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Before We Get Started
This post is about how to can tomatoes…to can you will need a few things.
-A canner/pressure cooker. I have a vintage Presto Canner/ Pressure Cooker
-Mason Jars (quart or pint depending of how you want to divide the volume of what you are canning) Ball jars are proudly made in the USA!
–Mason Jar lids and rings – lids and rings come with new jars, but lids are one use only so you’ll need more to reuse the jars(these come in wide mouth and regular mouth sizes to fit the kind of jars you have)
-A canning funnel (this helps ensure what you are canning ends up in the jar and less on the countertop)
–Canning Tongs/Lifter (these are used to protect your fingers from the heat in the canner when removing processed jars)
-Something to can (tomatoes, green beans, soup, pumpkin, meat, the list goes on)
-A blender or food processor (depending on what you are canning)
I’ve been doing a lot of work in my gardens lately, and I promise to post an update as soon as we stop having freezing lows and I can actually get things planted (fingers crossed, sometime next week).
I have a lot of tomatoes plants to plant in my new garden this year. Tomatoes are so versatile and keep on producing all season (unless the Texas heat kills them) so I have set aside quite a bit of space in my new plot that will be designated for tomatoes.
Which brings me to the point of this particular post…last year’s tomato harvest.
Last year my family enjoyed fresh tomatoes in salads during growing season. I don’t care for raw tomatoes – I prefer them in soups, sauces, and spaghetti. Despite having their fill of fresh still-warm-from-the-sunshine tomatoes, I also blanched and froze about three gallons of the larger tomatoes that we harvested last year. Yesterday I did the final processing of those tomatoes to get them canned.
I had blanched, skinned, and hulled the larger tomatoes before placing them in large freezer bags and freezing them.
Yesterday I got them out of the freezer and placed them in the sink with hot water, right out of the faucet. After they had thawed, I put a couple good handfuls of the tomato pulp into my food processor (a blender works just as well) and pureed them. I then poured them into a big (16 quart) stock pot, continued that process until they were all in the pot, set them on the stove to cook down.
This time it took about two and a half hours for them to cook down and thicken up. After that I ladled the pure tomato sauce into sterilized quart size jars. I got 6 quarts this go round. I said pure tomato sauce because as a kid my mom used to have the family gather in the kitchen to peel and process and cook dozens of pounds of tomatoes every summer to make and can/bottle homemade spaghetti sauce. Now I think it is best to can just the pure tomato sauce – meaning no seasonings or anything else – and then it cam be used for a variety of dishes. Plus, I still know the old spaghetti sauce recipe and can whip it up with fresh herbs in no time, using one of these quarts of tomato sauce.
After ladling the tomatoes into the jars, I cleaned the lip of the jar with straight white vinegar. This is a small but very important step. The vinegar cuts any grease or other contaminants that may have gotten on the lip that would keep the lid from properly sealing. After that I put the lids and rings in a shallow (but wide) bowl and poured boiling water over them. This step helps soften the seal on the lid and ensures it will make a good seal when in the canner. They don’t need long in the hot water bath – maybe 3 minutes. After that you can carefully take them from the (still very hot) water and place them on the mouths of the jars. You want to screw the ring onto the jar to hold the lid in place, but you don’t want to screw it down really tight – leave it about a quarter of a turn back from tightened down.
Next up was to drag out my grandmother’s old Presto Canner/Pressure Cooker that I inherited a few years ago. Each canner/pressure cooker is slightly different, so it is best to consult the manual for your particular canner/pressure cooker before operating it. In my case I needed two quarts of boiling water in the bottom of the canner. Then I placed the quart jars in the canner and put the lid on.
I followed the directions for canning tomatoes in my manual, which instructed me to let the canner vent for ten minutes, then drop the weight on the vent, bring the pressure up to five pounds and keep it there for ten minutes. After the ten minutes were up, I simply had to turn off the heat and let the pressure fall back to zero before I could open the lid.
After I was able to safely open the lid, I removed the jars from the canner and set them upside-down on a kitchen towel on the counter. I left them there to cool to a more manageable temperature. When they had cooled for a couple of hours (this part isn’t an exact science), I turned them right side up to check their seals and to let them completely cool.
Once they are completely cool to the touch, I put them on a shelf in the pantry to be enjoyed at a later date.
The box of Ball Mason Jar lids claims the seals are guaranteed to last for eighteen months…these jars won’t last that long in my house…they will be made into enchilada sauce, taco soup, osso bucco and spaghetti sauce long before those eighteen months are up.
Sealed or Not?
It is properly sealed if you tap or press on the center of the lid and it doesn’t have any give or make a popping sound. Check out the video below for a clear example of my meaning:
How To Blanch
-Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
-Put the plug in your sink and fill it with cold water – you may even want to add some ice. (You can use a large bowl instead of your sink if you prefer.)
-Add a few tomatoes at a time to the pot.
-Let them stay in the boiling water until their skin splits. (This will only take a few minutes, so be sure to keep an eye on them.)
-Scoop out the split tomatoes and place them into the cold water.
-When they are cool enough to handle, take a paring knife to cut around and remove the top part of the tomato where it was attached to the vine (this process is called hulling). Then remove the skin. That should be pretty easy thanks to the blanching step.
Waste Not, Want Not – Tomato Powder
Back in 2020 I discovered this magical ingredient called “Tomato Powder”. Tomato powder is made from ground up tomato skins and it adds an almost indescribable richness to anything you add it to. I love adding it to things like chili, stew, soup, brisket rubs, and even scrambled eggs!
To make your own tomato powder, save the skin you remove after blanching your tomatoes.
Evenly layer them on the racks of a dehydrator and leave them to dehydrate for at least 24 hours.
After they are thoroughly dried, grind them with a blender, food processor, herb grinder, or morter and pestle, then save them in an airtight container.
What would you love to can from your garden this year?
Let me know in the comments below.