how to can 20 pounds of tomatoes

As I’ve mentioned before, we have an awesome CSA through Eatwell Farm. Every week we get a little newsletter with our box of produce describing the types of fruits and veggies and the goings-on around the farm. Last week’s newsletter had an end of the season offer for tomatoes … 20 pounds of tomatoes for $20. $20! As in $1 per pound for amazing, organic, vine-ripened tomatoes. HEAVEN!

If you know me, you know that I have absolutely no power to resist such an amazing offer despite the fact that 20 lbs is a lot of anything. I immediately called Eatwell, purchased my tomatoes and scheduled a pick up at the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market that Saturday. My friend Amanda agreed to go with me to the market and thank goodness I had her help … 20 lbs is heavy! My arms felt like jello after carrying those suckers and I absolutely counted it as exercise.

Upon inspection, I decided to can half of the tomatoes whole and make the other half into tomato sauce. I’ve never really canned anything before (aside from jam under the close observation of my Nonnie), but fortunately Ball- maker of all things canning- has a great website with helpful tips and recipes. I followed their waterbath canning instructions for cold-packed whole tomatoes and basic tomato sauce.

For the whole canned tomatoes
10 lbs tomatoes, skins removed and cored
lemon juice (2 T per quart jar)
coarse salt (1 t per quart jar)
sugar (1 t per quart jar)

To remove the tomato skins: In a large stockpot, bring water to a boil. Make a small x-shaped cut in the bottom of each tomato. Put the tomatoes into the boiling water for 1 – 2 minutes then plunge them into a ice water bath. The skins should easily peel off the tomato. After you’ve removed the skin, remove the core of the tomato.

Wash the jars in the dishwasher or boil the jars. In a saucepan, boil the jar lids and rings for 10 minutes.

In each 1-quart jar, put 2 T lemon juice, 1 t salt and 1 t sugar. Fill each jar within 1/2 inch of the rim with the peeled, cored tomatoes. Press down on the tomatoes to remove air bubbles. Wipe the rim, center hot lid on the jar and seal with the ring.

In a stock pot of boiling water, boil the sealed jars for 85 minutes.  The jars should have at least 1 inch of water covering their tops. After 85 minutes, remove the jars and place on the counter to cool overnight taking care to leave several inches between each jar for air to circulate. Once the jars have cooled, the lid should not move up and down. That is how you know you’ve achieved a good seal.

For the canned tomato sauce
10 lbs tomatoes, peeled and cores removed
3 onions, diced
1 bulb garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
2 T red wine vinegar
salt, pepper, chili flake

The tomatoes were so flavorful on their own that I decided to make the most simple sauce. We’ve enjoyed it twice since the canning and it is wonderful! I am so happy to have preserved that summer flavor for us to enjoy all fall and winter long.

Remove the skins and cores of the tomatoes. In a large stockpot or dutch oven, saute the onions over medium heat until translucent. Add the garlic and saute for 2 more minutes. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar, and a pinch of chili flake. Simmer for 20 – 3o minutes uncovered to evaporate some of the water. Add a pinch of salt and some pepper. Puree the sauce in a blender or using an immersion blender. Taste for salt and add more seasoning as necessary.

Prep the jars and lids as directed above. Fill each jar within 1/2 inch of the rim. Center the lid on the jar and twist on the ring.

In a pot of boiling water, boil the jars covered in 1 inch of water for 35 minutes. Remove from the water and let cool overnight. The lid should not move up and down once cooled.

I am very satisfied with my first canning adventure! It was fairly easy, although a bit time consuming. I’m considering buying one of those super large canning stock pots for the next time, since I could only fit three 1-quart jars at a time in my regular stock pot. That made for a lot of rounds of boiling and, at 85 minutes a pop,  that is no small chunk of time. Still, a day investment is nothing compared to the pleasure of enjoying summer tomatoes in the dead of winter!

-Emily