Sunday, August 12, 2012

Tomatoes Are In!

The tomatoes are finally coming in!  All the hot weather we've had this summer has been great for them; all my plants are absolutely loaded.  I've watched those green tomatoes for weeks now, and they are finally beginning to turn red.

Early last week, it was the few early ones here and there that made for great snacking and the wonderful red ripe tomato taste in a breakfast omelet.  Then, after two solid days of rain (much needed rain, I think about 3 inches!), the girls and I ventured into the garden yesterday to see what we would see.  I was afraid that all that sudden precipitation would have made my nearly ripe melons split, and also a lot of my almost ripe tomatoes.  We did find a few that had split, both melons and 'maters, but most were still intact.  We got to harvesting the red tomatoes, and ended up with enough canning type tomatoes to fill eleven pint jars this afternoon.  We also picked dozens of the paste type tomatoes which I will make into sauce Monday or Tuesday.

Like most things I do, canning tomatoes isn't difficult.  As I've said before about numerous other tasks, it's not hard, just time consuming.

I do it the easy way, by doing raw pack, which saves some time not having to heat the tomatoes before putting them in the canning jars.

First, I sort out my ripe from not-quite ripe tomatoes (sometimes while picking the ripe ones, adjacent ones get knocked off.  That's okay. Bring them in the house; they'll ripe on the counter or a windowsill just fine.).

Fill the canner with water, and set that on to heat.  Also fill the blancher with water and set that on to heat.  Also get the clean jars and rings ready to warm up.  Don't forget to put your lids on to heat too.

Then I wash the tomatoes in the sink.

Once the water in the blancher is at a boil, then I put the tomatoes in it, a few at a time, and heat them for about a minute.

(the green shoulders on these tomatoes is sun scald, the tomatoes really are ripe)

The skins on the tomatoes should crack (although I find that not always does this work on the hybrids, but almost always on the heirlooms).  Even if they don't, I still take them out after a minute because otherwise the flesh of the tomato begins to cook and gets too mushy.

Cherokee Purple tomato showing crack in skin.

Immediately put the tomatoes from the blancher into ice water to stop them from cooking.

Once I've sent all the tomatoes through the blancher, I fill the now empty side of the sink with hot water and put the jars and rings in to heat up while I peel, core and slice the tomatoes.

 Hybrid tomato (Early girl?  I think)

 Heirloom tomato (Cherokee Purple)

I like to sorta dice my tomatoes when I can them.  Quartered is too big of chunks for most things I use canned tomatoes in, but if I dice them too small, they end up more like stewed tomatoes, of which I am not fond.

When I have several tomatoes peeled, cored, and cut, I start packing the first jar.  Each pint gets 1/2 teaspoon canning salt.

And 1 tablespoon lemon juice

then I pack it up to 1/2 inch of the rim with tomatoes.  You can top off to 1/2 inch head space with hot water if you want/need, but I find that the juice from my tomato pieces usually does the trick of filling the jar.

When the jar is filled and has 1/2 inch head space left, remember to release any trapped air bubbles with a knife, small spatula, or a tool made for this purpose.

Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean damp cloth to remove any seeds, pulp, or juice that might interfere with the lid's ability to seal.

Then all you have to do is put on the lid, tighten down the ring, and put your jar(s) into a boiling water bath canner and process for 40 minutes.

Once the time is up, remove the jars from the canner and place on a clean dry towel on your counter or other work surface to cool for at least 12 hours.

Jars out of the canner to cool. 
 Sometimes they boil over a little when I first take them out, but this never seems to interfere with the lids getting a good seal.

Sunday's canning bounty: 3 quarts of dill pickles and 11 pints of tomatoes.

Now, some of you savvy people who have recently gotten into canning or who have read the latest guidelines on canning might notice I water bath my tomatoes instead of pressure canning them as is currently recommended.  I've been doing tomatoes this way for a long time, about a decade and a half, and I add lemon juice and use (mostly) heirloom varieties, so I'm not worried about the tomatoes not being acidic enough to process safely in just the water bath canner.  You, of course, may pressure can your tomatoes if you so choose.  I'm going to keep doing mine this way.

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