Tomato Canning 101
'Why' a family should think about canning tomatoes…
We still call it canning – even if we mostly use bottles - but late summer and fall is when a lot of canning takes place. A GREAT way to control the quality of food your family eats! If one of your goals is to reduce the amount of processed food you eat then spending some time learning about canning is perfect!
You do NOT have to be worlds best cook to take advantage of canning. Most of us grow too many tomato plants because, lets face it, tomatoes are so gosh darn fun to grow and we all have a ‘few’ too many tomatoes. So learning how to make a simple tomato sauce that is base for so many simple meals (think pastas, soups and casseroles) is a great first step. You may can tomatoes as ‘whole’ or as a ‘sauce’ depending on your culinary desires. It is easy to do. Canning does take a lot of boiling of water and a few pots and pans but that is part of the fun of canning!
First, the science. If you put a tomato in a jar and close the top of the jar – the tomato will go ‘off’ as the bacteria in the air, on the tomato and in the jar will quickly reduce the tomato to an icky and poisonous mush. Good news is you can kill all that bacteria by boiling the jar. So all that is involved with ‘canning’ is learning how to boil the glass jars in a manner that will kill all the bacteria while keeping the jars properly sealed.
Second, you do not need many supplies to can. With highly acidic foods like tomatoes, pickles, jam and fruits you ‘can’ using boiling water. But you will need a few big pots to boil water, as well as a few smaller pots to heat lids and prepare the tomatoes. Not quite to the mad scientist level of complex – but you will need to use your stove, have a way to measure water temperature and ideally have a rack that you can put in the bottom of a large pot to keep the jars off the pot bottom. Canning also gives you a great reason to buy those very cool ‘Ball’ glass jars. Ice tea always tastes better served in a glass jar!
Must have tools:
Small, round rack (to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot)
Small pot (for blanching the tomatoes)
Small saucepan for simmering lids
Kettle for boiling water
Clean quart or pint jars, new lids and rings
Salt for taste
A tablespoon measure
Thermometer and timer
Tongs to handle hot jars and lids
Not required but ‘nice’ to have is a set of canning utensils that includes special tongs to grab jars out of boiling water.
We also recommend that you carefully follow the recipe, as in canning, you are not only handling food but also boiling clean jars and lids and processing the fruit through a boiling water process. Care must be taken when handling hot jars, water and metal lids.
Here are website links that offer good ‘starter’ recipes. We like the Fresh Preserving website from the Ball jar folks, and we love Roma tomatoes in cooking so the following site boasts a simple way to handle tomato paste at simplebites.net.
Simple step-by-step canning recipe using Roma tomatoes:
From the folks at the Ball jar company:
So enjoy this fall season as it is a great time to get busy in the kitchen with canning!