Tips for Canning Tomatoes

 Canning Tomatoes

Canning Tomatoes
Canning Tomatoes
If you grow your own tomatoes you should consider canning tomatoes as a way to use up all those extras you can end up with in a good growing season. There is nothing like bringing out a jar of home-canned tomatoes in January or February to make a delicious meal and to perk you up at the same time. Before long it will inspire you to get the garden seed catalogues out and start thinking positively about how winter can’t last forever. In no time, you will be ordering tomato seeds for the upcoming spring.

Canning tomatoes is not very hard or tremendously time-consuming, unless you plan on producing dozens and dozens of jars. Because tomatoes are so acidic, they can be canned in either a boiling water bath or a pressure canner. A pressure canner is always best and a good investment should you do a lot of canning. It will help the flavor and color of your tomatoes, plus you can use it not just for canning tomatoes, but for canning every other vegetable you grow--and even meats.

The first thing to do is pick your tomatoes--vine-ripened are the best. Make sure the fruit you are going to use is ripe but firm and not from any dead, diseased or dying vines. Canning tomatoes is always the same no matter what kind or color you have in your garden. The USDA recommends that you add either lemon juice or citric acid to your jars before the tomatoes. This is to guarantee acidity in case you are using a boiling water bath. In each clean, empty canning jar, add two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice if it is a quart jar or one tablespoon if it is a pint jar. Or, you can add citric acid--one-half teaspoon for a quart jar and one-fourth teaspoon for a pint.

Vinegar (5% acidity) can also be used but it will probably change the flavor of the tomatoes. If you do want to use vinegar, add four tablespoons to a quart jar and two tablespoons to a pint jar. If you add up to one tablespoon of sugar to a quart jar, it will counterbalance any acidic taste. You can also add salt--one teaspoon per quart--this is only to maintain the color and protect the flavor.

There are many ways to go about canning tomatoes. You need to decide if you want them crushed, whole, halved, diced, etc. and you have to figure out whether you want a raw pack or a hot pack.  It takes, on average, 22 pounds of tomatoes to do one load of seven quarts in the canner. You will need at least 14 pounds for the pint jars.

First, wash the tomatoes thoroughly. Then you need to dip each one in a pot of boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds and then immediately dip the tomato in cold water. This will make the skins easy to remove. Also cut off any bruised or dark spots and remove cores. Cut the tomatoes into halves or leave whole and place in the canning jars. You can add water or just press them down so that they are surrounded by their own juices. If you want hot packs, you can boil the tomatoes in hot water for five minutes before adding to jars. Leave a half-inch space at the top of the jars.

Put lids and covers on jars and place in a pressure canner or boiling water bath canner. Follow the instructions that came with the canners or visit your local county extension agent to get a canning pressure and time chart.

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