There is something about planting seeds, weeding the garden, harvesting the vegetables, and preparing them for your family’s supper that gives you a lifelong respect for the price of vegetables and the nutritional value they possess.
Our tomatoes in the garden have been producing very well this summer, so much so that I preserved some to put into my pantry for winter use. Tomatoes are easily preserved by a water bath canning process. I have been collecting tomatoes from the garden every other day and putting them into the fridge until I had a respectful amount to can.
I like to can outdoors over an open fire pit, so on canning day I got a roaring fire going. I put several big pots of water on the fire to boil. As the water heated up, I washed the tomatoes and collected my canning equipment, which included oven mittens, jar lifter, wooden spoon, ladle, teaspoon, tablespoon, lemon juice and salt. I washed my jars, lids and bands in hot soapy water and placed them in the pots of water over the fire to sterilize. I keep them in the hot water until I am ready to fill them with the tomatoes.
As soon as the water was ready, I dipped the tomatoes in the boiling water. When the skins of the tomatoes started to split, I removed them from the hot water and dipped them into ice cold water. When they cooled off enough to handle, I slipped off the skins. Some of the tomatoes I left whole, but the bigger ones I cut in halves.
I used quart size jar to can the tomatoes. Inside of each jar I put 1 teaspoon salt and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. I then packed the tomatoes into the canning jar and topped it off with the hot water I used for blanching the tomatoes, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. I removed the air bubbles by using a wooden spoon handle and giving it a slight stir to mix up the lemon juice and salt. I wiped the jar rim with a clean towel and added the lid with a band, and finger tightened the band.
Once all of the jars were filled, I placed the jars into the water bath canner making sure there was at least 1 inch of water covering the top of the jars. I processed the jars for 45 minutes. Afterwards, I used my jar lifter to remove them from the hot water to cool on a towel. After the jars cooled, I made sure that the lids had sealed properly, which means that the top of the lid is slightly curved downward and gives no resistant when pushed downward in the center of the lid. I then removed the bands, wiped the jars clean, and stored in my pantry.
Once the jars are canned they will last one year, which is just in time for a new crop of tomatoes growing in the garden. Homegrown tomatoes have such an outstanding taste that you will want to preserve it for use in your cooking all year long. I will truly appreciate the jars of tomatoes in the winter to add to soups, and to use as a vegetable side dish.
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