Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Canning Tomatoes

Well, I'm not all that crazy about canning things: I find it just a tad labor intensive. 

But with the power knocked out by Hurricane Irene, and lots of ripe tomatoes everywhere we looked, we had little choice. 
We do have a generator to keep the freezers and refrigerators going, but it wouldn't be wise to add a bunch of warm tomato sauce to them at this time.  So water bath canning seemed an obvious choice.  If you're new to canning, please refer to The Ball Blue Book: The Guide to Home Canning and Freezing,or visit
Here's our set-up for canning.  On the left is the water bath canner, with jars inside, all sterilized and being kept warm in the hot water. The first covered pan is for parboiling the tomatoes for 30 seconds to crack their skins and make them easy to peel.  The second pan has the jar lids and rings, all sterilized and ready to go.  On the counter is a colander full of parboiled tomatoes, draining into a large bowl, and cooling.  To the right of the colander are more tomatoes ready to be processed.
Be sure to use only firm ripe tomatoes with no bad spots. Parboil tomatoes for 30 - 45 seconds and allow them to cool enough to handle.  Then slip off their skins,cut out the core and any green shoulders.  Boil tomatoes for five minutes.

Now, using the jar lifter, remove one jar from the hot water, and carefully drain the hot water back into the canner.  This is the part of canning that really scares me.  This water is hot enough to burn your skin if you get splashed.  I can't believe I did this with small kids in the house.  I just recently discovered these big blue gloves with a nice non-slip surface.  They are somewhat heat resistant and I probably should have been wearing one on my right hand as well.
Using a funnel to keep the top rim of the jar clean, ladle the hot tomatoes into the jar.  Remove the funnel, and use a non-metallic utensil to press the tomatoes till juice runs out and fills the jar.  Leave 1/2 inch of head space at the top.  Add 1 teaspoon canning salt to each jar and remove any air bubbles by running the non-metallic utensil between the tomatoes and the side of the jar.
Use a damp cloth to wipe the top and threads of the jar.  Place the lid on the jar and screw ring down securely.  Use jar lifter to return the filled jar to the canner and remove the next empty jar.  Continue on until seven jars are filled and placed in the canner.  You may need to remove some of the water as the filled jars replace the empty ones.  Be sure there is at least one inch of water over the top of the jars.
Cover the canner and bring the water to a boil.  Process for 45 minutes at a steady but gentle boil.  Pint jars need boil only 35 minutes.  (The timing is different for folks above a thousand feet in elevation, so check with one of the resources above if this is your situation.)

Remove jars and stand them on a double thickness of dish towel to cool.  You will hear small popping sounds as the vacuum seals each jar lid.  Hopefully you will hear seven of these little pops. 
Allow the jars to cool undisturbed for at least 12 hours. (Do not retighten bands.)  Test the seals by visually inspecting or gently pressing on the lid with your fingertip.  The lid should be sligtly concave and not yield to pressure from your finger.  If the lid has a slight upward bulge and yields to pressure, remove the ring and see if you can lift the lid with your fingertips. 

If a lid has failed to seal, replace the ring and refrigerate the tomatoes.  Eat them within a few days.  For all the other jars, remove the rings, wash and dry the jars, and store in a dark, cool, dry location.

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