Let's Get Canning!

Monday, August 6, 2012
Gardening season is in full swing, which means lots of fresh, colorful, luscious fruits and vegetables just patiently waiting for their harvest. Once you have taken in your crops, many options are up for grabs. The one I personally favor: canning. Especially when you end up with a huge bowl of yummy red tomatoes like mine here below!

As a child, I grew up with a garden in my backyard, filled with cucumbers, carrots, tomatoes, rhubarb, chives, you name it, we had it! How much fun that was! It was big, it was abundant. Once my boyfriend and I purchased our house two summers ago, I knew I wanted to follow into my mom's footsteps and try out the gardening hobby myself. I am proud to say that, so far, I am not too shabby! Sure, it's a learning process of course, but for a newbie, I have managed to turn my garden into something quite decent. Last year I harvested over 120 beefsteak tomatoes (for those of you unfamiliar with tomato varieties, these tomatoes are one of the largest ones out there, weighing in at about one pound each or more). It blew me away! Faced with so many tomatoes on hand, I turned to something else I had never tried out before in my life: canning. Loved it right off the bat! It introduced me to a brand new side of the culinary world. Astounding the array of possibilities now!

Sooooo, when I end up with a "you-know-what" load of tomatoes, I need to can! Tomatoes, unfortunately, do not stay good for very long and unless you're feeding an army, it's hard to go through them all before they start turning bad. Consequently, I pull out my canning instruments and start getting busy!

Last Sunday while I was canning, it dawned on me to share with you the process of canning tomatoes. For all of you who always wanted to venture down the canning path but were never too sure how to go about it. Or for all of you curious ladies and gents, who might feel like this is your calling after reading this post. Or for the ones who have put canning aside for far too long now and who need a little refresher class... this one is for all of you.

First Step
Prep your tomatoes. Go through them quickly making sure you get rid of the bruised, rotten or mushy ones. What I like to do as well, in order to make the peeling process a little easier and quicker, is to cut a very shallow X on the bottom of each tomato. I swear by this trick. Try it and you'll see!

Second Step
Get all your stuff ready and prepare your jars. Sanitize all jars and bands (I always get a bit more readied up just to be on the safe side and not get caught short-handed). For this process, you can opt for the dishwasher. Get it going before continuing with everything else so this way it will be perfect timing when ready to jar. If you don't own a dishwasher or would prefer not to use it, you can then submerge the jars in a large pot of water and bring to a boil. The lids can be placed in a small pot of water and boil for about 5 minutes. Afterwards, leave everything in water until ready to use.

Third Step
Time to get messy! Prepare a bowl filled with cold water and ice, and set it aside. In large pot of boiling water, blanch tomatoes for about 60 seconds or until skin starts to peel (I usually put them in batches of 4 to 8, all depending on the size of the tomatoes). Remove and place in cold water bowl. Let the tomatoes sit in the ice bath for a good couple of minutes to allow them to cool all the way through in order to stop the cooking process. Drain and peel. (If processing them in batches, use slotted spoon to remove tomatoes from ice bath before draining completely.) Core and trim away any green, bruised, decayed or tough spots. At this point, you can either leave your tomatoes whole, or cut into halves or quarters. Whatever tickles your fancy! In large pot, over high heat, heat tomatoes until heated through and juices boil, about 10 minutes.

Fourth Step
Now let's fill up those jars, shall we? Using all your essential tools, fill one jar at a time, packing those tomatoes and adding either citric acid or bottled lemon juice. But why on Earth would you want to add citric acid or lemon juice to your canned tomatoes? It's all about the pH my friends! The answer is simple. Tomatoes used to have the reputation of being an acid food. Nowadays, severals hundreds of different new tomato varieties that are less acidic have entered this world, hence the potential for botulism. We need to add the acid to lower the pH in order to prevent microorganism growth and/or survival. So, for each 4-cup (1 L) jar, add 1/2 tsp (2 mL) citric acid or 2 tbsp (25 mL) lemon juice. (For each 2-cup/500 mL jar, add 1/4 tsp/1 mL citric acid or 1 tbsp/15 mL reconstituted lemon juice.) It's important you leave 1/2-inch (2 cm) headspace in each of your jars. Run a non-metallic utensil (i.e. a spatula or a plastic spoon turned upside down) around inside of jar, pressing tomatoes to release any air bubbles. Add more tomatoes or juice if needed to maintain 1/2-inch (2 cm) headspace.
A few canning tools that will come in handy

Fifth Step
The biggest of the work is behind us! With clean damp cloth, wipe rim of jars. Put lids on and screw on bands snuggly (fingertip tight). Place your jars in rack set on edge of canner. Lower rack into canner filled with enough simmering water to cover jars by 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm). Cover canner and bring to a full rolling boil. Boil 4-cup (1 L) jars for 45 minutes, 2-cup (500 mL) jars for 35 minutes. Be sure to start counting processing time after water comes to a rolling boil.

Sixth Step
We're almost there! Yay! Once the time is up, turn off heat and remove the canner lid. Let canner and jars cool for 5 minutes. Using jar lifter, transfer jars to towel-lined surface, positioning them a couple of inches apart... this will provide proper air circulation and therefore jars will get the chance to cool off properly. You will probably notice some separation of juice in the bottom or top of the jar... don't panic! It's completely normal. Usually, I hear my lids "pop" a few minutes after the jars have started cooling off, meaning they just sealed. You might notice it too. In any case, make sure you let them cool off completely (about 12 to 24 hours), without moving, touching or bumping them. Also, do not retighten screw bands. Once jars have cooled off completely, check for seal to ensure lids curve inward and don't move when pressed with finger. Refrigerate any improperly sealed jars (use within 3 days).

And there you go! You made your very own homemade canned tomatoes! Neat right?! Now you can store your jars in a cool, dark dry place for up to 12 months. But seeing how delish these jars look, I bet you they won't last that long! 

13 Fabulous Comments:

jennifer zuna said...

I love tomatoes! this looks fun and fairly easy =]

http://livingatthewhiteheadszoo.blogspot.com/ said...

tomatoes are the first thing I learned to can with my Granny many years ago. Great post.

MammaNatty said...

Great bowl of tomatoes!! We started our garden this year but the little tomatoes we got my daughter ate them right off the vine lol :) We are abundant in cucumbers though - wish I could share some with you :)

Felissa Hadas said...

Thank you for teaching us how to can tomatoes to make sure they keep and don't cause health issues when you go to use them.

hippie_mom said...

Thanks for sharing! I have been thinking about starting canning so any tips help!

Mudpiesandtiaras said...

Awesome!!! Hoping for a garden next year so I am pinning this!!! Thanks!!!

Holly said...

My grandmother is teaching me how to can tomatoes at the end of this month, and I am very excited. She has canned tomatoes throughout my childhood, and my great-grandmother used to can tomatoes as well as all sorts of fruits that grew in her yard.

From PDX with Love said...

Ooh, I've always wanted to can tomatoes!! Or anything for that matter...Thanks for the instructions! :D


Dr. M said...

This looks a bit intimidating. What advice do you have for someone who has never canned (or even SEEN someone can) before?

LOVE MELISSA:) said...

I really want to start canning. Thanks for the great post!!

Melissa Campeau said...

Dr. M.
I was in those shoes last year and it was my first time, plus I had never ever seen anyone do it before. I wrote this post to help out newbies, just like myself last year. It looks intimidating but it is VERY easy... trust in yourself and try it out. The worst that can happen is that your jars won't seal. And if that happens, you can either try to re-jar them, by going through step 4 to 6 again, without forgetting to emptying your jars first and reboiling the mixture. Or you can just place your jars in the fridge and use them asap... or giving them to friends and family to use in the near future!
Give it a try and you might be surprised at what you are able to accomplish! If you have any questions, don't hesitate to ask me! I'll be more than happy to help you out!
Good luck! :)

Becca Acker said...

My mom cans alot each fall. For some reason, I never liked the smell of canning tomatoes. ;)

Thanks for stopping by my blog! :)

Carole said...

Hi there. Food on Friday: Tomatoes is open for entries. This looks like a neat one! I do hope you link it in. This is the link . Cheers

Ps If you would like email reminders of future Food on Fridays, just pop by and comment and include your email - I won't publish it - and the reminder will be by bcc so it will remain private

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