Posts Tagged ‘tomatoes’

Canning tomatoes, the old fashioned way…

canning tomatoes

I got to spend a few days in Kentucky with my mom and dad last week and we canned some tomatoes…  five bushels to be exact.  It was a lot of work, but great fun.  I’m ready to do it again. 

I decided to document the event so you could see the process we used in canning.  I will tell you right off the bat – this method is not a method recognized as safe or correct by the “professionals”  (whoever that is), but I can promise you millions of American families have been canning tomatoes this way for generations.  My family has canned tomatoes this way for as long as anyone can remember.  So far… we’ve not killed anyone.  Well, not from canning tomatoes anyway.   *ahem* Anyway… on to the tomatoes!

The tomatoes

We didn’t grow any tomatoes this year.  Not me.  Not my parents.  That even feels weird just typing it but for various inexcusable reasons, we just didn’t.  Next year though…

My dad did manage to snag our five bushels from a kindly Mexican farmer with three boys for $20 a bushel.  I know, right?  $20 isn’t bad!  We’ve been waiting all summer for tomatoes and last week the call finally came.  They are ready now.  They’ve got to be picked tomorrow.  We can’t wait for the weekend.   And boom! just like that, we were in the Yukon with our yummy bento snacks on our way to Kentucky. 

You should have seen the sight we walked in to… 

canning tomatoes

Five bushels is a lot of tomatoes. 

We didn’t do any canning the day we arrived.  We decided we would start in the morning.  I was thinking we would get two or three bushels done the first day of canning then do the last two the next.   Yeah, no.  We did them all in one day. 

 

The Setup

We used basic equipment for this process.  Most everything can be found easily at a local store, I’m sure. 

  • large bowls, several for washing and cooling tomatoes
  • a large heave stock pot
  • a wide pot for sterilizing jars
  • a smaller pot for sterilizing lids and bands
  • cookie sheets for work surfaces
  • towels to protect the table tops
  • ice cream buckets for holding tomatoes waiting to be cooked
  • a sharp knife
  • a 5 gallon bucket for dumping skins and cores
  • jars with spotless rims
  • new lids
  • new or used but clean bands
  • a jar lifter
  • a canning funnel
  • a magnetic lid lifter
  • a teaspoon (for quarts)
  • a 1/2 teaspoon (for pints)
  • canning salt
  • slotted spoon

canning tomatoes setupThe counter near the sink, we cleared for bowls of tomatoes ready to be blanched.  The stove was prepped with a  pot of boiling water for blanching and a large stock pot for boiling quartered tomatoes.  At the table we placed cookie sheets on top of towels to catch the mess of juice, skins, and cores.  We placed bowls of cold water at the center of the table for the cooling tomatoes and an ice cream bucket at the side of each work station for catching all the quartered tomatoes. 

Near the table on the floor stood a 5 gallon bucket for dumping the scraps. 

 

The process

Like I said earlier, this is not the “proper” way to can tomatoes, though I would argue it’s one of the more traditional ways.  

*Can at your own risk* 

If you choose to use the same method I use as described here in this blog, you assume all responsibility for the outcome.   This is NOT an instructional post.  For precise instructions on canning tomatoes, try this book.

 The basic process for canning tomatoes we use goes like this:

  • wash tomatoes
  • blanch tomatoes
  • remove skins, cores, and bad spots
  • quarter tomatoes
  • boil tomatoes
  • sterilize jars, lids, bands
  • fill jars
  • add salt
  • clean rim
  • apply lid and band
  • let sit for 24 hours and listen for the “pops”

washed tomatoesWashing tomatoes

The very first thing we did was get the tomatoes clean.  We filled a sink with water, added a bunch of tomatoes, and got all the dirt off.  A quick rinse and transfer to a clean bowl, the first batch is ready for blanching. 

 

 

 

 

 

blanching tomatoes

 

Blanching the tomatoes

Blanching the tomatoes makes it much easier to remove the peels.  We set a good sized pan of water to boil and add a few tomatoes at a time.  In just a few seconds the peels loosen from the fruit and they are ready to be removed.  Using a slotted spoon we transfer the tomatoes to a bowl of cold water and let them cool down a bit.

 

 

 

 

Removing the skins, cores, and bad spots

 

peeling tomatoes

 

After the tomatoes cool a little, it’s time to remove the skins.  I like to cut a small slice in the bottom of the tomato and peel them towards the core.  At this point, I cut any bad spots off that are on the tomato.  My family laughed at me all day because I tend to smell any tomato that I’m unsure about.  It I feel an extra soft area or after I cut out a bad spot, I will almost always smell the fruit to make sure all the bad is gone.  After smelling a ton of tomatoes, you catch on to what’s normal and what’s not.  Next, I cut the core out, removing all the tough, white areas. 

Quarter the tomato and add it to the pot. 

 

Cooking the tomatoes

After a bushel of tomatoes have been prepared, we cooked them in a large heavy pot.  You want them to boil up for twenty minutes or so.  The tomatoes will break down as they cook and make lots of juice.  The tomatoes will scorch and stick to the bottom if left to boil, so we kept them stirred every few minutes.  While the tomatoes cooked, we prepared the jars for filling.

 

Preparing the jars, lids, and bands

It’s very important to have clean, sterilized jars.  One technique I like to use is keeping the jars in the oven at 215 degrees after they’ve been washed.  This time we just boiled the jars, lids, and bands a few at a time as we filled them.  Another very important item – being certain all the jars have clean, solid rims with NO chips.  In order to get a tight seal, a perfect rim is a must.  We checked all our jars before we started the process.   We put two pans of boiling water on the stove – one for the jars, one for the bands and lids. 

 

 

Filling the jars

 

filling jars

This step is made a little easier by a few small tools. 

#1 – a canning funnel

#2 – a jar lifter

#3 – a magnetic lid lifter

#4 – a large Tupperware 8-cup measuring cup

We take a jar out of the water, place the funnel in the mouth of the jar, and fill it with tomatoes using the large measuring cup.  It’s good to leave some room in the top of the jar to give it room to seal.  We remove the funnel, pour in a teaspoon of salt, and wipe the rim.

 

  canned tomatoes

After the rim is cleaned off, we used the magnetic lid lifter to grab a lid and place it on the jar.  Then we grabbed a band with the magnet and screwed it on the jar tight enough to hold the seal in place, but not too tightly.  Finally, we set the jars on a towel-covered table to sit for 24 hours.  Usually, within a matter of 10, 15 minutes the popping starts.  As the jars cool down, the pressure decreases inside causing the center of the lid to become concave with a “pop”.  This creates a tight seal and if the jars do not “pop” or the lid does not sink in the center, it most likely did not seal properly.  If this happens, it doesn’t mean the tomatoes are bad, just that they need to be kept in the refrigerator and eaten soon.  All of our jars sealed well.   

 

Take a look at all those tomatoes put up for the winter!

93 quarts

We got a decent yield out of this batch.  We had one large bowl full of tomatoes that we didn’t can.  Generally, you get about 18 – 20 quarts per bushel so I think we did fairly well. 

I could eat canned tomatoes each and every day so we’ll see how long my 40+ jars last.  I’m not positive I’ll make it through the winter!

 

How about you?  Do you put up any veggies for the winter months?  If so, leave me a comment below and tell me what you put up and the methods you use. 

Garden planning begins…

It’s snowing like mad today but I’m inside thinking about seeds.  I’ve spent the last hour pouring over my Baker Creek catalog and paring down the list for this year’s plantings.  It’s always so difficult to not go overboard.  They have such wonderful heirloom varieties to choose from.

After looking over the results of last year’s efforts, we’re making a few changes.  For the most part, everything grew well.  Our biggest mistakes were of our own making.  The plants were wonderful!  For instance, the cucumbers – oh my word.  They grew so abundantly we couldn’t keep up.  The Pink German Tree tomatoes – well, there’s a reason they’re called trees.  The plants grew so large we couldn’t get to the fruit.  I had planted them at a pretty normal distance from each other, but that’s not far enough for a tree. 

Our other big challenge was the rabbit and groundhog community.  Apparently, they assumed I planted the broccoli and calendula for their personal feast.  Um, no, Mr. Groundhog.  I didn’t. 

The black giant tomatoes were definitely dark but not quite giant.  They also cracked at the tops badly.  I may do one plant this year but that’s it.  Garden space is too precious. 

amish paste

We’re adding a couple new varieties of tomatoes – Amish Paste and Bonny Best.  I’m thinking the Amish Paste will be good for making ketchup.  The Bonny Best are supposed to be a top notch canning tomato.  I really hope so.  We use a ton of canned tomatoes throughout the year.  We ran out well before Christmas!  Between these two varieties there should be plenty for canning.

 

Celery will be a new crop for us.  I’ve never grown celery so this will be a whole new experience.  Watermelons and Pumpkins are on the list – mainly for fun, for the kids.  We don’t have a really great place for them to be planted but I’ve got one spot in mind that might work.  There’s a small mound of dirt piled up next to the shed.  It’s leftovers from digging out the raised beds.  I think this little hill is our best bet for getting the melons to grow. 

Just for kicks, I ordered some gourds.  With the new farmer’s market across the street, the gourds could be a source of pocket money for the kids.  They will be able to make dippers from the dipping gourds and little tops with the Tennessee Dancing gourds. 

Speaking of the market, we hope to make a decent showing this year with some of our homemade goods.  Gardener’s salve, liniment, lip balms.  Of course, we’ll offer produce we grow in the garden.  I’m thinking this could be a great homeschool experience for the children.  My plan is for each of them to find something they can make and market.  We’ll see how that turns out though.  Plans are often as fragile as a pie crust around here! 

Either way it all turns out, I’m ready to start planting. 

-knittingprose

Garden planning begins…

It’s snowing like mad today but I’m inside thinking about seeds.  I’ve spent the last hour pouring over my Baker Creek catalog and paring down the list for this year’s plantings.  It’s always so difficult to not go overboard.  They have such wonderful heirloom varieties to choose from.

After looking over the results of last year’s efforts, we’re making a few changes.  For the most part, everything grew well.  Our biggest mistakes were of our own making.  The plants were wonderful!  For instance, the cucumbers – oh my word.  They grew so abundantly we couldn’t keep up.  The Pink German Tree tomatoes – well, there’s a reason they’re called trees.  The plants grew so large we couldn’t get to the fruit.  I had planted them at a pretty normal distance from each other, but that’s not far enough for a tree. 

Our other big challenge was the rabbit and groundhog community.  Apparently, they assumed I planted the broccoli and calendula for their personal feast.  Um, no, Mr. Groundhog.  I didn’t. 

The black giant tomatoes were definitely dark but not quite giant.  They also cracked at the tops badly.  I may do one plant this year but that’s it.  Garden space is too precious. 

amish paste

We’re adding a couple new varieties of tomatoes – Amish Paste and Bonny Best.  I’m thinking the Amish Paste will be good for making ketchup.  The Bonny Best are supposed to be a top notch canning tomato.  I really hope so.  We use a ton of canned tomatoes throughout the year.  We ran out well before Christmas!  Between these two varieties there should be plenty for canning.

 

Celery will be a new crop for us.  I’ve never grown celery so this will be a whole new experience.  Watermelons and Pumpkins are on the list – mainly for fun, for the kids.  We don’t have a really great place for them to be planted but I’ve got one spot in mind that might work.  There’s a small mound of dirt piled up next to the shed.  It’s leftovers from digging out the raised beds.  I think this little hill is our best bet for getting the melons to grow. 

Just for kicks, I ordered some gourds.  With the new farmer’s market across the street, the gourds could be a source of pocket money for the kids.  They will be able to make dippers from the dipping gourds and little tops with the Tennessee Dancing gourds. 

Speaking of the market, we hope to make a decent showing this year with some of our homemade goods.  Gardener’s salve, liniment, lip balms.  Of course, we’ll offer produce we grow in the garden.  I’m thinking this could be a great homeschool experience for the children.  My plan is for each of them to find something they can make and market.  We’ll see how that turns out though.  Plans are often as fragile as a pie crust around here! 

Either way it all turns out, I’m ready to start planting. 

-knittingprose

can I can???

white scallop squash Well, it’s official.  We have cucumbers! : )  My favorite two things of summer – fresh homegrown cucumbers and tomatoes.  I really think I could live on them.  The kids and I picked about 4 the other day when we were out watering the garden and there were quite a few that looked like they’d be ready by the weekend.  As I was digging in the green beans I noticed several of our scallop squash that are beginning to take shape.  Have you seen these?  They have beautiful bright orange flowers that produce adorable little disc-shaped squash with a scalloped edge. 

I’m so very looking forward to tomatoes.  We have so many on the vine.  Lots of big green tomatoes that I’m just dying for to turn color!  This spring I planted 4 varieties – black giants, break o’ day, early girl and pink German tree.  I’ve not grown any of these varieties before so I’m eager to see what they all produce. 

Aside from the garden maintenance, I’ve been keeping busy studying up on things like canning and preserving our bounty.  Lord willing, I will have a canner before too long and we’ll have no trouble putting up some delicious tomatoes.  In all this reading, I’ve also gotten the idea to try canning some meat and full meals.  I wish I knew someone who’s had lots of experience at it.  We buy grassfed and local meat which can be expensive.  I’d love to have the ability of stocking up on meat during a good sale and be able to preserve it some other way than freezing.  I hate cooking frozen meat.  Not only is it a pain, but it just doesn’t taste as good.  Besides that, imagine getting home from church on Sunday afternoon about 1:30 and just popping open a couple cans of stewed meat or chili or soup, etc.  This seems like a great solution for so many occasions.

Speaking of all this veggie business, our little town started a farmer’s market that meets on Wednesday evenings just across the street from us.  We’ve learned so much about food and the like over the last year, it seems like this was just another little blessing from the Lord to encourage us.  We’ve enjoyed some great jams and treats from the vendors.  This week we’re expecting local honey which I’ve been wanting to get for a while now.  I’m hoping to talk to the vendor about some beeswax as well.  We’d like to make some candles and I’d love to have wax for salves on hand. 

All this is so new to us but we’re enjoying the process of learning and all the encouragement people seem eager to give. 

On a side note, it’s wonderful being pregnant again.  I’ve missed having a little one quite a bit and I’m savoring every second of this pregnancy.  Hopefully, we’ll find out if we’re expecting a boy or a girl sometime after our next appointment in July.  We’d love to eliminate half the name battle.  That’s our biggest struggle when it comes to having a new baby!

-knittingprose