Saturday, August 20, 2011

Canning time!

Today is tomato canning day. Actually, on our little homestead, many summer days are set aside for food preservation since I delight in serving these foods over the winter. It's like opening a jar of summer! So today I will pick whatever tomatoes are ready and get to work processing them. 

I used to get overwhelmed because I would spend an entire weekend working at it. For the past few tomato seasons I have planted more indeterminate tomato types which spreads my workload out. Determinate tomatoes ripen all at once and OH NO! I have 4,000 tomatoes to can TODAY! By switching to indeterminate types, I'll get a dozen or two tomatoes at a time. It only takes a half hour or so to prepare the tomatoes, if it's done in small batches.

Here's my method (I am not a canning expert. There are plenty of resources available including your state extension office that can take you step by step on the government's approved methods for home canning):
I put a pot of water on to boil loaded with my clean canning jars. I use a large soup pot. (I have a large canning pot, but with this method I usually only have 2-3 quarts going, so why waste all the water and fuel?) I heat a small pan of water with my lids and rings. I heat (to a boil) a tea kettle of water with a pinch of sea salt thrown in (Don't use salt with iodine). I slice up a few garlic cloves, pick a handful of fresh basil and set in small bowls off to the side. If your tomatoes are not very acidic, you will want to add a bit of vinegar to your process, too. I then put a sauce pan of water on to boil. I fill a bowl with ice water and set that in the sink.  I place two empty bowls in front of me: one for the peelings and scraps, one for the quartered tomatoes. Now I'm ready to begin.

I core the tomatoes then slice a small X in the bottom of each one. I sort them according to size. Once the sauce pan of water is boiling, I place two or three tomatoes in the water. It only takes about 30 seconds (or less) and the skin will start to peel back from the X. I remove the tomatoes and plop them in the ice water. Then add two or three more tomatoes to the boiling water. While they are doing their thing, I remove the iced tomatoes, peel and quarter them, and put them in the holding bowl. Repeat and repeat and repeat until I have enough tomatoes to fill my prepared jars. I get a rhythm going, and it all goes pretty fast.

I tidy up my workspace then remove one jar at a time from the water bath. I fill my jar with tomatoes, some basil, garlic, more tomatoes, Lightly pressing them down til it's filled up to about 1/2 inch from the top. Fill with boiling salted water, it doesn't take much. Using a plastic spatula, I remove air bubbles by sliding it around the edges and jostling the tomatoes a bit. Wipe off the lip of the jar with a clean towel, place a lid and a ring, and pop it into the bath. Repeat with remaining jars. Once all the jars are in the bath, I turn up the heat to bring to a boil. Once it boils, let it go for 45 minutes (for quarts, less for pints). Remove to a folded dishtowel on the counter, and listen for the tell tale "ping" of the jars sealing as they cool. If a jar doesn't seal (you can tell by pressing on the center of the lid, if it pops up and down, it didn't seal.) You can retry or just put in the fridge for use within the next few days. 

That's it. There's nothing cozier than pulling out a jar of tomatoes in February. And it makes an easy meal. Just open a jar, let simmer, and add any special ingredients such as balsamic vinegar or some wine, leftover chicken or beef, whatever you want! Toss with some pasta and top with feta cheese...YUM!  Summer in a jar.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Thanks for the comments!