Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Preserving: Canning tomatoes and tomato sauce

Alas, more preserving. This is a good thing for our vegetable-starved mouths in February, but a tiring thing in mid-August at the height of tomato harvesting.

Processed Bellstar and Yellow shorts.
We have tomatoes coming out of our ears. Every couple of days we have about 30 pounds of "canning" tomatoes. We planted Bellstar paste/roma tomatoes - not so flavorful tomatoes that are firm and less watery than most, so good for making sauce and canning. We also have a lot of Yellow short tomatoes - not-so-firm, but sweet and flavorful, so we hope pair nicely in the jar with some Bellstars.

We process 7 quarts of canned tomatoes at a time, which pretty much requires 20-30 pounds of tomatoes, depending on size and water-content. I peel the skins off of the tomatoes (after dropping them in boiling water for about 30 seconds), cut out the stem and any bad spots, and then stuff them into sterilized jars. It's important to mash the tomatoes down with a clean wooden or plastic utensil to remove the air pockets. I pour in a bit of lemon juice once the jar is full (to add more acid which helps canned vegetables preserve longer) and then process the jars for 45 minutes in a boiling water bath. We have about 30 quarts of tomatoes right now... more than we use in a typical year, but this will not be a typical year, so we'll see.

We have also been making heirloom tomato sauce and then processing the jars in the same manner. After cooking down carrots, onions and celery from the garden to release their sweetness, we add some red wine and oregano, then garlic, salt and pounds and pounds of roughly chopped heirloom tomatoes. The sauce simmers for about 3-4 hours and then we blend it with an immersion blender and process it. So there's more work up front, but there will be less work once we open the jar this winter.

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