Thursday, August 28, 2014

Canning Tomatoes

Hello! I'm excited to share this post with you all today :)

As some of you may already know Nick and I had a garden this year. It was my first time gardening. I did a lot of research before hand. We planted a lot of your typical garden vegetables-- cucumbers, tomatoes, zucchini, peas, carrots, onion, and a few other things. I wanted to be able to eat fresh, organic vegetables from my own back yard. I love the idea of knowing where my food comes from.

This being our first year, some things grew really well (think: hidden zucchini in everything) and others struggled a bit. Unfortunately our tomatoes were one of the vegetables that struggled. We would get a few tomatoes here and there, but it seemed like the tomato hornworms or other creatures would get to them first. I was originally expecting to get a lot of tomatoes and I had high hopes for being able to can them as sauces, salsas, or anything else I found interesting on Pinterest. It was slightly disappointing that we were nearing the end of August and I only had canned five jars of tomato sauce.

Lucky for us, Nick's aunt and uncle came to visit and brought us an entire 5-gallon bucket of tomatoes from their garden! I was super excited :)

With those tomatoes I was able to make 13 pints of crushed tomatoes. I chose to make crushed tomatoes instead of tomato sauce so they are versatile in the way we use them throughout the winter.

The finished product.

Are you interested in learning how to can tomatoes? It's super easy and doesn't require a whole lot of special equipment. When I first started canning I purchased the Back to Basics Home Canning Kit from Amazon for only $12.80. Definitely a steal for the five-piece kit. 



I used a water bath for canning tomatoes. You can also use a pressure cooker, but tomatoes are generally acidic enough (pH right around 4.6) that the boiling water bath kills the botulinum bacteria. Although, when canning tomatoes in a water bath you can also add citric acid, lemon juice, or vinegar/salt to lower the pH to a safer level.

Here's the process for canning tomatoes:

Ingredients
Ripe tomatoes

1/4 to 1/2 cup lemon juice or red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt (optional

Equipment

Large Dutch Oven or Stock Pot
Mixing Bowls
Slotted Spoon
Knife and Cutting Board
Food Processor or Blender
Jars for Canning

Instructions

1. Peel the Tomatoes: Bring a large Dutch oven or stock pot of water to a boil over high heat. Fill a mixing bowl with ice and water and set this next to the stove. Core out the stems from the tomatoes and slice a shallow "X" in the bottom of each fruit. Working in batches, drop several tomatoes into the boiling water. Cook until you see the skin starting to wrinkle and split, 45 to 60 seconds, then lift the tomatoes out with the slotted spoon and plunge them into the ice water. Continue with the rest of the tomatoes, transferring the cooled tomatoes from the ice water to another mixing bowl as they cool. When finished, use your hands or a paring knife to strip the skins from the tomatoes. Discard the water used to boil the tomatoes.

Lots of tomatoes!

First batch of tomatoes with cores removed.

The boiling water and ice baths to blanch the tomatoes.

Waiting for the skins to wrinkle.

After the ice bath, the skins will practically fall off.

2. Roughly Chop the Tomatoes: Working in batches, pulse the tomatoes in the food processor. Pulse a few times for chunkier sauce, or process until smooth for a pureed sauce. Transfer each batch into the Dutch oven or stock pot. Alternatively, chop the tomatoes by hand. Process through a food mill for a smoother sauce. For a very chunky sauce, skip this stop entirely and let the tomatoes break down into large pieces as they cook.

3. Simmer the tomatoes: Bring the tomato sauce to a simmer over medium heat. Continue simmering for 30 to 90 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce reaches the taste and consistency that you like.

Tomatoes simmering on the stove.

4. Stir in the lemon juice and salt: When finished cooking, stir in the lemon juice or vinegar and salt. A quarter cup is necessary to ensure a safe level of acidity for canning. Add more lemon juice or vinegar to taste.

5. Preserving Your Tomatoes: Transfer the hot sauce into sterilized canning jars. Top with new, sterilized lids, and screw on the rings until finger tight. Process in a pot of boiling water for 30 minutes. Let cool completely on the counter — if any lids do not seal completely (the lids will invert and form a vacuum seal), refrigerate that sauce and use it within a week or freeze it for up to three months. Canned tomato sauce can be stored in the pantry for at least a year. 

Water bath canning process.

Jars cooling after 30 minutes in the boiling water bath.

Pretty jars :)

Canning is a great way to preserve your home grown vegetables so you can enjoy delicious fresh meals all winter long. 

If you have a favorite canning recipe, I'd love to see it! This is my first year delving into gardening, canning, more sustainable living, etc and I'm always looking for tips, tricks, and advice. Please feel free to share in the comments :)

Until next time!
Amanda