This year I’ve done some experimenting with canning and I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how easy it truly is! There’s also something strangely satisifying about learning a time-honored tradition like canning, isn’t there?
My aptly-named “Early Girl” tomato plant has been putting out lots of ripe toms for me in the last couple weeks. I must say, this has been my best year for tomatoes, and I regret not having purchased more of these plants! This one was just $2.50 back in May.
This morning, I picked an entire bowlful. And mind you, I’ll no doubt have this same amount to harvest in the next couple days!
Truth be told, I’ve never canned tomatoes. (Remember, I’m still a total newbie over here!) I had this idea that canning tomatoes was really only worthwhile if you had tons and tons. Maybe this is the case for saucing them, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that the above bowl produced 5 quart-sized jars!
Now I’m not going to pretend I’m some pro, and I’d feel infinitely better if you used this post as some general instruction and inspiration, but then referred to a tried-and-true guide such as the one in this Ball Canning Book (Amazon) for everything you’ll need to know to get started. While canning is easy and shouldn’t intimidate you, there are definitely some food safety things you’ll want to be mindful of.
I like to start my canning projects with a clean kitchen (and maybe a nice candle burning and a cup of coffee).
It’s also very helpful to read through the entire recipe start to finish, and then maybe again once more just for good measure. Make sure you not only have all the equipment and ingredients ready, but the time. Once you get going, it can be difficult (if not impossible) to take a break from the process. I’m finding especially with a new recipe, like today’s, that a good chunk of uninterrupted hours is important!
I had roughly 12 pounds of tomatoes to work with today and I decided to can them chopped into quarters since I was dealing with all sorts of shapes and sizes. I washed them, and then prepared a big pot of boiling water.
After about 30-60 seconds, the skin will start to crack. It’s very noticeable when this happens! I didn’t have a wire container to drop my tomatoes into, but I just used a colander to scoop them out of the boiling water as soon as I saw the skins cracking. Then you place them in a bowl of cold water to stop the cooking process.
The skins were very easy to peel off at this point, which was a pleasant surprise. I always think things are going to be harder than they usually are!
Here’s a nekked tomato:
Next, I removed the green parts and chopped mine into quarters (or thereabouts). Into a cleaned, hot, quart-sized jar the pieces would go…
Once my jar was full, I’d add two tablespoons of lemon juice and one teaspoon of salt.
Using a funnel, I added in ladels of boiling water on top to pack the tomatoes in.
I ran a plastic spatula around the inside of the jar to remove bubbles. I kept adding the boiling water until I was at 1/2″ headspace.
After wiping the rim of any food, I added a cleaned and hot lid and screwed on a rim!
According to my cookbook, it’s best to work on ONE jar at a time. This way you can keep everything hot and manageable. While I was filling on one jar, my others were simmering on the stove in my water bath canner in hot water. When I would finish one jar, back into the canner it would go. You want to do your best to keep everything hot from start to finish.
Here are all my tomatoes ready to go! I made sure that the entire jars were submerged in the water, and brought the temperature up to boiling. Once it’s at boiling, the processing begins! My recipe said to boil quart-sized jars for 45 minutes, but I added on another 5 minutes beyond that just for good measure.
Isn’t it amazing that one 5-minute picking of tomatoes off of ONE plant would produce 5 quarts of canned tomatoes? I was certainly stunned by this! I hope that this is encouraging information to those of you that maybe think it’s not worth it to grow anything because you don’t have much of a yard or any yard. A tomato of the size I’ve got could easily have been grown on a deck container.
This is also something to consider as many of you have expressed concerns with BPA liners. My tomato plant cost $2.50 and was grown without pesticides. I cared for it all summer long and I know I’ll feel a lot of pride and joy serving these to my family.
OH! One more tip…
See these dissolvable labels from Ball? One word: AWESOME. They truly DO dissolve in hot water like nothing else! If you’re interested, a 2-pack of 60-ct boxes will run you about $10 on Amazon. I definitely recommend them!
All in a day’s work! Now…what to do about these boxes in my entryway..
Want to read some related posts? Check these out…
- What to Do with Green Tomatoes
- Canning Applesauce (my first canning experience!)
- Pretty Eats in a Jar
- Making Your Own Blackberry Vodka
- Saving on Canning Supplies
- September Gardening Update