We don’t can tomatoes to save money on our grocery bill. But in the long run, we just might save a ton on health costs! The tomato is a “super” food and it is also one of few of the vegetables and fruits that, when canned/jarred, retains much its nutritional value (The Great Physician’s Rx for Health & Wellness, Jordan Rubin – much more at his website http://greatphysiciansrx.com/).
Tomatoes are one of the easiest foods to can as well. In just two to four hours of medium labor you will end up with up to a year’s supply of tomatoes for your raved about lasagna and spaghetti dishes. Not only that, but your canned tomatoes are far better quality and taste than store-bought canned tomatoes (because the big food producers do not use perfectly ripe tomatoes as you will).
Here is what you will need:
- Perfectly ripe tomatoes, preferably local bought right from the farmer (as in ready to slice and eat immediately). Note that 25 pounds of tomatoes (approximately one standard size packing box) yields about 10 quart jars of canned tomatoes.
- Lemon juice
- Quart jars with lids (note that the lids are two-part, the flat top with the seal and the threaded rim). Use only new (unused) lids. The jars and rims can be used over and over. Either the narrow or wide mouth jars are fine.
- Canning pots (find them cheap at garage sales).
- Jar racks and tongs (check at thrift stores).
- A metal strainer to scoop hot tomatoes out of the pot.
- Some patience and humor, because it will be a bit messy – but it cleans up.
- Clean work area and utensils thoroughly. Remember that as in any food preparation, starting with clean counters, sinks, jars, pots, utensils (and you) is a must.
- Wash all tomatoes and stage in a clean area.
- Get several canning pots going on the stove (on our standard four-burner stove we tend to have two pots for cooking the jarred tomatoes, and one for heating water for removing skins). Note you will be putting either raw tomatoes or jarred tomatoes into the pots so only fill them about half way. If you do not have a large enough pot for removing skins (step below), you can use several smaller pots to boil water and use your sink (or a smaller pot placed in the sink) for the hot water (you will continually be replacing the water in the sink with fresh boiled water, as once the water in the sink begins to cool it no longer performs its function of getting the tomato skins to split).
- Dip a batch of tomatoes (maybe a dozen or so) in boiling water for about 30 to 60 seconds or until the skins split. Note that you will have to do this step in stages, dipping as many tomatoes as you can fit in the pot or want to work with at a time.
- Transfer the tomatoes to a cold water bath (second sink, or another large pot).
- Slip off skins (you may need a knife to help peel them).
- Leave tomatoes whole or cut in halves or smaller pieces depending on your preference (we find that halves or pieces are easier to work with).
- Fill quart jars with tomatoes (you do not need to add any water – just keep pushing down the tomatoes). Jar should be full to about 1/2 inch from the top.
- Run a knife or wooden spoon handle repeatedly through the tomatoes to remove any air. Jar should be full to about 1/2 inch from the top.
- Add one teaspoon salt.
- Add one teaspoon sugar.
- Add one and a half teaspoons of lemon juice.
- Wipe rim of jar to remove any tomato particles.
- Place clean lid on jar and screw on rim until just snug – do not get carried away tightening down the lids because they will need to “breathe” a bit when they are cooking.
- After you have enough jars to fit in the boiling pot (usually about seven quart jars will fit in a standard home canning pot and rack), transfer the jars to the boiling pot. Make sure water level is slightly above top of jars.
- After water returns to a boil, boil for 45 minutes (slightly more at higher elevations – up to 10 more minutes).
- Gently lift the rack or single jars (using tongs) out of the water and set on the counter (good idea to have a towel underneath) to cool.
- It is a good idea to not move the jars until they are completely cooled to room temperature (or next day to be safe).
- Check to make sure that the lid on each jar has “popped” down (you will hear them popping as the jars cool). They will usually start “popping” within the first half hour. You can visually see this and there is no need to touch the lid or push on it.
- Any jar lid that has not “popped” down after an hour of cooling should be removed, the rim wiped clean, a new lid replaced and the jar re-boiled with the next batch. Note: If you get tired of doing this or only have a few that did not seal, you can always put the tomatoes in a container in the refrigerator and make a fabulous fresh spaghetti sauce the next day or freeze the container and make your lasagna later!
- When all the jars are cooled (preferably, the next day), gently remove the screw on rims, and wash the jars with a moist rag or small towel (they will be sticky from the tomatoes and sugar water that have boiled out).
- Now proudly position those beauties in your pantry (up higher if you have kids) and look forward to enjoying THE BEST canned tomatoes you have ever tasted. Try to use them up in a year (they will probably last longer, buy why keep them longer since you will can fresh ones next year!)