I started canning with peaches. Around the corner from our house is the Belinsky farm, and they raise vegetables, peaches, apples and pumpkins. One year there was a bumper crop of peaches, and I was able to obtain a basketful from Howard and so my canning career began. My aunt canned so I asked her for advice on how to. Let’s just say my first run at canning peaches failed and leave it at that.
Since then I have obtained a number of canning cookbooks and had much success. I now can a good percentage of winter food supply. Last year I ended up with a lot of produce from one of the local farmers. Since there was always more than we could possibly eat in a week I’d can a lot of it. I’d keep some and bring some back to the farm for them to enjoy. I think I tried pickled everything, with the exception of eggplant. There was plenty of produce to experiment with, and I was able to determine what and how much should be canned for this year.
Yesterday we took a ride to March Farm in Bethlehem, Connecticut, to pick blueberries. On the way to the checkout, I noticed boxes of tomatoes with a sign “Canners 20 lbs/$20.” A dollar a pound is a good price here, and the tomatoes looked good compared to some ‘seconds’ that I’ve gotten in the past, so I picked up a box. I checked them when we got home to determine if they could wait a day or two before canning and couldn’t find anything wrong with them at all. They would hold for another day until I could devote the time to process them.
Tomatoes are one of the easiest (and messiest) things to can. Most of the work is all in preparation. You start by removing the skins.
To do this bring a saucepan of water to boiling, cut a small slit in the skin on the tomato and boil (about 30 seconds to a minute) until the skin starts to pull away from cut. Remove from the boiling water and place in a bowl of ice cold water to cool. After the tomato is cooled, peel the skin away and remove the core.
How you wish to can them will vary at this point. I roughly chop mine and add them all to a big stock pot to heat through. The Ball cookbook lists them as Herbed Seasoned Tomatoes. I add the necessary amount of spice to each sterilized jar along with the citric acid and then ladle in the tomatoes. Wipe the jar, add the lid and boil can (water-bath method) them for 40 minutes or pressure can for 15 minutes. I’ve used both methods, pressure and boil canning, but I find I prefer boil canning. When you add in the amount of time it takes to come up to pressure it’s not much difference.
From the 20 pounds of tomatoes, I canned 11 jars of seasoned tomatoes. I had enough for another two or three jars, but I ran out of time so I pureed what was left and cooked it down a bit longer. I was left with about a quart of sauce that I turned in to a pot of chilli for next night’s dinner. Two more boxes and I should be all set for tomatoes for the coming year. The best part is the satisfaction I get when I look at the pantry and see the results of my work. I know that I did it myself and there is something very rewarding about it.