Tuesday, August 03, 2010

How to can tomatoes

Have you ever wanted to try canning tomatoes, but are intimidated or lack a pressure canner (or whatever it is called...)? Well, I have good news: It's not hard, and you don't need any special equipment. I did not know this until the other day when my husband's aunt had given me a lot of tomatoes-more than I could eat before we were going out of town-and said, casually, "you should just can some." "Me, can? I can't do that- I don't know how!" was pretty much my response as I envisioned something like glass jars exploding on my stove top. She proceeded to tell me how to do it, and before I knew it, I was saying, "you mean, that's all I have to do?" and writing the instructions down, step by step. I don't know a lot about canning, so I was happy to hear that you do not have to have any special pressure cookers or  canning devices to can tomatoes.

Canning tomatoes is simple, really. I have wanted to learn for sometime, and am so glad I tried it. I have 2 quarts of lovely looking canned tomatoes sitting on my counter as I type this, and I can't wait to use them. Now, I will admit that I don't have a garden, but I do have a toddler running around everywhere, so between those two things, I don't know that I'll be putting my newly acquired canning skills to much use again in the near future. Maybe one day when I have a garden or a few years down the road when we're out of the toddler phase. But, I certainly know what to do when someone gives me more tomatoes than I can eat, and there is nothing like fresh canned tomatoes in comparison to store bought. And, I now have an even greater appreciation for those lovely jars full of tomatoes and such given to me by people who do canning a lot.

So, if you would like to know how you, my friend, could can your own tomatoes, just follow these simple steps!

What you need:

Tomatoes (a lot. I probably used 15 medium-sized tomatoes to get two quarts.)
A large pot or dutch oven, or two. One for the tomatoes, an one for the jars to sterilize. And a smaller pan for the rings and lids to sterilize.
Glass canning jars, with NEW lids and rings (don't use old rings and lids because they won't seal properly) You can get all of this at the grocery store or any type of super center. 
Pot holders or a thick dish towel (my preference) to hold the hot jar as you ladle the tomatoes into it.
1 tsp. measuring spoon
sugar and salt. You'll use 1 tsp. of each per quart of tomatoes.

What to do:

Prepare stove top for canning: Take your clean glass jars, and place them upside down into a large pot filled with about 1-1/2 inches of water. Again, make sure to place the jars upside down in the pot, so that the steam rises within them during boiling and sterilizes them properly. If you have room, you can also put your lids and rings in the bottom of the pot. I did not have room, so I placed them in a separate smaller saucepan. Without any heat on, leave all of this be until the tomatoes are nearly finished cooking. You just want to have this set up to make things easier once it's time to really get down to business.

Start preparing the tomatoes by peeling, coring, and quartering the tomatoes, placing them in an empty pot or dutch oven as you go. This took me about 30 minutes total. 

Once finished, place the tomato filled pot or dutch oven over medium heat and slowly bring to a boil.

Once the tomatoes are boiling, turn the heat to low. Simmer on low, uncovered, for around 30 minutes, or until the  tomatoes turn a brilliant red. As my husband's aunt says, "you'll know when they've done this". Honestly, I couldn't really tell a color change, but I just simmered them on low for 30 minutes.

About 20 minutes into the tomatoes cooking, turn the stove eyes  that have the canning jars, rings, and lids on to medium-high. Bring those slowly to a boil as the tomatoes are finishing up cooking. This is easy, but just keep an eye on the jars. You'll see some bubbles rise out of the jars before the water is actually boiling. Once it is boiling, keep an eye out and make sure the water doesn't start rising up to the top (or bottom, actually) of the jars. If it does, just take the tongs and tip the glass jar momentarily to let the air escape, then place it back down upside down-this prevents too much water rising up and tipping over the jars. Once the water has started boiling, let it boil for 2 minutes so that the steam rises up in the jars and they are sufficiently sterilized. You need to do this right before you want to ladle the tomatoes into the jars, so do this near the end of those 30 minutes.

Now you are reading to get down to business and start canning! 

Carefully take one jar out of the water and place it right side up on the stove top. I used a thicker dish  towel to hold the jar in my hand because the jar is really hot but was sliding out of my tongs when I tried using them.
Once you have filled up the jar, place 1 tsp. each of salt and sugar into the jar. Do not stir, just let it rest on top. You can always gently shake the jar once everything has cooled to make sure the sugar and salt get evenly distributed, but I don't think that is really necessary.
Take your tongs and remove a lid from the boiling water. Place the lid on the jar, and then, using a towel or pot holder, screw on a ring from the boiling water. Don't do it so tightly that you'll never be able to get it off! After this has all sat for a little while, the lid should seal to where it won't pop when you press it down in the center, and the tomatoes will be preserved until use.

And that's it! Just repeat this until all your jars are full. Label your jars so you'll know when you canned them, if you are canning a lot. Enjoy freshly canned tomatoes in all sorts of soups and sauces!


Jennifer B. said...

I was just looking online for a blog I ran across a couple of weeks ago that told me how to can tomatoes. I couldn't find it and I was getting discouraged, so I decided to just get on Facebook, and there was your latest blog entry! Thank you so much. We have 5 tomato plants this year, and probably grow more than we can eat (without getting sick of them). Now I can can some of them...yippee!! You don't by chance know how to make your own tomato sauce, do you?

Pam said...

Great informative post done perfectly! And I love the looks and recipe of the lasagna below. I'm new here and will enjoy following to see what's cooking!

Ott, A. said...

What a great post on the how-to's of canning. I am currently hosting a "Canning Week Blog Party" this week and wanted to invite you to stop by. We are daily posting recipes, tips as well as giveaways and a linky party which this would be perfect for. HOpe you can stop by, link up and join in the fun!!!