Garden Fresh Tomatoes All Year Round

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If you are lucky enough to have a garden overflowing with tomatoes, canning is a great way to preserve your harvest and eat garden-fresh tomatoes all year round. If you don’t have a garden, a trip to your local farmer’s market will do. At the farmer’s market, look for the farmer’s “seconds.” These are tomatoes that often discounted because they are overripe or slightly damaged, making them perfect for putting up. You’ll need about twenty pounds of tomatoes to yield seven quarts of tomatoes, which are ideal in recipes for tomato sauce, tomato paste or even salsa.
To get started, you’ll need some equipment:
  • Water bath canner:  This is used to sterilize the jars after they are filled, and can be found at most hardware stores or big box stores.
  • 3 pots, one large, one medium and one small:  These pots are used to scald the tomatoes, heat water or juice and to sanitize the lids.
  • Quart size canning jars:  These are often sold in pallets of a dozen at hardware stores or big box stores.
  • Tongs and a magnetic lid lifter:  These are used to pick up jars and lids out of the hot water. Tongs covered with silicone are great.
  • Canning Funnel:  These are designed to fit inside the rim of the jar, to make it easier and neater to pour the tomatoes into the jars.
  • You will also need lemon juice (2 Tbps. per jar) and tomato juice, or water.

Directions:

  • The first step is to sterilize the jars and lids. If you have a dishwasher, use it to sterilize the jars. Otherwise, you’ll need to sterilize them in boiling water in your water bath. Use the small pot to sterilize the lids in boiling water.
  • While your jars and lids are sterilizing, prepare the tomatoes. You’ll need to remove the skin. The easiest way to do this is to blanch them in hot water. Before blanching the tomatoes, cut a little x-shaped notch in the top of the tomato. This will help the skin peel away as soon as it hits the hot water. Blanch the tomatoes for a minute or two, then immediately plunge them into a ice bath. The skins will retract and practically peel themselves! After you’ve peeled the cooled tomatoes, core and quarter them. If you want some variety, you can process some into sauce before canning. (Just skip adding the hot water/tomato juice below.)
  • Fill your jars with tomatoes, along with two tablespoons of lemon juice, then cover with hot water or hot tomato juice, leaving a ½ inch of space at the top. Run a knife around the inside rim of the jars to release any air bubbles, then cover with the lids, making sure the edge of the jars are clean and dry first. Do not screw them on too tightly.
  • Place the jars in your water bath canner, making sure they are covered with at least an inch of water. Keep the water at a boil, and process the quart jars for 45 minutes.
  • Lift the jars out gently and let them cool overnight, in a place where they won’t be jostled or otherwise disturbed. Check the seal by pressing down on the lid. If it makes a popping sound, it is not sealed. If it is not sealed, either put it in the fridge and use them right away, or you can re-can it with a new lid.
  • A few hours of work one day a month will keep you in garden-fresh tomatoes for many months. Properly canned tomatoes that are kept in a cool, dry place will be good for at least a year.

Canning 101 Video – Home Canning Basics

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Home Canning Basics - Part 1- Introduction