Tuesday, August 19, 2014

canning tomatoes on a budget

When I was a little girl, Aunt Dottie made the most amazing spaghetti sauce. She would cook it all day long and made these tremendous meatballs to go with them. Probably my all time favorite food - spaghetti and meatballs. She would break out the canned tomatoes for her famous sauce.

I started my garden from seed and gave all by 4 of the tomato plants away. Unfortunately, I didn't label my tomatoes properly and I ended up with 3 grape tomato plants and 1 beef steak. Doh! All 4 of them have produce bountiful fruit and now I'm faced with what to do with all of them. Truthfully I've never canned before this year, so my adventure with canning begins. I did my due diligence though and studied different articles and here's what I did.

After sending my husband to the local store to buy canning jars. I started with a nice abundance of tomatoes, a combination of large beef steak and grapes.

So I got busy and brought out 2 pots. I filled the small one up and set it to boiling. All these tomatoes need to have the skins removed and dunking them into boiling water will do the trick.

About one minute will do the trick. I sliced the bottom of the grape tomatoes so I could see the cut grow larger to tell when they are done. The larger ones I took the core out. Make sure you cut out any imperfections too.

Here's what they look like when they are done. I read you're suppose to dunk them into cold water, but I didn't mainly because it only takes a few seconds before they are done. Dunking them in cold stops the cooking.

Then get down to the business of skinning them. The skins all came off real easy. It was a little tedious to do so many grapes. Obviously bigger ones are much better. Once the skins are off, I dropped them in the pot and brought it to a boil for about 20 minutes. After they boil, you can put them in the food processor depending on how you want pulp you want.

If you don't heat them before pureeing them, the tomato and the water in them will begin to separate. The end product is still good, but heating them first will solve that.

Add 1 tsp of salt per quart. You can figure that out by using the size of your pot to determine how many quarts you will get. I estimated 3 quarts, so I put in 3 tsp of salt. The salt will act as the preservative.

While I was waiting for the pot to boil, I heated the oven to 215 degrees and put the jars in them. Make sure they get a good 20-30 mins to heat properly. There are these tongs made especially for jars, but I just used a clean dish towel to get them out.

Ugh! Don't look at my stove!

Optional - After the tomatoes boiled for about 20 mins. I poured them into a strainer to take out the seeds. You may choose to skip this phase, but since the tomatoes were smaller and I had so many - I had a lot of seeds. Squeeze it through! I put the left over pulp in my compost bin. If the tomatoes start to cool down, put them back on the stove to boil some more.

In the small pan, put some clean water in and get it to almost boiling. Once it is nice and hot, drop your lids in to kill any bacteria.

This process works when all things are hot (tomatoes, jars, and lids). Take your jars out, fill them with your sauce all the way to the top. You can use a fancy funnel or I just used my ladle. Leave only about 1/2 inch. Clean the lid area and put the lids on and wait to hear the "pop" of the vacuum seal. Once everything has cooled (and it takes awhile) - to test them, take the outer lid off and turn them upside down. The lower lid should stay in place. I, of course, do this over the sink....just in case.

Aren't they purdy?? I have made jar ole tomatoes!

I found this video to be very helpful in my quest for knowledge of canning tomatoes.

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