Tomato season is coming to its end. In my garden a few orange-ish red tomatoes hang from their scraggly vines, but at the farmer’s market it is another story. On Sunday nearly every stall had crates of tomatoes priced to sell at $2.00 a pound.
I know that it’s a different situation out on the East Coast, where blight swept up the seaboard, leaving hardly any tomato plants in its wake. But here in Seattle, a record hot summer and a dry, warm fall resulted in bumper crops of tomatoes just waiting to be canned.
So, I called up the Shannon and Jason of The Lazy Locavores for some tomato canning hints. These guys know tomatoes. They have 60 plants growing in pots on the patio of their townhouse and have roughly 150 more plants in 5 different sites around Seattle. They can at least 80 quarts of tomatoes every year (plus “lots and lots of salsa”), share food with their gardening clients, and donate produce to the food bank.
I was lucky enough to attend a tomato canning class taught by Shannon and Jason at the home of Canning Across America’s founder Kim O’Donnel in August. The class was so much fun—everyone pitched in to skin, core, and crush (i.e. smoosh tomatoes with your hands!) tomatoes. We canned whole tomatoes, crushed tomatoes and made salsa. It was such a good time. And so easy! Seriously, anyone can do this.
Since I don’t have a memory for details, Shannon kindly sent me their list of top 5 tomato canning tips and agreed to share their directions for canning crushed tomatoes. For detailed instructions on canning whole and halved tomatoes and tomato sauce, or to schedule a canning class of your own, please check out The Lazy Locavore website and tell them I sent you!
Top 5 Tomato Canning Hints
1. Can crushed or chopped tomatoes instead of whole ones. Whole tomatoes look pretty in the jar but you can pack almost twice as much if you “mush” them up a bit. Remember, if you are going to cook them in sauces or stews, they are going to end up that way anyway.
2. Put up quarts of tomatoes. It’s very rare to see a recipe that calls for a pint of tomatoes.
3. Forget about canning spaghetti sauce. Instead of making 5 quarts of spaghetti sauce, why not have 5 quarts of tomato sauce that you can use for spaghetti or chili or any other dish. Add the herbs, spices, and salt later.
4. Put up a few more jars than you think you need. You don’t want to run out early if something happens to the seal on one or two jars.
5. Use a crock pot or slow cooker to start batches of sauce. Just toss the tomatoes into a slow cooker, turn it on, and go away. Come back hours later and you are almost ready to process the sauce. If you like your sauce smooth, run the pulpy goodness through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds, or take the lazy way out and use a hand blender to pulverize the entire batch.
Crushed or Chopped Tomatoes
Bottled Lemon Juice
Salt – Optional
Jars, rings, and lids
Water Bath Canner and assorted saucepans/bowls
Tomatoes* – Approximate Yields:
21 pounds crushed for canner load of 6 quarts.
13 pounds crushed for canner load of 8 pints.
* You can use whatever type of tomato you like here. Look for large round tomatoes with deep color and firm flesh. We prefer to use Roma style (paste) tomatoes for making chopped tomatoes because the thick flesh remains tight after processing.
1. Prepare Jars and Lids
Place the jar lids in a small sauce pan filled with water. Bring to a light boil then turn down to low heat for about 10 minutes before using. The idea is to keep them hot, not cook them. Leave in hot water and remove as needed. For preparing jars, wash them in hot soapy water and rinse well, or if you are lazy like the Locavores run through a hot cycle in your dishwasher. Place jars in a rack in your water bath canner, and boil gently for 10 minutes. Leave in hot water and emove a few jars at a time as you need them.
2. Skin Tomatoes
To remove skins, wash tomatoes and dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until the skins begin to split. Then dip in cold water, slips off the skins, core ,and remove any blemished or discolored parts.
3. Heat and Pack Tomatoes
Chop tomatoes into bite sized pieces or crush them with your hands or a potato masher. Place is a saucepan. Heat to a boil and cook gently for 5 minutes. For quart jars: add 2 tablespoons lemon juice to each canning jar (along with 1/2 teaspoon salt if desired). Pack hot jars with hot prepared tomatoes leaving ½-inch head space. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim and screw threads. Place lid and screw ring until finger tight.
4. Process in water bath
45 minutes for quarts. 40 minutes for pints. (Times given are for sea level to 1000 ft elevation. If you live at elevations over 1000ft please check your state Department of Health or Extension Office for correct processing time)
5. Turn off heat and wait 5 minutes
6. Remove jars
7. Wait 2 hours – check for seal
If seal did not take you can try to process again with a new jar and lid, but results will be poor. The better choice is to refrigerate and use within 2 weeks or process for tomato sauce. (yummmmm sauce!)
8. Label contents and date then store in cool, dark location.