Recipe: Canning Tomatoes
When life gives you lemons tomatoes, make sauce!
I can’t speak for all, but the worst part of winter for me is the lack of fresh tomatoes. At the end of every season it pains me to watch my tomato plants in my garden start to wilt, turn brown and stop producing their beautiful bounty. It’s obviously a process that must take place, but it’s very difficult to not be selfish and wish I could have a juicy garden tomato with fresh greens and herbs in January. The best way I can cherish these flavors well into the winter is to capture them while fresh and ripe and smush them into a jar and seal them up to rest on a shelf (if my memory serves correctly, I think I tried this with frogs as a child because I loved them so much and wanted them as my pets. I’ll save you from the details of what ended up happening to those frogs). This season I planted 45 tomato plants with that exact notion in mind!
I like to preserve my tomatoes in many different ways, giving me options to play with throughout the winter. I treat each processing as one might with making a cider, I consider each piece of fruit by its size, color, flavor, skin structure, level of water or firmness. From there, I just get creative.
I like to take my Super Sweet 100’s and char them with the skin on over a hot flame with fresh garlic and chili and place the charred mixture into a jar and top with hot extra virgin olive oil. The smaller heirlooms with the firm skins and darker color, such as Violet Jaspers, or Black Maari’s, I simply stuff into jars and top with lots of basil and salt and also cover with hot extra virgin olive oil. I make a tomato jam with the firm greener ones that are peeled and reduced with chestnut honey. I started making traditional ketchup with my Dafel tomatoes, and even got a little more creative with my Yellow Currant tomatoes and decided to cover them in a sugar syrup with parsley and chili. The possibilities with preserving your tomatoes are honestly endless, but sometimes a true and simple sauce is just all you’ll need to get you through until spring.
(depending on the tomato variety and size, about 5lbs of tomatoes will fill a 32oz Ball jar)
5 Lb fresh, wonderfully ripe tomatoes
3 garlic cloves
1 C Extra Virgin olive oil
2 T sea salt
Optional herbs of choice: basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, cilantro, whatever your heart desires… or doesn’t.
2 16oz Ball jars OR 1 32oz Ball jar
When cutting the tomatoes in preparation for the sauce, be warned, they will juice all over the counter and soak your shirt, etc. In an effort to avoid this mess, I like to set up a cutting board across my sink so the juices run off into the sink. If you’re a real stickler, you can set a pot under the board to collect the juices to add to the sauce.
Cut your tomatoes into quarters, stem side up and add them to a pot large enough to hold them all. Cut the garlic into 6 pieces, lengthwise and add to the pot with the tomatoes.
Place the pot over a medium flame and add the salt and olive oil and allow to slowly boil and juice.
During this time, wash your jar(s) and rubber lid very well with hot soapy water and rinse well. Have another pot that is large enough to hold the jar(s) with additional space to cover the jars with 2 inches of water and fill with water and bring to a rolling boil. Place the jar(s) in the boiling water and boil for 3 minutes, then drop the rubber lid into the water and boil for 3 minutes. Remove the jar(s) and rubber lid and place on a towel to dry completely, but not cool.
Once the tomatoes are covered in their own juices and are nice and hot, taste the sauce and adjust any seasoning. Add your chopped herbs and stir briskly. I personally do not like to cook down my tomatoes very much, I simple just allow their juices to cover them and bring them to a boil and that’s it. When I open them in the winter, I then have the choice of cooking them down more, or using them in their water just as they are.
Add the tomatoes into the hot jars, leaving about ½ inch of space from the top of the jar. Clean the rim of the jar well and make sure it’s very dry. Place the rubber lid on the top and screw closed with the ring band. Don’t twist super hard or you will get a false seal, just twist with the same amount of effort you do with your jelly jar in the fridge.
If you have a rack for the bottom of your pot, place that in the pot, or use a kitchen towel, and place the hot jars into the boiling water. For 2 16oz jars, boil for 7 minutes, for 1 32oz jar, boil for 12.
Remove the jars from the boiling water and place on a towel, top side up, and allow to cool completely until you hear the seal “POP”. If you aren’t around to hear the “POP”, when the jar has completely cooled and the cap has sucked down and when pressed with your finger in the center, it doesn’t make a sound, simply turn the jar upside down and shake hard once, if the cap stays depressed, then VOILA, you have a successfully sealed jar that will last you through the winter. In the unlikely event the jar(s) do not seal, then you really only have 2 options here… crank up your A/C, put on some wool socks and a sweater and make a tomato pasta and pretend it’s winter, or repeat the process, but use a new lid.
What’s your favorite way to preserve summer’s tomatoes?
Photo Credit: Jori Jayne Emde
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