We returned from vacation and the first day back, I went right to the farm stand. I needed to see the State of the Produce. I knew the weather had been really hot and dry. As expected, the chiles were just starting to arrive. The jalapenos were huge and plump. And equally expected, the tomatoes were just gorgeous.
A little panic set in. I started measuring off the weeks of tomato season, and all the foods I like to can – salsa, tomato jam, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, tomato soup, tomato juice – and those I freeze – oven roasted tomatoes by the sheet pan full. I craved a tomato sandwich. A BLT. A BLaT (avocado.) I fretted. I calculated the pounds of tomatoes that would pass through my kitchen.
I got started with fifty pounds. Two boxes.
One box was filled with plump, ripe and smallish tomatoes, not heirloom, nothing fancy, except they looked good to me. Time to get tomato vegetable juice, tomato jam, and roasted tomato soup into jars.
Two long days later, here’s my bounty.
12 pints spicy tomato vegetable juice (12#)
8 pints roasted tomato soup (10#)
12 pints tomato sauce + 4 c.* (15#)
2 quarter pints tomato paste (*4 c sauce reduced)
7 quarter pints tomato jam (3#)
2 quarts oven roasted tomatoes in oil (10#) – for the freezer
First, for you newcomers to tomato canning, jump right in. There are many ways to preserve tomatoes with only a boiling water canner. For you experienced canners, isn’t it time you considered a pressure canner? Tomatoes from the sunny months of summer sealed up in a jar – you’ll be so happy! It’s life changing to taste your very own canned tomatoes. Lower in salt. Even no salt. No additives. No BPA.
It’s hot, it’s hard work, it’s really a wonderful kind of miserable, so get your family and friends to help. Chill the beer and wine, crank up the music, put out some snacks, share the work, and divvy up the end products. So, so worth it.
Safety is an issue with tomato products. When a recipe calls for RealLemon Juice, you must use the weird lemon juice that comes in a green bottle. It’s the only way to assure your added acidity is consistent (unless you want to do Ph testing.) Acid levels keep the canned tomatoes safe on the shelf.
Whole tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, juice. and/or tomato sauce (not a sauce w/ additives, but cooked down tomatoes, seeds and skins removed, pureed) tomato jams and chutneys, tomato pickles may all be processed in a boiling water bath.
Any time you add fats (meats, olive oil, chicken stock) or tinker with acidity levels (carrots, celery, peppers, onions) or add garlic, check with known sources like the Ball Blue Book of Preserving or the National Center for Home Food Preservation, but as a rule of thumb, you will need to use a pressure canner. Or freeze.
A pressure canner brings the contents of the jar to temperatures of 241° – which is where botulism dies. A pressure canner also works faster, which is incredibly useful when you have many pounds of tomatoes to process.
This is the pressure canner I use. It’s been my trusty companion for years. Nevertheless, every year, I reread the instruction booklet. It’s not complicated, but I want to make sure I get it right.
Tomato Vegetable Juice. Bloody Mary in a Jar.
This is an excellent tomato juice. It tastes healthy and zippy with heat. If you like V-8, especially the spicy variety, wait until you taste your own homemade. There’s no pesky peeling of tomatoes, just chop them up and get them cooking. Friends have reported, when the jar is opened, a little voice says “I want to be a bloody Mary.”
I’ll let you in on a little secret. I hate bell peppers. So for this, and virtually any recipe that requires peppers, I either leave them out, or I buy sweet Italian peppers. My favorite is Jimmy Nardello, which hovers somewhere over in the sweet chile side – not bell-ish at all.
Spicy Tomato Juice
Makes 12 pints
Process: Boiling Water Bath
7 quarts fresh tomatoes – about 10-12 lbs.
4 small to medium sweet peppers
2 or more jalapenos, seeds optional
4 medium onions
10 stalks of Swiss chard, kale or a big bunch of spinach
2 Tbls. celery seed
Kosher or Sea Salt
Core and rough chop the tomatoes, packing them into a one quart measure. Add to a large non-reactive stock pot. I use an 11 quart stainless steel All Clad. (Found at a discount kitchen store! It’s FABULOUS!)
When you have two quarts of tomatoes in the pot, crush them a little with a potato masher. This little step will keep your juice from separating in the jar.
Continue to chop and add the tomatoes until you have all seven quarts in the pot.
Allow them to cook while you puree/liquify all the other vegetables in the food processor.
Add the pureed vegetables and the celery seed to the tomatoes.
Simmer the juice, covered. After about 15 minutes, taste and correct for spiciness (you will be adding lemon, sugar and salt later, so you’re just checking for heat here.) Continue cooking for 30 more minutes.
Carefully put the vegetables and juice through the smallest disk of a food mill, then return the juice to the pot and bring it back up to a simmer.
To each sterilized pint jar add 1 Tbls lemon juice, 1/2 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp sugar.
Ladle hot juice into the jars.
Seal jars and process 35 minutes in a boiling water canner.
Makes 12 pints
About 15 lbs. ripe Roma tomatoes
Kosher or Sea Salt, if desired
Wash and rough chop the tomatoes. Do not worry about coring or deseeding.
As the tomatoes are chopped, add them to a very large (10 – 12 quart) non-reactive stockpot.
When you have 8 cups of tomatoes in the pan, turn on the heat and smash the tomatoes with a potato masher. Allow them to come to a simmer while you cut up the rest of the tomatoes.
Stir in the tomatoes as you chop them. When they have all been added, bring the mixture up to a boil. Reduce and simmer 30 minutes, covered.
Put the tomatoes through a food mill to remove skins and seeds.
Put the sauce back into the stockpot and reduce until the sauce is the consistency you like best.
About the consistency – I prefer to can a thin sauce, as I frequently add it to soups and stews. If I want a thicker sauce, I just reduce it when I open the jar. This sauce makes a great pizza sauce after significant reduction.
Add 1 Tablespoon of Lemon Juice and 1/2 teaspoon of salt, if desired, into each pint jar.
Ladle the tomato sauce into the jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Process in a boiling water bath for 35 minutes
Spicy Tomato Jam
Makes 7 quarter pints
This recipe is very close to one I saw in the New York Times by Mark Bittman. I’ve tinkered with the sugars and acidity to ensure it was safe for canning. I had never considered jamming with ripe tomatoes – only green, for chutney and pickles. But ripe? Yes! It was a revelation. Totally delicious with scrambled eggs, in a grilled cheese sandwich, alongside a simple grilled or roasted chicken. It makes a beautiful glistening sweet, spicy, unexpected treat. Pack this jam in quarter-pint (small) jars – it’s a perfect hostess gift or picnic fare, with a hunk of fresh goat cheese and a baguette. Add salad, and I call that dinner on these hot summer nights.
3-1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes, not heirloom
1/2 cup sugar
1-1/2 c brown sugar
3/4 c freshly squeezed lime juice
2 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper
2 teaspoons salt
1 serrano or other chile, stemmed, seeded and minced (toast the seeds and add to the mixture for even more heat)
Wash, core and dice the tomatoes.
After you have about half the tomatoes chopped, put them in a non-reactive 5 quart stockpot and crush them a little with a potato masher or wooden spoon. Just get the juices flowing. Turn the heat to medium, add the two sugars, and start to cook the jam.
Add the remaining tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients and bring it to a good rolling boil, stirring often.
Reduce heat and simmer until the texture is thick and silky, about two hours.
Place in small 1/4 pint jars and process in a boiling water bath for 10 minutes
For the safest practices, and best basic processing information, there is no better site than the National Center for Home Food Preservation.