Canning Tomatoes: Step by Step

Today, I canned a few of the summer harvest tomatoes.

If you find a farm where the sun has been hot, the rain just enough to keep the tomato plants happy, and the farmer rocks (like at Deardorff Vineyards for example!) then you have some great tomatoes on your hands… the perfect time to explore your canning skills!

The first thing I did was gather equipment:

    • four clean 1-quart mason jars with four rings and four previously unused lids
    • two dutch ovens or stock pots (one to boil the tomatoes for easy peeling; one for sanitizing the jars)
    • a teapot (to boil water in case extra is needed for the finishing process)
    • a large stock pot (to boil the filled mason jars to finish the process) and a wire rack that can fit in the bottom
    • tongs, measuring spoons, clean kitchen towels, oven mitts, slotted spoon, paring knife, wooden spoon
    • a small saucepot (to simmer the lids and rings)

and my ingredients:

  • Clean Tomatoes to can (to fill four jars, I had five tomatoes each… but for roma tomatoes, you’ll need six for each jar)
  • Citric acid (1/2 teaspoon per quart jar) – or jarred lemon juice: to ensure high acidity
  • Minced garlic (1/2 to one clove per jar… to your taste!)

I started the small saucepan simmering (and put in the lids and rings) on a back burner.

I filled the three remaining stock pots, dutch ovens, and the tea pot with water and put them on the stove to boil.

When one was boiling, I sanitized the jars, spoons and tongs by putting them in the boiling water for ten minutes in stock pot number one.

This step rids them of bacteria.

While I was waiting for that step to finish, I turned to the tomatoes.

I gave them a quick rinse, since they were freshly picked and had a bit of dirt on them.

I used my sharp paring knife to remove the cores.

Then I cut an X into the opposite end, what I call the “belly button”.

This will allow the skins to easily slip off after the tomatoes have been in boiling water for a bit.

I added my luscious tomatoes  to the boiling water in stock pot number two.

(Meanwhile, my tongs and jars had finished sterilizing, so I carefully removed them from the boiling water

and set them aside on a clean kitchen towel.

I added 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid and a bit of minced garlic to each jar, so they were ready for tomatoes.

9/3: There has been a lot of discussion about this step on Catalyst Cooks’ facebook site.  A couple of notes about adding acid during the canning process:

  • There needs to be a high acid level to ensure the safety of the food.  (pH level below 4.6)
  • Tomatoes, over time, have become less acidic due to the new varieties, how they are grown, etc.
  • Tomatoes that have grown in partial sun, on a vine that has yellow or dead spots, has splits or blemishes especially need an acid boost.

The stock pot I had used for sterilizing is now done with its task and I put it in the dishwasher.)

I watched the tomatoes carefully, looking for separation in the skins beyond where I had cut the X.

As I saw signs that the skin was ready to come off, I lifted each one with a slotted spoon and put them in the sink (on a clean towel) to cool off just a bit.

When my fingers could touch them, I peeled each tomato and slipped them into the jars.

When all the tomatoes were in jars, the pot of boiling water I had used for this task was done, and I added it to the dishwasher.

After all of the jars were full of tomatoes, I added boiling water from my teapot to ensure they were full of water

(I left 1/2 inch of “headroom” at the top of each jar.)

The water’s purpose is to make sure, when the jars finish in the large stockpot, that the entire contents of each jar are heated to the appropriate temperature

in order to kill the bacteria.

My tomatoes- not sure what kind they were- were very watery, whereas roma tomatoes are more meaty.

So I didn’t need to add as much water as I would have had I used a different kind of tomatoes.

I used my wooden spoon to press out any air bubbles under the surface of the waterline.

I placed the lids on each jar, and lightly screwed on the rings (from the simmering small saucepot- which is the end of its job and I put it in the dishwasher).

The jars went into the boiling water in the BIG CAHUNA stockpot, on the grate I had put in the bottom of the pot to make sure water could circulate under the jars.

The jars were also covered with boiling water, and I used the last of the water in my teapot to make sure there was an inch of water above the lids.

I put the cover on the stockpot and let them boil for 45 minutes, and went and did something else.

When the timer went off, I removed the jars from the stock pot.

I put them on the counter to cool, for 12 hours, and tried not to touch them.

I could hear the seals of each jar “pinging” almost right away!

And there you have it…. canned tomatoes!

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