I hear from a lot of people who have the impression that home canning is hard. It isn’t. It’s time-consuming, but it’s not hard. Mostly, home canning involves preparing food much as you would if you were cooking a meal… but usually in greater quantities. After all the peeling, coring, slicing, and dicing, the hardest part of canning is moving a canning pot heavy with water and jars full of food.
We are well into tomato season. If you have more tomatoes ripening in your garden than you can use, canning is a great way to preserve the extras for winter meals. But you don’t need to be a gardener to benefit from canning. Vegetable markets, farm markets, growers’ markets, or farmers’ markets usually offer big discounts for quantity purchases. I’ve seen prices as low as nine dollars for a half bushel of tomatoes, and near closing at a one-day-a-week market, that price might drop to six dollars. You might get an even deeper discount if you buy a bushel.
Your First Tomato Canning Project
While canning is very easy to do, there are many steps. Rather than explain each step, resulting in a 2,500 word post, I invite you to watch a video I made that explains how to make and can tomato sauce. But let’s go for a double-whammy.[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t_fEb6VZClM[/youtube]
From minute 3 and 30 seconds in the video, you’ll see how to load canning jars with sauce, cover the jars, and cook them in a dedicated canning pot (worth owning if you get serious about canning). Here, I’ll tell you about canning diced tomatoes and explain the minor differences from canning tomato sauce. Between the video and the rest of this post, you’ll be ready to can two versatile tomato products that you can use in cooking until next year’s harvest.
Step 1: Acquire tomato canning equipment.
The only specialized equipment you need is canning jars, jar lids, and canning rims – they are NOT specific for tomato canning. For your first project, buy a set of jars and they’ll include lids and rims. Don’t use containers you bought filled with commercially-canned pickles or other produce at a grocery store.
You also need a stockpot that is at least 1.5 inches deeper than your canning jars are tall—and something to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot; a round metal cooling rack you can sink to the bottom is ideal. (A complete home canning kit will include the pot, a rack, and the canning tools you see in my video.)
Among the canning supplies at a local store, find citric acid, or order some on line. Alternatively, have a bottle of commercial lemon juice on hand. You need one or the other to add acidity to the tomatoes when you put them in jars.
Step 2: Prep the tomatoes for canning
You’ll need about one-and-a-half pounds of tomatoes for each pint-sized jar you plan to fill. Rinse the tomatoes, and then float two or three at a time in boiling water. Wait 45 seconds and immediately move the hot tomatoes to cold water.
Core and peel the tomatoes. After 45 seconds of cooking, the skins should come off easily.
Cut the tomatoes into bite-sized pieces (I know I said “diced” earlier, but I meant “cut-up.”) and store them in a glass or stainless steel container while you work.
When you feel you have 40 minutes of prep remaining, start the canning jars heating in the canning pot—and put the lids and bands in water on low heat (as shown in the video).
When you have about 10 minutes of prep remaining, set a pot of water to boil—about ¾ of a cup per pint that you plan to pack… you’ll add boiling water to each jar in the next step.
Step 3: Pack the tomatoes
As I show in the video, remove a canning jar from the pot and empty it. Then spoon ¼ teaspoon of citric acid into it or a tablespoon of lemon juice.
Load tomato pieces into the jar. Try to pack the tomatoes together without crushing them. I fill the jar, shake it a bit to encourage settling, and then add more tomato chunks. Finish with tomatoes topping out ½ inch below the rim of the jar.
Pour boiling water into the jar until it just covers the tomatoes.
Look for air bubbles against the insides of the jar and use a chopstick or a wooden skewer to release any you find.
Top up the jar with more water, if necessary, finishing with ½ inch of head space.
Step 4: Process the jars
Make sure the rim and threads of the jar are clean, then apply a lid and band the way I do in the video.
Set the jar into the canning pot, fill the next jar, and so on.
After adding the last jar, make sure there’s at least an inch of water above the tops of the canning jars… add some if necessary. Wait until the water is boiling and then let the jars cook for 40 minutes. The video shows how to finish.
For more information check out Daniel’s Links:
My blog, Small Kitchen Garden: http://www.smallkitchengarden.net
My other blog, Home Kitchen Garden (which has more canning & preserving posts than Small Kitchen Garden): http://www.homekitchengarden.com