There is something to be said for preserving your harvest. Dicing, cooking, peeling, reading, seasoning, sweating, swearing while preserving something that you have grown. I love it!
I wish that I could say that the 50 lbs of tomatoes I preserved came from my own garden but they did not. They came from a wonderful farm about 40 miles from my home. It was a farmer that I met last year at one of our local outdoor markets and they grow their produce, mostly heirloom, organically. Hell yes! He gave me a mixture of Cherokee Purple, hybrid and other heirloom varieties. It felt great knowing that since I wasn’t able to grow my own this year I was able to support a local farmer.
I’m no canning expert but I think I did a pretty good job of the tomatoes and wanted to share my technique and ideas with you. Canning 50 lbs of tomatoes is no joke but I did it! Even if I did get queasy smelling the steamy tomato smell on the third and final day.
You can never have to many bowls at the ready. seriously! I used all of these and had to get more out. Here is a brief list to help you get started:
First, I prepped my jars by placing them in my dishwasher on the Anti-Bacterial wash. If you don’t have a dishwasher boil your jars for roughly 10 minutes, drain and set on your counter to air dry. If you use your dishwasher by the time you are finished with prepping, chopping and cooking your tomatoes your jars will be ready.
Next, I gave all of my tomatoes a good rinse to remove dirt or bugs and set them in a colander.
Then, I cleaned all of my counters and sinks with a very mild bleach solution. Especially my sinks and you will see why further down.
Next prep your lids and seals in simmering water, not boiling (left). I just left them in the pot, simmering lightly, until I needed to use them. On the right is my pot of water that I blanched the tomatoes in.
Okay, you are prepping your jars √, you’ve cleaned your counters and sinks √, your lids and seals are simmering on the stove √, you have all of your pots, bowls and utensils handy √, and your water is boiling to blanch the tomatoes √. Now it’s time to prep your tomatoes!
Mark an ‘X’ on the underside of your tomatoes
and then core the tomatoes. I worked in roughly 10 lb batches because I found that I quickly ran out of counter space! Place your tomatoes in the boiling water, 6-8 at a time, for 30 seconds. I doesn’t have to be a hard, rolling boil. Then put them in ice water immediately; this will help the skins loosen and pull away easily. They will literally fall off! My setup below was awesome! I would place them directly in the colander after I peeled them.
You can see I have a different colander in this picture. I would change them out as they filled up. I don’t show it in the pictures but once the tomatoes are peeled give them a good squeeze to remove the seeds and any excess liquid. That’s the beauty of having the colander in the sink!
Okay, tomatoes cored and marked with an “X” √, blanched and then placed in ice water √, peeled and squeezed to remove seeds and excess liquid √. This is where all those bowls will come in handy! I had probably 4 bowls full at any given time of prepped tomatoes sitting on the counter ready to be chopped. Seems like a lot of steps and it really is but once you get everything in order and a routine down, it moves very quickly.
Now you are ready to can your tomatoes! I chose to do a mixture of diced, crushed, and a spicy diced similar to Ro-Tel you buy in the store. I decided against doing any marina, spaghetti sauce or salsa. Although the Ro-Tel that I made is pretty much like a good salsa. I just wanted some basics that I could later turn into whatever my fancy was at the time.
Chop/dice your prepped tomatoes and simmer in a large stock pot to reduce the liquid. I added 1 tsp of sea salt per 6 cups of tomatoes which I gauged by squinting and saying ”yes, that’s about right”. Very scientific I know. I let them simmer for 30 mins or so. Some pots I used the immersion blender right in the pot for my sauce/crushed tomato jars and others I left in a dice.
Pour 1 tblsp. lemon juice (I used bottled) for pint jars and 2 tlblsp. lemon juice for quart into the jars and then ladle your tomatoes into the jars using your funnel. Leave 1/2 inch of head space, wipe the rim of the jar and fasten the lids securely. Process in a water bath for 30 mins (pint jars) or 40 mins (quart jars).
Here, I had diced tomatoes on the counter, some processed and some waiting to be processed, and another pot on the stove simmering waiting to but into jars.
It is very simple really, just takes a little time. It took me roughly 3 days of canning 2-3 hours each day to get through my 50 lbs. I have 11 quart jars, 9 pint jars and 5 half-pints of diced, crushed and spicy diced tomatoes. As well as 2 quart containers of frozen marinara. I know I wasn’t going to make marinara but I had close to 10 lbs. left over on the last day and I couldn’t face the water bath canner again so I made a batch of marinara and froze it!
This is my version of a Spicy Diced Tomato or Ro-Tel. This worked really well for me and we have used some as salsa already!
Again, I’m no canning expert so if you are new to canning this book is wonderful to get you started! I’ve never used it personally but know those that have and love it for the easy to follow instructions and step by step recipes.
I hope this inspires you to preserve some of your harvest or the harvest of a fellow farmer. Once you hear the pings of those jars for the first time you will be hooked!