|Home-canned tomatoes are a beautiful sight.|
Of course I say this as I come back from a long break – By now you’re probably wondering where I’ve been and if all I’m going to be talking about from here on out is tomatoes. It’s summer! What can I say: it’s seems like all of nature has been erupting with a bounty of good things to eat, so if I’m not working (or eating), I’m out collecting and preparing the good stuff to save for later. It’s been a great season: cucumbers turned into Dill Pickles and Bread & Butter pickles; Jams: wild raspberry, blackcurrant, bilberry, apple jelly; applesauce; dried apples; chanterelles; fresh caught perch – now fileted and in the freezer; both frozen & dried red bolete mushroom; both frozen & dried boletus edulis = porcini – which have been so abundant this year that I cannot actually pick all the ones I’ve been finding. And then there have been tomatoes. Not from my garden – those failed miserably and were still green at picking time last week, but there are plenty of other great sources, so go get a box because canning them just got easier.
If you have ever canned tomatoes – you know the normal drill:
- Get a big pot of water and set it to boil over the stove.
- Get your jars washed and sterilized – either boiled in the canning pot, on the rinse cycle in the dishwasher, or in the oven.
- Rinse your tomatoes. Cut an “x” in the top. Drop them into the boiling water. Wait a little bit. Pull them out with a tong or spoon or ladle, splashing water all over you, the counter, the stove, the floor…
- This step differs depending on what camp you are in over whether you need to stop the cooking process so the peel will come off, or if you need to get the peel off quickly and get them cooking to kill the enzymes that cause “float” (more on that in a minute)
- the first option is that you also have a large bowl with ice cubes floating in it. You shock the tomatoes, peel the skin off with your fingers and dump them in another bowl. By this time you have a least 3 bowls and 2 pots going (one for the hot water, one for the lid) and a third pot (your canning pot) quite possible waiting in the wings. You have spoons and pots everywhere. You’re hot and sweaty, a tad bit stressed, possibly slightly grumpy
- the second option is that you dump the tomatoes you’ve pulled out of boiling water, put them on a counter top/in a strainer; peel quickly; dump them into a wide, shallow pan, and bring quickly to a boil. You’re nearly as sweaty and grumpy as you would be with option 1.
- When all the tomatoes are peeled, you pull out your sterilized jars from wherever they are, dump your fresh lids into their own pot of hot water, and begin transferring the tomatoes into the jars, wiping the rims, sealing with the hot lid, and setting them in the canner for a nice long boil (35 minutes for pints/0.5 liter and 45 minutes for quarts/1 liter).
|Peeling almost done…|
- Get your canning jars ready & sterilized. My favorite is to use the shortest cycle on the dishwasher with no detergent (assuming your jars are clean and only need sterilization; otherwise wash them). But whatever method you are comfortable with is fine.
- Turn your oven on to the highest broil setting. Line a baking tray with parchment paper
- Rinse about 5 lbs of tomatoes. Slice them in half. Lay them cut side down on the baking tray. Get happy with it: you can pack them in nice and tight. Place the tray in the oven for 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, get a small pot of water heating for the lids. Place a large frying pan or other wide, shallow pan and place it on the stove. Get your funnel handy. Set a pair of tongs and a fork nearby. This is going to be easy.
- When ten minutes is up, pull the pan out of the oven, place in on a heat-proof surface. Using a fork and a pair of tongs, grab the skin of each tomato at the top with the tongs, hold the tomato in place with the fork, and pull the skin back toward the stem end and off. Discard the skin. Repeat with the remaining tomatoes.
- Crush the tomatoes with a fork or a potato masher. Pour all of the tomatoes into the wide, shallow pan. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce to medium-high, and boil for 5 minutes to kill the enzymes I talked about earlier. At this point, turn off the heat underneath the pot you’ll use for lids. Add the lids and let them heat up.
Boil crushed tomatoes for five minutes.
- Place your jars on the counter top. Add 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice to each pint/0.5 liter and 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice to each quart/1 liter. Note: DO NOT use fresh lemon juice. It’s not acidic enough and your tomatoes will not be shelf-stable. Ladle in the tomatoes to fill each jar, leaving 1/2″/1.25 cm of space (head room) at the top of each jar. Wipe the rim with a clean, damp towel. Place the lid on top (or lid and ring if you are using the two part lid system – they don’t have these in Finland) and seal until it’s finger tight. One way to make sure you don’t over-tighten is to stick your pinky finger out while you tighten the lid – try it! It works. You’ll get it just right.
- Place the jars in a canning pot or tall stock pot. If you have a canning rack, place the jars on the rack. If you don’t, place a folded dish towel at the bottom of the pot to prevent direct contact between the heat source and the glass jar. Cover the jars with 1/2″/1.25 cm of water. Bring to a boil. Once boiling start timing the processing time: 35 minutes for a pint/0.5 liter; 45 minutes for a quart/liter).
- When the processing time is up, turn off the heat and let the jars rest for 5 minutes. Remove the jars from the pot and set onto a thick dishtowel on the countertop. Allow them to cool, undisturbed, until they are room temperature. The tomatoes will be shelf-stable and good to use for at least one year.
Sounds easy, right? It is. And you’ll love having your own tomatoes to use up all winter. What are you waiting for? Peak season for tomatoes is now.
Oh – and that tomato float issue? Solved. Nothing but pure crushed tomatoes, top to bottom. Enjoy!