Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Canning tomatoes

The same weekend that I froze the chiles I also canned tomatoes. I did it all on Friday night after work--which was ridiculous. I have this weird thing that I like to get all my chores done early so I can have the rest of the weekend with no obligations. Honestly, it rarely works because there's too much to do and it just makes me really tired. And still I persist. Silly.

Anyway, back to the tomatoes. I got one box of tomatoes which I think is 20-25 pounds.

I got a big pot of boiling water going and then scored the bottom of each tomato with an "x". Then I dropped the tomatoes in the boiling water for less than a minute. I pull them out of the water with a strainer and then put them into an ice bath. I usually put the ice bath in my kitchen sink because it's big enough to handle big batches of the tomatoes. After they've cooled in the ice bath I start peeling. The x that I scored makes it easy to get started peeling.

This all takes awhile and involves multiple boiling/cooling/peeling cycles. I don't really find this relaxing--more tedious, but worth it in the end.

Here's my cooled, peeled tomatoes. Then I start jamming the tomatoes in cleaned, sterilized canning jars.

You really have to jam them in the jars because once you put them in the canner they cook down. I still don't ever put enough in the jars to have my jars come out of the canner looking full.

I live at 7,700 feet above sea level so I use a pressure canner. It's similar to a pressure cooker and allows me to process the jars for a much shorter period of time than I would have to if I used a regular canner. It's difficult at altitude to maintain a steady boil for a prolonged period of time so a pressure canner is the way to go.

I processed the tomatoes at 14 pounds of pressure for about 15 minutes. The instructions for the pressure canner say I should process for longer but it actually overcooks the tomatoes. I was a little nervous the first time I didn't follow the directions but it's worked out fine. I've had other, more experienced canners tell me they do the same thing. But do whatever you feel is best. I'm no expert.

Once the time is up I turn the burner off and left the pressure dissipate and then remove the jars and let them cool on the counter. This year I ended up with a mix of about 18 quarts and pints of tomatoes. I use them for spaghetti sauce, green chile, soups and other tasty winter dinners.

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