The garden is producing like crazy so it’s time to can tomatoes. There are lots and lots of tomatoes. If you visit the Queen D Ranch Gardening website you will see that we have ten varieties of tomatoes: Rutgers, Principe Borghese, Pantano Romaneso, Cuor di Bue, Delicous and several others. The Cuor di Bue are absolutely wonderful. Very little core, much meat and small juice cells, and a taste that is very impressive.
Tomatoes are very easy to can. Everything must be as clean as possible. Pay special attention to the rim of the jar. It must be completely smooth so that the lid will seal perfectly.
You can add seasonings to the tomatoes or not. I prefer to add dried herbs and spices. I add dried onion, a little kosher salt, a tiny pinch of black pepper, oregano or basil (never both) and if I have it, dried celery. Put those into the bottom of the jar.
A quart sauce pan with about 2 inches of water in it is a good size to use to blanch the tomatoes when only one person is canning. Get the water boiling then add tomatoes. For tomatoes that are 2 inches in diameter or larger, blanch for three minutes. For smaller tomatoes, blanch for two minutes. Start timing when the tomatoes go into the water.
When the timer dings, dip the tomatoes out into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking. Just slip the skins off. If you want to cut the tomatoes up, do it now, or just stuff the whole tomato into a jar. Leave one half inch of head room (that’s a little space to allow for expansion of the liquid when it gets hot).
When the jar is full, use a table knife to run down the inside of the jar. This will release any air pockets that have accumulated in the jar. Add a little liquid or tomato to the jar to adjust the head space.
Wipe the rim of the jar carefully with a dry, lintless cloth. Then put the jar lid on. Put the ring on but don’t tighten it down. Leave it fairly loose.
Put the jars that are ready into a canner with enough water in it to bring the water level to half the height of the jars when the jars are in the kettle. If you don’t have a bona fide canning kettle, use a large pot and put a dish towel on the bottom. When the water starts to boil, it will jostle the jars pretty well. The cloth will help to keep the jars from breaking.
Put a towel on a counter where the jars can sit for at least three or four hours undisturbed.
One word of caution. Handle the jars coming out of the canner very carefully and gently. Not only are you dealing with scalding water, but the glass is really fragile when it is over 200 degrees F. Many years ago, I accidentally tapped one hot jar against another and the jar I was holding exploded. Fortunately it was still mostly in the canner, but it could have been really bad. Just be careful with the hot jars.
Put the jars in the canner in tepid water. Turn on the heat and get the water up to a rolling boil. Turn the temp down just a little. Start your timer and process the jars for 15 – 20 minutes. The jars are ready to take out of the canner when you can see that the contents of the jar is boiling. Little bubbles will be coming up from the bottom of the jar.
Lift the jars one by one out of the canner and place on the towel on the counter. After all the jars are out, tighten down the jar rings as tightly as you can. Be sure, of course to use pot holders or dish towels to protect your hands. These jars are over 200 degrees F and will burn you in a heartbeat.
Store the jars in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks to let all the flavors in the herbs, spices and tomato blend together.
These make wonderful and well received gifts for holidays and family get-togethers.