I did something crazy. I purchased 20 pounds of tomatoes from the farm that provides our CSA box. I know, 20 pounds is a lot. I decided that I would rather spend an entire day canning said tomatoes and eating them all winter long than not having them at all. Let me tell you, canning is a lot of work. It’s more so if you do it alone, which is why I invited my friend Julie to help out. This is Julie and I before canning.
The plan for the day was to can four quarts of whole tomatoes and whatever else was left would be made into tomato sauce, which would be canned in 6-ounce jars (because lets be honest, do you ever use a whole quart of tomato sauce in one go? Yeah, neither do I). We took pictures of almost the whole process, so I will incorporate into the steps. But first, here’s what you need:
- 20 pounds of whole tomatoes, preferably fresh of an assorted variety
- 4-quart sized jars with lids
- 6 to 8-6 ounce jars with lids
- Bottled lemon juice (you’ll use around 1/2 cup)
- 2 large pots
We had a lot of tomatoes to start with. Fill two pans with water (we’re talking 16 quart pan and a 12 quart pan). Bring the smaller of the two pans to a boil. Meanwhile, gently wash all of your tomatoes and cut into them a small X.
When the smaller pan of water begins to boil, add 8 – 10 tomatoes at a time for 30 seconds. Remove and place into an ice bath. Meanwhile, the other pan of water should come up to 180F. At this point, place the quart jars in rim up and lower the heat to maintain the temperature. This will sterilize the jars. Add in the lids as well, but make sure this doesn’t boil or the seal will break.
The 30 second hot bath will loosen the skin from the flesh of tomato. Next, you’ll want to de-skin the tomato, and then cut the core out (this is just the part that the stem comes out of, and you only need to cut that part out – this isn’t like coring an apple!).
Remove the jars from the hot water bath and place on a clean, dry towel. Put two tablespoons of lemon juice into each of the jars. Cover the pan and bring it to a boil. Meanwhile, pack the jars with the tomatoes. You can use a wooden spoon to squish them all in. Remember that water you boiled them in to remove the skins? Don’t toss that! Use the hot water to fill the rest of the jars, leaving 1/2 inch of head space at the top. Add a 1/2 tsp salt to the jars. Use a paper towel to wipe the lip of the jar clean, then place a sterilized lid on and put the ring on to close it. Not too loose or too tight.
Once the larger pot comes to a boil, place the jars inside (use a jar holder!) and cover. Let it come back up to a rolling boil, then set the timer for 45 minutes. Sometimes your jars will break. This is okay.
When a jar breaks, remove all the jars from the hot water bath, remove the glass and then proceed as if nothing happened.
While the jars are soaking in their hot water bath, start on the sauce. Cut the remaining tomatoes in half. Over a bowl or the trash, squeeze the tomatoes to remove the pulp and seeds. This is a really gross process. Wear an apron or clothes you don’t care about getting dirty. At the end, you’ll have a lot of deflated looking tomatoes.
If you haven’t done so already, dispose of the tomato water you used to de-skin them, rinse out the pan and put it back on the stove. Transfer in batches the deflated tomatoes to a food process or blender. Process until it’s mostly smooth (a few chunks are fine). Dump in batches into the smaller pan. Once you have all the tomatoes in there, put the lid on, turn on to medium-high and reduce until it’s at half the liquid. This took me about 45 – 50 minutes. Stir frequently so the tomatoes don’t scorch or stick to the bottom.
Before this is done reducing, your whole tomatoes will be done processing. Turn the water off and let sit for five minutes. Take a dry clean towel out and place it somewhere you don’t mind it being for the next 24 hours. Carefully remove the jars and place on the towel two inches apart. Bring the water in the large pot back up to 180F. Place your smaller 6-ounce jars inside.
When your tomato sauce has reduced to half, remove from the heat. Take the smaller jars out and place on a clean dry towel. Cover the pot and bring to a boil again. Measure 1/2 tablespoon of lemon juice into each of the jars. Using a funnel for canning (or very careful ladling), pour the tomato sauce into each of the jars, leaving a 1/2 inch head space. Clean the lip with a clean paper towel. Place jars back into the large pan once it’s back up to a boil. Cover. Once a rolling boil starts again, set the timer for 25 minutes. Afterwards, turn the heat off and let sit for 5 minutes. Remove and place on a clean dry towel.
Let jars sit for 12 – 24 hours to cool and the lids to pop.
Warning, you may be exhausted after said canning experience and will require a snack and/or meal right away.