Thursday, June 23, 2011

Bottled Tomatoes: How to make it a little less time consuming…


So after all my adventures making pickles, I got really adventurous and decided to buy 50 lbs. of organic tomatoes that I got from the co-op for less than $0.70 a pound.  I had no idea how many jars of tomatoes it would.  I figured, with the facts that tin cans can’t be that great for us, that I use tomatoes in recipes ALL the time, and that I LOVE tomatoes; it would be fun to can them.  Honestly, it was fun but it took time and felt pretty lonely some of that time.  My friend Julie and I have decided that we will can together because it’s much more fun to can if it’s a “social” thing.

I think I must have a slow learning curve.   Because the first couple of batches went pretty slow.  I did, however, finally figure out a system to get things going a lot faster.  The most important thing about my speeding things up was to get things in a organized manner.  So here are my personal ideas on how to set yourself up to can (or preserve) tomatoes as efficiently and quickly as possible.

*STEP 1: Have a cutting board, two large bowls (preferably metal so as not to melt them), two medium sized bowls and one small bowl ready and handy on the counter by the stove (as you can see, it doesn’t have to be a lot) as well as a pairing knife and a metal sieve.  Keep a large stock pot on the stove with boiling water ready.

*If you’re planning to can these you’ll want to have your jars, lids and rings washed and sanitized and ready to use.  Lids that are boiled prior to sealing seem to seal the best.  I’m a cheater and just put my jars in the dishwasher on “Sanitize” while I am busy doing the other steps it takes to prepare for canning. 


STEP 2: Fill the front large bowl with ice water, the medium sized bowl with washed (and de-stickered) tomatoes and leave the other two empty for now.


Step:3  Core tomatoes and cut a little “X” shape on the bottom.  Set tomatoes aside in large back bowl.  Use the small bowl to collect the cores.  The more you do in this step the faster time will go. When the water is ready and boiling, fill sieve with cored tomatoes and drop them in the boiling water until the skins start breaking away.  Remove from boiling water and plunge into ice water “bath”.  


Step 4: Take tomatoes out of ice water and skin them by pulling off the skin (adding to the small bowl…you may have to empty by now).  Once Tomatoes are skinned, you’re ready to bottle them or make salsa, chutney or sauce!


CANNING TOMATOES STEP 1:  So now that your tomatoes are all ready to go into bottles, get salt, lemon juice, a flat spatula,  bottle tongs, a lid lifter, a teaspoon and a tablespoon (I like to keep the spoons in a little bowl just to keep them clean) along with jars, lids (I just keep mine in a little sauce pan on the stove with water waiting), and rings. 


Here’s an overhead shot…. (My jars are steamy in the dishwasher).


STEP 2: So then all you have to do is stuff the tomatoes in the bottles (along with a teaspoon of salt and a Tablespoon of Lemon juice for Pints) until they’re a half inch below the top then you take the spatula and squish the tomatoes to the side to get rid of any air bubbles.  Add more tomatoes if needed and top with a lid and ring.

SIDENOTE: I like to put my Tablespoon of Lemon juice and teaspoon of salt BEFORE I add the tomatoes but some people tell me they do it afterwards.


Then you are ready to either give them a water bath or steam them in a steam canner.  Check your basket or steamer for times/directions for your altitude.


Aren’t they beautiful?  I did tomatoes, Tomato and Apple Chutney (which is AMAZING with roast beef),and  Zesty Salsa all from the official Ball Canning site: as well as some freezer tomato sauce (which isn’t in the picture because it’s in the freezer).  I really think I’m hooked on this whole canning thing!  Yummy!

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