Every year, I can tomatoes for the winter. Some of my favorite summer memories are of my family canning tomatoes, green beans, and other fruits and vegetables. For a time, the house is full of tomatoes and infused with the delicious smell of cooking tomatoes, and then the time is over until next year. Buy some extra produce from the Farmers Market and you can bypass the canned-goods aisle next winter.
I use a pressure canner, like the Presto 1781 23-Quart Aluminum Pressure Cooker/Canner, to can mine. Many people use a water bath canner, such as the Columbian Home 0707-1 Granite Ware 21-1/2-Quart Steel/Porcelain Water-Bath Canner with Rack which I tried, but you have to add lemon juice or citric acid to make sure the tomatoes remain acidic enough to prevent botulism and I did not like the taste. If you do much food preservation, you'll soon want a pressure canner, which will enable you to preserve, safely, many different fruits, vegetables, and meats. The initial cost of the pressure canner is higher than that of the water bath canner, but the expense and peace of mind of knowing your food is safe is worth it. For folks who make chili and freeze it, for example, you could pressure can it instead and safely store it even when the power goes out. My mother has been using hers for at least 40 years, so it's not something you should have to buy again as long as you take care of it.
My mother steams the tomatoes enough to split the skins, peels them, cuts them up, heats the tomatoes, and cans them. I did this, but wanted to have less juice in my sauce. I read about it and learned that if you cook the tomatoes thoroughly before you cut them, it prevents a chemical reaction that releases the juice. I also didn't like having to handle the hot tomatoes to remove their skins.
To prevent the chemical reaction, I start with washed, whole tomatoes. I do cut off any really gross places, and I wash them. I put a splash of water in the bottom of the pot to prevent scorching.
|Fresh, whole tomatoes in the pot|
After the tomatoes are thoroughly cooked, I cool them some, and I put them through the food mill; I use the Roma Food Strainer and Sauce Maker for Fresh Fruits and Vegetables. The tomatoes and juice come down the white slide into the pot, and some of the seeds and the skin goes out the clear tube to the left into the compost bowl. And, I don't have to peel any tomatoes or burn my fingers on any that are still hot!
|Tomato pulp and juice comes out into a pot for further cooking|
Everything must be boiling hot when you assemble the jars. This setup works for me; the electric frying pan gives me some extra space on the stove. In it I put the jars, rims, and flats, in about an inch of water. I put a dishcloth on the bottom of the pan to keep the jars from bumping against the metal and breaking. You will need a Norpro 600 Jar Lifter to put the jars into the boiling water, a Norpro Stainless Steel Wide-Mouth Funnel, and a magnetic stick is useful to get the lids out of the boiling water without burning your fingers.
|Filling the jars with sauce, making sure to leave about an inch of empty space at the top|
|Filled jars ready to go in the pressure cooker|
|Pressure cooker doing its thing|
I will not attempt to give you specific directions about canning on this blog post, but you can get the book Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving to get you started. The book contains directions for water bath canning. My pressure cooker came with a book of recipes and directions.