to can other veggies and fruit without first checking a reliable canning manual. Some produce needs to be canned with a pressure cooker. Tomatoes do very well with that method, too.

To can tomatoes, you need time, so set aside a block with several hours in it. You also need a large, deep pot, clean canning jars, new lids for the jars, and screwtop rings for the jars. (You can reuse everything but the lids.)

Oh yes. You also need tomatoes!

Don’t go wild the first time you can. Seven or eight tomatoes fill a quart jar and although canning is easy, it’s time consuming. You might want to fill five or six quarts, or fewer. Best to start small.

Step One

You can buy canning jars at the supermarket or hardware store, where they also sell lids and rings. Quart jars are the most economical and best for canning large pieces of food, like tomatoes.

Run the jars through the dishwasher before you use them and, once clean, rinse them with boiling water and set them on a clean dishtowel to drain while you prepare the tomatoes.

Put the lids in a small saucepan filled with water and bring to a boil for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the lids sit in the hot water until you need them.

Fill a large, deep pot or canning kettle with water. Set a rack in the bottom of the pot. Leave enough headroom so that several jars can stand upright in the pot without displacing so much water that it overflows. Bring the water to a boil. When it boils, turn off the heat and cover the pot.

Step Two

Fill a large saucepan about halfway with water and bring to the boil. Drop the rinsed tomatoes in the water, several at a time. When the water returns to the boil, let the tomatoes swim in it for 30 or 40 seconds. Lift them out with a slotted spoon and immediately dunk in a sinkful or large bowlful of ice cold water. Keep this process going until all the tomatoes are floating in the cold water.

Lift the tomatoes from the cold water and slip off the skins. The boiling water loosens it so that it slides off easily. Cut the tomatoes into quarters or halves, discarding the cores. Leave the fruit in large pieces; don’t chop it up. Put the prepped tomatoes in a large bowl.

Step Three

Fill the jars with the prepared tomatoes. Slide as many in the jar as you can, using the handle of a clean wooden spoon to release any air pockets around the sides of the jars. When the jars are filled within an inch and a half or so of the rim, add a little boiling water (or boiling tomato juice collected from the bottom of the bowl) to bring the liquid's level to about a quarter inch of the rim.

Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or cider or white distilled vinegar to each jar. This extra acid helps preserve the tomatoes. You can also add rinsed fresh basil leaves, if desired.

Step Four

Using dampened paper towels or a clean dishtowel, wipe the rims of the jars clean.

Top the jars with the lids and secure them in place with the rings. Using jar lifters, heavy-duty tongs or (in a pinch) heavy mitts, lower the jars into the boiling water. (Remember to turn the heat on under the large pot to bring the water back to the boil!) The water should cover the jars by an inch or two. If it doesn't, add water from a steaming tea kettle.

Once the water returns to the boil, let the jars “cook” for about 45 minutes. Make sure the water boils the entire time. Using the same tool, lift the jars from the water and set them on an out-of-the-way surface to cool. They should not touch each other during cooling.

Step Five

As the jars cool, the lids form a seal. If you pay attention, you will hear them “pop” into place and form the vacuum. Let the jars stay where they are for at least eight hours.

Once the jars are cool (and after eight hours), remove the screw-on rings but leave the lids in place. Their seal is so tight that the flat lids will stay in place until you remove them.

Once completely cool, test the seals by tapping the lids with your finger or a small knife. The lid should be concave and sound solid. If it is flexible, pops in and out or sounds hollow, that jar did not form a good seal. No worries! Refrigerate and use the tomatoes in the compromised jar in the next few days.

Don’t be concerned if there is liquid at the bottom of the jar. Tomatoes release liquid as they process in the boiling water.

Step Six

Store the canned tomatoes in a cool, dark place. The back shelf of the pantry or a cupboard in the basement is good. When you open them, if the tomatoes bubble and foam or smell “off,” discard them.

Use the tomatoes in sauces, casseroles, stews, and soups. Enjoy a taste of summer in January!

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Tagged With: tomatoes, canning, summer, cooking, sauce

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