Canning Tomatoes

“Last tomatoes of the season,” Julia wrote in the October 28th edition of Mariquita Truck Farm newsletter. Pick-up was at the nearby Greens Restaurant at Fort Mason, so I got right on it and ordered.

20 pounds flat of San Marzano
12 pounds flat of Early Girl

Ordering the last tomatoes of the season is not an unusual thing for me. But canning is a departure from my normal process.

t_jars_o_tomatoes

So why did I get into this canning thing?

A few reasons. I like to make tomato sauce when the tomatoes are at the peak of season, and freeze the sauce for winter and spring. This is good; but I have limited freezer capacity, and when I use the sauce I have to plan ahead for thawing.

t_kyiv_jar

Canning is totally new to me. My mother and grandmother canned tomatoes and lots of other vegetables, but I never paid much attention; everybody canned back then. Son Eric and Alison can 75 or more quarts of tomatoes a year. Brian’s (new) wife, Natasza and her mother, Ella can most everything from the garden at their dacha outside Kyiv in Ukraine. We visited recently, and noticed beautiful jars of tomatoes and such stored in nooks and crannies around their flat.

Once I picked up my tomatoes I spent a day researching recipes and buying equipment; jars and even a canning kettle. I dug out our book on home canning and fired off emails to Eric and Alison asking for tips or advice.

When I jump in, I go in all the way. No matter the initial investment in research and equipment, it’s way cheaper than a freezer.

t_equip_run

The weekend was consumed by cooking and partying for Games 3 and 4 of the World Series: SF Giants vs. Texas Rangers, and of course Sunday NFL.

t_practice_jarMonday, I went into tomato canning anxiety — the canning kettle package urged use of the Ball recipes and procedures for canning and preserving. It’s not like home canning is a mystery, but I’ve never done it before, thus, read research and generally go into paralysis by analysis. And I couldn’t start canning and have to finish after the Giants game started at 4:58pm. But Monday wasn’t a total waste. I made a trial quart of peeled Early Girls to see how they fit in the jar. Having experienced that, I made juice with those tomatoes. It tasted pretty good, but that’s a lot of work for tomato juice to drink with breakfast.

Monday night, the Giants won the fifth — and it turns out final — game of the World Series, beating the Texas Rangers 3-1 and four games to one. Repeat after me; World Champion San Francisco Giants.

t_stuff_in_garage

So, the World Series over and with nothing else to do, I attacked the Early Girls. I had planned to make tomato juice and whole peeled tomatoes, but decided to make sauce, instead. What’s the difference? Well for raw sauce, there’s no difference except the spelling and ultimately the way you use it.

The peeling part for whole tomatoes is another matter. The instructions say, “WASH tomatoes. Dip in boiling water 30 to 60 seconds. Immediately dip in cold water. Slip off skins. Trim away any green areas and cut out core.” Easy enough, but kind of tiresome after your umpteenth tomato.

t_peeling_eg

With the San Marzanos, I made cooked sauce and whole unpeeled tomatoes. The unpeeled are so pretty in the jar (I learned in Kyiv) and I can skin them when I use them.

Up to this point, the tomato processing is no different than if I were freezing the sauce (I wouldn’t freeze whole tomatoes).

The canning process involves working with hot things… sauce, tomatoes, jars, lids and especially water. The first day, working with the smaller flat of Early Girls I tended to do everything the hard way, or at least the slow way; such as heating the jars in the dishwasher.

By the second day and the San Marzanos, I learned to start heating my water while I processed the tomatoes, meanwhile heating the jars over the water.

heating jars

heating jars

So… instead of pouring my sauce into bags or freezer containers, I “carefully ladle hot sauce into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.” Put the jars in the water bath, bring to a boil and process for a given time.

processing sauce

processing sauce

Since I was concurrently doing sauce and whole tomatoes I had to invent a way to deal with the different processing times. Sauce: 40 minutes; whole tomatoes: 85 minutes. In another pot, I heated quart jars filled with water while the sauce was processing. Sauce done, I would take a quart of sauce from the kettle, replace it with a jar of water, and thus keep the water in the kettle at the same level and temperature.

Good.

Canning is not so hard. It takes equipment and a little extra time, but I don’t have to juggle freezer space. Now, you know what I know, and while that may not be a cure for canning anxiety, at least you have a go-by.

t_6_jars_sm

RESEARCH

Eric and Alison,
When you can tomatoes, do you —
peel?
what do you use for liquid?
salt? how much?
tomato sauce — do you add anything or just can ’em?
dad

Dad–
We usually peel, but if you don’t you can usually pick the skins out of whatever your cooking later, or send a sauce through a food mill at some point.
Once we’ve got the washed (and/or peeled) toms up to temp in a pot, there’s usually plenty of tom liquor available to add to jars for the batch. If we need a bit more we’ll just add water.
We add 1 tsp salt per quart when we remember, but i don’t notice a big difference when we forget.
Hope that helps, and that you’ll post the exercise (including tips) on eats.
–ER

Alison wrote:
Tomatoes:  yes,  we peel them and can them whole.  I follow the Blue Book of Canning instructions.  I think I add a tsp salt to each quart jar,  and 2 tbls vinegar.  I put the whole peeled tomatoes in the jar.  Meanwhile I have a hot pot of simmering tomato slush on the stove,  and I use that hot liquid (juice+pulp) to fill around the whole tomatoes.  Process quarts for 45 minutes in a hot water bath.  We can about 75 quarts in an average year.  This year was less.

Dad–
Alison told me she said “a tsp. salt and 2 T. vinegar” in every quart of tomatoes? I hope you didn’t do that. The vinegar is used *only* when you suspect the tomatoes you’re canning are very low in acid (only a problem with non-red tomatoes in my opinion, and even then I don’t think it’s necessary unless they’re incredibly bland, in which case, why would you be canning them?).
–E

“Putting up” tomatoes from Julia (Mariquita Farm web site)

preparing the tomatoes for canning or freezing: I put whole tomatoes, with the green calix removed, in a big dry pan. Then I cook them down til they’re good and sauced. Then I let them cool a some, then I put them through a food mill to easily remove skins and seeds. Now, if the sauce is too watery, I cook it down some more. Then I proceed with glass jar canning (good for BLACKOUTS!), or with the ziploc method. This does include letting the sauce contact plastic, but I live with that for convenience.
Ziploc method: Take prepared tomato sauce, add chopped basil if you like, and add to freezer ziploc bags. Label with a permanent marker and then put in freezer.

Transcribed from:
Freezing and Canning Cookbook
Prized Recipes from the Farms of America by the Food Editors of Farm Journal, Edited by Nell B. Nichols, Doubleday 1963

Putting up Tomato Juice Page 226

Tomato juice may be canned or frozen. Because this fruit-vegetable contains less acid than fruits, you need to process it in a boiling water bath when canning it.
Use only sound, red-ripe tomatoes. Wash, peel and core and cut into small pieces.
2.Cook at once and quickly…
Put them through a fine sieve or food mill to remove seeds. (You may extract the juice from uncooked tomatoes if you prefer.)
Heat the extracted, strained juice at once to the simmering point (204°F). Salt to taste; most people like 1 teaspoon salt to 1 quart tomatoes.
Pour the simmering hot juice into clean hot jars to within 1/4 inch from top; adjust the lids, process in boiling water bath 10 minutes.

Water Bath: Use a deep kettle with rack and lid. (I have a store-bought kettle for this purpose.)
When you have put in the jars, bring the water quickly to the boiling point. Start counting the processing time when the water boils again.
Remove the jars from boiling water and tighten seals if lids are not the self-sealing type. Cool, leaving space between jars for air circulation.

Chapter 11
FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

Tomatoes

Select sound, ripe tomatoes. Wash. Dip into boiling water about 10 seconds, dip quickly into cold water. Cut out stem, remove core and slip off skin.

Raw Pack: Leave tomatoes whole or cut in halves or quarters.Pack in jars, pressing down gently after each two tomatoes are added to release juice and fill spaces.Add no water or liquid to cut tomatoes; tomato juice made of imperfect ripe fruit may be added to whole tomatoes, rotating jars to remove air bubbles. Leave 1/2” head space. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to pints, one teaspoon to quarts. Adjust lids. Process in boiling water bath.
Pint Jars 35 minutes
Quart Jars 45 minutes
Remove jars from canner and complete seals unless closures are self-sealing type.

Hot Pack: Wash, peel and stem tomatoes and cut in quarters or halves. Put tomatoes in a pot and bring to a boil. Stir gently to prevent sticking, but use care not to make tomatoes mushy. Fill hot jars with boiling tomatoes to within 1/2” of jar top. Add 1/2 teaspoon salt to pints, 1 teaspoon to quarts. Adjust lids. Process in boiling water bath.
Pint Jars 10 minutes
Quart Jars 10 minutes
Remove jars from canner and complete seals unless closures are self-sealing type.

Tomato Puree, Seasoned

Choose firm, ripe tomatoes. Prepare about 4 quarts at a time.
Hot Pack Only: Wash, chop and simmer tomatoes until soft. Prepare seasoning mixture as follows: Chop 3 onions, 3 branches celery and 3 red or green bell peppers. Simmer in boiling water until soft. Add to tomatoes and put through a sieve. Add 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and sugar for each pint of pulp. Fill hot jars with boiling tomatoes to within 1/2” of jar top. Adjust lids. Process in boiling water bath.
Pint Jars 35 minutes
Remove jars from canner and complete seals unless closures are self-sealing type.

From Ball Step by Step Fresh Preserving of High Acid Foods found at www.freshpreserving.com

You Will Need

Tested preserving recipe such as one found in the Ball Blue Book® Guide to Preserving, Ball® Complete Book of Home Preserving or http://www.freshpreserving.com Boiling water canner or a large, deep saucepot with a lid, and a rack (when preserving high-acid foods such as soft spreads like jams and jellies, fruit juice, fruits, pickles and salsas) Glass preserving jars with lids and bands (always start with new lids) Common kitchen utensils, such as a wooden spoon, ladle and funnel Fresh produce and other quality ingredients.
Preserving is easy with these helpful Ball® FreshPreserving {TM} utensils! • Jar Lifter • Magnetic Lid Lifter • Bubble Remover & Headspace Measuring Tool

Recipes used November 2010

Tomato Juice (Raw Tomato Sauce)
Adapted from Ball Blue Book® Guide to Preserving
Made two (16 oz) pints

You will need:
Ripe Early Girl tomatoes
Bottled lemon juice
Quart (32 oz) and or pint (16 oz) glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Directions:
1.) PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars over and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Heat lids in simmering water in a separate pan until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) WASH tomatoes and drain. Cut up and juice raw tomatoes in a in a food mill.
3.) HEAT juice 5 minutes at 190°F. Do not boil.
4.) ADD 2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice to each hot quart jar, 1 Tbsp bottled lemon juice to each hot pint jar. Ladle hot juice into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Add a sprig of fresh herbs to each quart jar, 1/2 sprig to each pint jar. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
5.) PROCESS filled jars in a boiling water canner 35 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Cooked Tomato Sauce
Adapted from Ball Blue Book® Guide to Preserving
Made four quarts San Marzano Sauce

You will need:
Ripe San Marzano tomatoes
Bottled lemon juice
Quart (32 oz) and or pint (16 oz) glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Directions:
1.) PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars over and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Heat lids in simmering water in a separate pan until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) WASH tomatoes and drain. Cut up and cook raw tomatoes in a heavy pot over medium heat for about 10 minutes until “saucy.” Pass cooked tomatoes through the small disk of a food mill.
3.) HEAT juice and keep hot until all jars are ready for the canning process. Do not boil.
4.) ADD 2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice to each hot quart jar, 1 Tbsp bottled lemon juice to each hot pint jar. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars leaving 1/4 inch headspace. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
5.) PROCESS filled jars in a boiling water canner 35 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

canning whole san marzanos

canning whole san marzanos

Tomatoes – Whole, Halved or Quartered (Packed in Juice or Tomato Water)
Adapted from Ball Blue Book® Guide to Preserving
Made three quarts and one pint Early Girl and two quarts San Marzano tomatoes.

You will need:
Ripe Early Girl and San Marzano tomatoes, about 15 per quart
Water
Bottled lemon juice
Salt, optional, didn’t use
 Glass preserving jars with lids and bands

Directions:
1.) PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars over and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Heat lids in simmering water in a separate pan until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) WASH tomatoes. Dip in boiling water 30 to 60 seconds. Immediately dip in cold water. Slip off skins. Trim away any green areas and cut out core. Leave tomatoes whole.
3.) ADD 2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice to each hot quart jar. Add 1 Tbsp bottled lemon juice to each hot pint jar.
4.) PACK tomatoes in hot jars and add tomato water as necessary until space between tomatoes is filled leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
5.) PROCESS filled jars in a boiling water canner 1 hour and 25 minutes for pints and quarts. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.

Tomato Water
from my recipe files
Save skins and cores of peeled whole tomatoes. Cover with water in a saucepan and simmer while you’re doing all that other stuff. When you’re ready for the canning process, strain the water and keep hot.

making tomato water

making tomato water

3 thoughts on “Canning Tomatoes

  1. I think you’ll regret the lemon juice, dude, but I understand this was your first time and you wanted to *make sure* it got done right. I sez: 1 tsp salt per quart of ripe red tomatoes, period, and if you forget, no problem. Period.

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  2. Matthew — Tomatoes are naturally acidic and ripe red tomatoes are acidic enough to deter anaerobic bacterial growth when properly canned. Lemon juice is used when you can unripe or very mildly acidic (yellow, orange, or green tomatoes) tomatoes to lower the pH enough to deter bacterial growth. If you use lemon juice with already naturally acidic tomatoes (red, ripe), you can wind up with sour tomatoes. Eye squintingly sour tomatoes. That’s why I sez no lemon juice.

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