Tuesday, August 25, 2009

How to Can Tomatoes

This morning, these babies beckoned from my kitchen. Thirty pounds of ripe, luscious tomatoes, all waiting to be canned and put away for winter. I love using these in my home made butter chicken, spaghetti sauce, and clam pasta sauce. Heaven. Plus they are so much cheaper, and just better than what you get at the store. I know exactly what is in that jar-and it's not any weird things I can't pronounce, either.

Before you start, fill your canner with water and turn it on so it will be hot when you need it. Put all your jars into the dishwasher and get them good and clean (you will need about 4-5 pint jars for 5 1/2 lbs of tomatoes). Put your snap lids in some hot water, and keep it on low so it stays hot and they are ready to go when you need them. After my jars are clean I put them on a cookie sheet in my oven, set at 250 F to keep them hot.

Have everything on the counter ready to go; a set of jar tongs, screw bands, a magnetic jar picker-upper thing, a ladle, canning funnel, etc.

First you have to peel the tomatoes. That's not hard at all, actually. Just lightly score the bottom, and then dunk them into boiling water until the skin starts to split. Fish them out, and plunge them into cold water.

See? Now the skins just come right off. Go ahead, just peel 'em. Be careful though, they can be juicy. I often do it over a bowl-one bowl for the peels, one for the naked tomatoes.

Now you core them and chop 'em up. This part gets kinda messy. I put an old tea towel under my cutting board to catch the juice, and every 2 or 3 tomatoes I tip the juice on the cutting board into the bowl. Usually I cut each tomato into 4-6 pieces.

Put your sliced tomatoes into a large pot and turn the heat to medium. You want to heat them up just until they start to boil. The ladle them into hot 500 ml/ 1 pint canning jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of space between you tomatoes and the top of the jar. This is important! I leave a bit of extra room, and run the handle of a wooden spoon around the inside to make sure there's no air bubbles. Then I add 1/2 tsp sugar, 1/2 tsp coarse (pickling) salt, and 1 Tbsp lemon juice to EACH pint (500 ml jar).

If there's extra room and I'm not 1/2 inch from the top yet, I top it up with a bit of the juice or tomatoes. Wipe the rims with a clean cloth, top with hot snap lids, then screw on a band until finger tip tight. Place them in your boiling water canner and top up the water until it's covering the jars.

Keep an eye on it, and when you get it back to boiling, time it for 35 minutes. When they are finished, remove the jars to a tea towel on the counter and let them cool. Don't re-tighten the lids!

You will hear popping sounds-that's your lids sealing up! Yay! If any don't seal, after they are cooled to room temperature, stick them in your fridge and use them up over the next few days. I have 24 jars of tomatoes just waiting in my cupboard, ready to be made into yummy dishes in the middle of winter. I can hardly wait!
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