Thursday, August 11, 2011

you say "tomato"


Needless to say, I had not tried canning tomatoes before.  I was good, sat down and read what I could find in several of the canning books, located what seemed like a pattern for how to cold pack the goods, and set out to accomplish the canning of about 20lbs of tomatoes.

I decided to go with raw packed whole tomatoes because that would leave me the most options to use them later.  And it looked pathetically simple to make.  Cut the x on the bottom of the tomato and blanch for 1 minute (2 or more at my altitude) before pulling and plunging the tomatoes into an ice water bath.  I quickly had a rhythm of cut, boil, plunge and peel and soon there were enough tomatoes for a jar.  The directions had mentioned pushing the small, whole tomatoes into the jar with your hand but I had located only regular-mouthed jars (the wide-mouthed jars purchased for this specific reason were MIA in the basement) which were too small for my hands, so I pushed them down with a spoon until I had covered them in their own liquid.  (Note possible fail point here.)

"Leave a generous 1/2 inch head space."  (Potential fail point two?)

"Water bath processing for 85 minutes" plus my high- altitude requirement of an additional 15 minutes.  I am just going to blame the whole debacle on altitude and call it done.  (Three strikes?)

And, in the small section I failed to see when I was doing my pre-canning prep:  "Turn off the heat and leave the jars in the canner for 5 minutes to prevent siphoning." 

Siphoning - This bit of evil is when liquid boils out of your jars while processing.  Possible causes are fruit packed too tightly, too little head space, and rapid pressure change.  OH yes, that 5 minutes I was supposed to leave the jars in the canner post-boil!  To be honest, I suspect the damage was already done.  The smell of stewed tomatoes was a bit strong when I pulled the lid off the canner.  But when I lifted out a quart jar of tomatoes out, there was an immediate and ominous hissing sound as tomato juice spurted out around the ring and into the hot water.

Poor, sad, liquid-reduced canned tomatoes
Normally, this would be end game for the tomatoes and I'd have had to remove them from the cans, place them in freezer bags and use them before they were irretrievably lost in the depths of my ice box in white fur coats.  The liquid passing from the jar would compromise the integrity of the seal by depositing food between the seal and the jar.  But wouldn't you know it, those little buggers began to ping pop the canning song within minutes and, in the end, all of them sealed.  That's not to say it was a pretty effort - the tomatoes at the top will likely discolor - but at least my learning experience can still be productive!  I'll use the ugly ones first and pretend it never happened.  A few of them even sealed properly!

better packing on this jar?
I still had tomatoes leftover, that's always the way, isn't it?  So I quartered, oiled, salt and peppered, and tucked a handful of basil from my garden under the mix and roasted them until they started to blacken.  Yup, I really want them that way.  It makes them sweeter, caramelizing the natural sugars.  A quick trip through the mouli - I still don't like doing that so it wasn't just my teenage self - and I had an amazing marinara sauce.  Or pizza sauce.  Or something to ladle over baked chicken.  Wow.  This will have to be repeated and frozen!


  1. Epic canning adventure! They look beautiful!

  2. I love what you did.
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