First of all, thank you for all the warm fuzzies regarding my grandfather passing away. Never a fun affair, but he lived his 92 years really well. Once I came back I knew I had to tackle my half crate of tomatoes. They don’t wait for you. Even if you had a funeral to attend.
Once you buy a crate of tomatoes, you are committed.
I didn’t think 50 lbs of tomatoes was that much. I mean, the guy next to me bought 2 crates. I had ho-humed over buying San Marzano tomatoes for $19/big crate but when the Romas came on sale for $10/bushel (53 lbs), I decided I had nothing to lose.
Two weekends ago, I made a bunch of tomato-based dishes. I also slow-roasted them (cored, halved, 250F for an hour or so, drizzled with a touch of olive oil, salt and pepper, then froze them), dehydrated them (cored, halved, dehydrated at 135F for 24 hours, then stored them at room temperature) and may turn some of them into powder, too. My fridge and freezer are becoming quite full so I turned to canning last weekend.
First of all, this may be a do as I say, not as I did kind of recipe. I consulted with two expert tomato canners: my mother and grandmother. Both assured me that canning tomatoes was simple. No need to fuss with a water bath. Just blend tomatoes, simmer, place the hot tomatoes into a hot jar and screw on a hot lid. So that’s what I did. And it was easy, just time consuming due to the sheer amount of tomatoes.
There are countless ways to can tomatoes. This is an ancient art. But, not a time to experiment. People have died from improper canning. Botulism is real.
I originally wanted to make a bunch of tomato-based mother curry sauces (bring on the fabulous Balti sauce!) but my Mom was adamant not to can anything with oil or garlic. If I did, I had to follow a tried-and-true recipe. Low-acid foods require pressure canning. Science is at play. Safety is paramount.
So I kept things super simple.
I didn’t peel my tomatoes. I pureed them in my blender.
I didn’t strain any seeds or skins. I used my Vitamix.
I also didn’t water bath my tomatoes. I should have and will do it next time. Even if it would make this so much more messy and time consuming. My “old world” method is super easy but not considered safe. However, I will use these canned tomatoes since we haven’t encountered a problem yet.
Now for a bit of a breather before I look out for fun cooked tomatoes recipes.
How to Can Pureed Tomatoes
Tomatoes, preferably Roma or even better San Marzano
Glass jars – I used pint-sized Mason jars
Lemon juice (1 tbsp/pint)
Salt is optional
Note: If you are new to canning, read this first.
1. Preferably, when you buy your crate of tomatoes, go through each one to make sure there are none that are going moldy. If possible, lay them out to ripen for a week, but keep your eye on them.
2. Prepare your equipment. Wash your glass bottles and then sterilize them by placing them in a 250F oven. Feel free to slow-roast some tomatoes at the same time. :)
3. In a small saucepan, place new lids inside rings and cover with water. Bring to a boil once you have your first batch of tomatoes simmering.
4. Wash your tomatoes. Core your tomatoes. If using a Vitamix, halve the tomatoes so you don’t need to use the damper. If you are fancy, you can blanch and peel your tomatoes. I would not have the patience to do that for 20 lbs of tomatoes.
5. Place tomatoes in high-speed blender and blend until smooth. Add to large pot and bring to a boil. I kept adding tomatoes until I had around 16 cups simmering. Boil for at least 5-10 minutes.
6. When ready to place in jars, remove hot jars from the oven and place on a cookie sheet, or something to catch anything that spills. Add lemon juice (1 tbsp per pint) and salt (if desired) to the jar.
7. Carefully add the tomatoes to each jar, leaving around 1/2-inch head room (just below where the rings sit). A wide-mouth funnel really helps!. Using a clean cloth, wipe the top of each jar. Remove lid and ring from the boiling water, shake to remove excess water and tighten onto each jar. Allow jars to cool. You will know everything worked when you hear the lids pop and you cannot push down the lid. For a safer method, boil your sealed cans for at least 35 minutes and then let cool.
8. Now repeat ad nauseum. I found I could work with 5 pint containers at a time.
This year, roughly 25 lbs of Roma tomatoes made 18 pints.