canning tomatoes

In guest on November 30, 2009 at 2:16 pm

another guest blogger returns! she is most famous for getting married, getting a phd AND making awesome-looking peach upside down cake.

last year, my roommate and i canned 120 pounds of tomatoes over 3 days. this year we were both traveling & working hard, so we had to cram it into one day.  my roommate’s parents always canned tomatoes growing up, so our instructions were given in italian — and italian cooking instructions are vague.  they involve a lot of “you know, when it’s ready” or “you know, when it’s right”.  i’ll provide the italian instructions and our slightly more precise interpretation of them.

we started with 80 pounds of tomatoes from the farmer’s market that were “cosmetically challenged”.  this means they’re perfect for canning and cheaper!  step one: wash all those tomatoes, pick off the stems and sort into gorgeous and blemished.

we canned chopped tomatoes (with the blemished ones) and sauce with the gorgeous ones.  step two for chopped tomatoes: cut out all those blemishes.


step three for chopped tomatoes: seed those tomatoes.  i think seeding appeared on this blog before. [editor’s note: how – and why – to seed a tomato.]

step four for chopped tomatoes: shove as many as you can in a mason jar, smash them up and drain the extra juice.  if you have two much liquid, your jars will float when you try to boil them & that’s no good.

back to sauce-making…  step two for sauce: boil the tomatoes until “the skin is pinchable”.  oh italian…
we took that to mean just as the tomato skins were splitting.

step three for sauce: put the tomatoes onto cheesecloth stretched over a bowl and attack them with a fork.

allow the tomatoes to drain for a long time.  you must let most of the water drain.  this was a “you know, when they’re ready” step that caused lots of discussion.  we still don’t have precise instructions for it.

side note: save all that juice that drains!  it’s delicious tomato broth for soups and risotto.

step four for sauce: run those tomatoes through a food mill.  food mills are handy for pureeing soups, making sauce (tomato & apple) and probably other things which i haven’t tried yet.

the beauty is, it mashes the tomatoes into sauce & takes the skins off for you!

step five for each: add salt to the sauce or chopped tomatoes.  the italian translated as “use a lot.  handfuls.  until it tastes right.” of course, the handful unit depends on how much sauce you’re adding it to.  we went with one handful per a few cups of sauce.  put a few basil leaves in a mason jar and fill it up with sauce or chopped tomatoes.

step six: process those jars!  we boiled them for 25 minutes to cook the sauce and seal the jar.  there are a few canning steps i haven’t entirely described, so you should find a ‘canning expert’ to consult before embarking on this adventure.

as you figure this out, you develop an assembly line of sorts and “tom sawyer” your friends into helping you.  promising them dinner with tomato sauce and wine helps.  finally, the haul from 80 pounds of tomatoes:

hopefully enough to get us through until tomato season next year.


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