Last week, I taught a tomato canning class at Stone Coop Farm. We made salsa, green tomato pickles, and really good tomato sauce. However, we didn’t just can plain old tomatoes. So that’s what this blog is about. Taking whole tomatoes and sealing them in a jar.
Canned tomatoes are so pretty. Cheery really, and they can be transformed into so many things: chili, salsa, stews, sauce.
Tomatoes are native to the Americas….Mexico to be specific, and they belong to the plant family solanaceae. Same as potatoes, eggplant, and tobacco. When they first were introduced to Europe, they were grown as ornamentals before they were integrated into the cuisine. It’s amazing to think that Italians only started making tomato sauce about 500 years ago.
Tomatoes are a low acid fruit. This means that they are just acidic enough to can in a water bath although a pressure canner can be used as well. As soon as you start adding vegetables to tomatoes, however, the acidity goes down and so it becomes safer to process sauces and salsas in a pressure cooker.
So to put up tomatoes in jars, follow these directions.
First, obtain your tomatoes. Ripe, organic tomatoes are the best. You’ll also need quart size mason jars, 2 big pots of boiling water, salt, lemon juice or citric acid, a pair of tongs, and a canning rack.
Begin by washing and sterilizing your jars in a pot of boiling water. Then, peel your tomatoes. To peel your tomatoes, prepare another pot of boiling water and a bowl of ice water. Slice a skin deep x in a tomato and then dunk it in a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. You’ll see the skin begin to loosen. Remove the tomato from the water with a slotted spoon and drop it into the bowl of ice water. Then use your fingers, to peel off the skin. It should come right off.
Cut out the core of tomato and then put it in a jar. If it’s a big tomato, cut it into quarters or eights and put in a clean, sterilized jar. Fill the jar to about a quarter of an inch below the top of the jar. Continue until all the jars are filled.
Then, sprinkle salt over each jar and add a tablespoon of lemon juice. Boil a pot of water and pour water over the tomatoes until they are covered in water and the water is no higher than 1/8 inch below the rim of the jar.
Wipe the rims clean with a wet cloth or paper towel. Place lids on jars and screw on rings. Place each jar into a canning rack and lower into a boiling water bath. Process for 20 minutes at a rolling boil.
Remove the canning rack and let the jars sit for 24 hours undisturbed.
Then, put them in the pantry to use in a pot of spicy chili in February. Plain old tomatoes preserved in jars.