- "I'm thinking of canning tomatoes"
- "To do what?"
- " Well for sauce and stews this winter. Fun right?"
- "You can't use the same tomatoes for sauce and stews. What kind of tomatoes were you planning to use?"
- "Well, um, I was planning on just finding heirloom ones at the farmers' market"
- "San Marzano tomatoes are the best for sauce, but you can't find them at the market in DC. You can try Roma tomatoes instead I guess. How are you going to do it?"
- "I've been reading books. They say to skin the tomatoes and..."
- "Why would you skin them??? The way my mother does it is....."
And there I stood, in the back kitchen of the restaurant I work in, listening to a Neapolitan explain the correct way to jar tomatoes. Forget cookbooks, forget what I think I read, there was only one way to do it. Or so he thought.
To jar my tomatoes I decided to incorporate the timeless Neapolitan advice with my newly trusted jarring book's recipe and see what happened.
Crushed Tomatoes (makes about 7 pint jars)
7 pounds ripe tomatoes
Citric Acid (1/4 teaspoon per pint jar or 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (optional)
7 fresh basil leaves (optional)
The ingredients in this recipe are why I wanted to jar tomatoes for the winter. When you buy tomatoes in a can or tomato sauce you are never really sure what else they have used to keep the flavor and color. When you make it yourself you know. Tomatoes, lemon juice, salt and basil leaves. Simple.
Ignoring generations of Italian recipes, I decided to peel my tomatoes. I don't want tomato peels in my tomato sauce, mi spiace. Set your kitchen up the same way you did for the peach jam. (2) clean towels, jars boiling away to sanitize them, jar lids in a separate bowl. This time you are adding a small pot of boiling water, a medium bowl with water and ice for a post tomato boil ice bath, and a bowl for the seeds and peels.
* Bring the smaller pot of water to a boil. Gently slide your tomatoes, a small group at a time, into the boiling water for 30 seconds, long enough to loosen the skin. Scoop the tomatoes out with a slotted spoon and immediately place in the ice bath cool them off. Wait a minute and then take them out, remove the skins and seed them. Keep the seeds and skin for later! Repeat this process until all the tomatoes are peeled and seeded and in your preserving pot.
I got a fair amount of tomato juice out of the seeds and skins. (See the measuring cup next to the preserving pot). I strained the whole thing and used it as tomato sauce that night for dinner. No waste!
* Set the pan with the tomatoes over medium high heat and bring to a boil for 5 minutes.
* Ladles the boiling water from the canning pot onto the lids, just like the peach jam, to sanitize them. Remove the jars from the boiling water and place on a clean towel. Put the salt and lemon juice into each jar. Carefully ladle the hot tomatoes, one by one, into your jars. Fill the remaining space in the jars with the juices from the pot, up to 1/2 inch from the rim. Add a basil leaf or two into each jar. Stick a chopstick into the jars to release any air bubbles that might have been caught along the sides. Wipe away any tomato that could have gotten on the rims and place the lids on the jars and tighten the rings.
* Return the jars to the boiling water and boil for 35 minutes to process. This is a lot longer than the jam.
* Remove the jars from the water and place on a towel to rest for 12 hours. Just like the jam, your jars should start to pop, telling you the seal has worked. The recipe said I would get 7 pint jars out of this. I got 4. It was hard to know exactly how many tomatoes I needed. This actually happened for each recipe I tried. Both jams made less than expected. I still have more jam than I know what to do with so it's fine with me.
This was definitely the easiest of all the recipes. Peel, cook, jar, process, let cool. I'll have to do this again next summer.
Up next: Pickling! Dilly beans and jalapeno slices.