Effective food storage and a well-stocked pantry are important secrets for success as a Primal Cook. In the last few years I have learned how to do some canning. I used to help my mom as a kid, but did not know all the particulars. Peaches and apples are my favorite to can, not just because of the end result, but because I can spend some good quality time with my mom doing some “old-fashioned” work! I remember helping my mom can tomatoes, but didn’t remember how. So, since Aunt Donna was ready to can tomatoes the other day and needed help, I jumped at the chance (just as she would do!).
My Aunt Donna is the very best! She loves all things vintage as I do, and so I feel we are kindred spirits. She is that person in your life who will do anything for anyone and has the biggest heart of anyone that I know. So not to get all sappy, but I am very thankful for her and to be able to learn so much from her.
So, to get started with the canning of tomatoes:
- First you need, surprise surpise, lots of tomatoes! Make sure to get some that are ripe as the skins will come off a lot easier if they are ripe. Clean the tomatoes so they are free of dirt.
- A large canner. Sizes vary on this. For ours, we could fit 11 pint size jars.
- Jars (make sure they are clean and free of cracks, etc anywhere, especially around the mouth of the jar. Do not use the jars with defects as they may not seal properly). I prefer the pint size wide-mouth jars. They are easier to get your hand in when putting in the tomatoes. If using regular mouth jars, try to recruit a child for stuffing the tomatoes into the jar (yes, I’m serious! Plus, why not start early teaching them a great family tradition?).
- Lids and rings to fit the jars you use. Ball makes a good brand.
- A small saucepan, one large saucepan, and two large bowls.
- A non-metallic untensil to release trapped bubbles (ie do not use a knife).
- A knife, a large spoon or ladle, and a 1/2 teaspoon measuring spoon.
- Jar lifter tongs and regular tongs.
Fill canner about half full with hot water and put on stove at med-high heat. Put lids with rings into small saucepan filled with water and bring to boil and then let simmer on stove. Boil water in a large saucepan and remove and pour into another bowl sitting in sink. Put the large saucepan back on stove, don’t dump out the water as you will need it again.
The bowl in the sink with the boiling water is used to get the tomatoes really hot so that the skins will come off easily. Drop a few tomatoes in the hot water for about 10 seconds, maybe not even that long depending on how hot the water is, and then remove tomatoes with the large spoon or ladle and put them into another bowl of cooler water (this stops the tomato from cooking).
Grab a tomato from the bowl. Using a knife, start peeling the skin off of the tomato. It should come off fairly easily. Then cut the tomato in half, cut out the core and cut in quarters. Drop the quarters into jar with the outside of the tomato facing out. Repeat with another tomato. Press tomatoes down a bit as you go. When you are about 1/2 inch from the top, throw in 1/2 teaspoon of salt and then fill with water if needed until juice is about 1/2 inch from top. Use your non-metallic utensil to poke down the sides of the jar, releasing any bubbles.
Using a clean rag, wipe the edges of the mouth of the jar on the sides and the top. Using the regular tongs, grab a lid and ring from the saucepan and place on the top of the jar and seal it down. Set aside until you have filled as many jars to go into the canner. Place all jars in canner (usually the canner comes with a metal rack at the bottom of the canner, make sure you have something like this as you don’t want the bottom of the jar sitting directly onto the bottom of the canner). Fill with warm water until water covers the jars by an inch.
Put lid onto canner and boil for about 35 minutes. Don’t let it boil really hard, just more of a “rolling” boil. You will have to keep your eye on it. Once it is done, remove each jar with jar lifter tongs and set on an old towel. Once they are all on the towel, cover with another old towel to keep them warm. You will hear “pops” of the lids sealing as they cool. Once they are completely cool, check each lid to make sure they have sealed by pressing down on the top. If you are able to depress the top, it did not seal. Use those tomatoes right away. These are great to use in sauces.
Another thing I love about going to Aunt Donna’s, she always has a nice garden full of plenty of veggies and lots of flowers so I never go home empty-handed! Thanks Aunt DJ!!