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A Canning We Will Go: Tomatoes

It’s that time of year, time to store away all those wonderful garden goodies to be used this winter. No matter if you freeze, dry, or can your food, it’s a great feeling to be able to go to the pantry or freezer and pull out your own stuff.

Although I’ve been canning and freezing right along, the past couple of weeks have been especially busy for me. I am up to my armpits in tomatoes! I’ve been canning pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, and salsa. My family especially likes the salsa. We like to eat it with so many things. This is how I do the salsa dance!

First, I wash and core a sink full of tomatoes.

Washed and cored tomatoes

While I am doing this, I have my large stockpot filled with water on the stove, bringing it to a boil. When the water has come to a rolling boil, I dump it on my cleaned and cored tomatoes in the sink to soak.

Tomatoes covered with boiling water

Don’t forget to have the stopper in the bottom of the sink, or you will be calling yourself all kinds of things because you now have to wait for more water to boil!! The boiling water splits the tomato skins and makes it very easy to pull the skins right off of the tomatoes.

Tomato skins splitting

While the tomatoes are soaking in the very HOT water, I do a little chopping. I chop up the onions and peppers that I am going to add to my salsa.

Chopped peppers

Chop as little or as much as you like for the amount of tomatoes you have. I should say here, that I am not much for following exact recipes for something like this. I very much make it according to taste. If you don’t like a lot of onions, then by all means, cut back on the onions!

Chopped onions

Make it according to what you and your family like. My family does not like sweet sauce, so I never add sugar to my sauce when I make it. Don’t be afraid to change things up to suit you and your family. After all, you are the ones who will be eating it!

Now, back to the salsa! When I can see the skins have split and pulled back somewhat on the tomatoes, I take them from the HOT water and put them in very cold water. DO NOT use your hands to do this! Use tongs or a large slotted spoon. Be advised, the little buggers can be very slippery at this stage! Let them soak in the cold water for a few minutes. This cools them down so they can be handled safely. Now, carefully check to make sure they have cooled down. If they have, get your hands in there, and start removing skins. You will be surprised how easily they come off.

Now that you have all the skins removed, on to the next stage. It’s time to cut the tomatoes into chunks. Cut them as big or as little as you like. I make mine about 2 inches, and put them into my large stock pot on the stove at medium to medium-high heat. You don’t need to add any water; the tomatoes will cook down themselves.

Now you have some choices! Don’t you love choices? My family does not mind tomato seeds, so I do not take the seeds out of my salsa or sauces. If you would like to take them out, it isn’t difficult, but you will need a food mill to do this. Simply cook your tomato chunks till they become very mushy and watery. At that point you would put them through your food mill to remove the seeds. After the seeds are removed, put the tomatoes that will be like juice at this point, back into your stockpot and proceed. I skip this step, so I’m going with the chunks of cut up tomato on medium-high heat.

Everything in my stock pot

Now is the time to add all the good stuff. Add your onions, peppers, and any spices that you like. I add some vinegar, oregano, basil, salt, pepper, and any other spices I see in my spice cabinet that looks good to me. If you like your salsa with some kick, add hot peppers, or some hot sauce. Taste test as you go. I warn you, your house will smell like a pizzeria, and your family will be hungry when they come in and smell it! After everything is added, bring it to a boil, then reduce the heat a bit and simmer. If you want your salsa to be a little thicker, you can add some tomato paste at this point. I let mine simmer for about 10 minutes.

Bringing to a boil

Now it is ready to put into containers to freeze, or into jars to be canned in a boiling water bath. I can mine, so I will go on with that.

Fill your clean jars with your salsa, leaving a half inch headspace at the top. Boil your flats to soften and sterilize the rubbers. Wipe the tops of your jars to clean off any drips. Put the hot flats on the jars, rubber side down, and turn on rings. Tighten them by hand so they are snug. Submerge the jars in water in your canner. Bring to a boil, and process, (just let them boil) for 35 minutes.

Jars in a boiling water bath

When they are finished, turn off your burner and be very careful taking the lid off of your canner. There will be lots of steam. Be VERY careful pulling your jars up out of the water. They are extremely hot! I usually let mine set and cool for a minute or two after I have pulled them up out of the water, but before removing from the wire rack in the canner. Now set them somewhere to cool and listen for that magical POPPING sound that indicates your jars have sealed. I love that sound!

Finished salsa

Congratulations, you have finished a batch of salsa! Now reward yourself with a cup of coffee and some lovely chocolate chip cookies!