Monday, August 10, 2009

canning 101

I promised directions for canning tomatoes, but it took me while to get here. Sorry if you have a whole case of them waiting on me, they're probably good and rotten by now. Rule #1, don't bite off more than you can chew. I think about 20 pounds of tomatoes is perfect for a day of canning. It takes a few hours, yields enough jars to feel worthwhile, but doesn't feel so overwhelming that you lose hope.

My sister and I share canning supplies, and that enormous pot is a life saver for tomatoes and other things you might put in pint or quart jars. They aren't expensive, but they do take up space.
Fill your canning pot and put it on to boil. Fill another pot with 4 or 5 inches of water and put it on to boil.
Get out every large bowl you own. You'll also need a pairing knife and a compost bucket.

Pop off any stems that are left on your tomatoes. When your small pot boils, toss in as many tomatoes as will be submerged in water. They should be in the pan for about 1 minute, then put in a bowl filled with ice water. Shocking will make it easy to peel off the skin. If you have a friend to help, one of you should start to peel while the other manages the shocking.

When your tomatoes are peeled, cut them in half crosswise and use your finger to scoop out the seeds and juice. I do this over a sieve so I can keep all the juice for treats such as gazpacho and bloody marys. I toss the tomato halves into the cuisinart and pulse so I can use them easily for sauce. You can also can them as halves if you prefer.

By now your canning pot is likely boiling. Gently place in your jars. A case should give you 8-10 pints. Boil the jars for 10 minutes to sterilize. Pull out carefully and place on a clean towel. Scoop a small amount of the boiling water into a small pot and put in the jar lids, but not the rings.
Carefully fill the jars and put on the lids. Screw on the rings, but don't over-tighten.
Place to filled jars in the boiling water and process for 25 minutes. They'll seal as they cool, and you'll likely hear a pop.

It's messy work. If you need more specifics, like how much space to leave at the top and how long to process what, go here for help. I also think the Ball Blue book is very helpful.

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