As summer wanes, I am buoyed by the harvest – so beautiful and so productive. This week is tomatoes and peaches (purchased in eastern WA), dilly beans, and pesto.
Last year my sweetie gifted me a comprehensive guide to preserving food; ‘Keeping the Harvest’ by Chioffi & Mead. I have a variety of how-tos, but this one is both comprehensive, and very straightforward.
I have always raw-packed my canned fruits, but this year I decided to follow C&M’s recommended method and tried hot-packing my tomatoes and peaches. Turns out hot packing is less work than raw packing. E.g., for tomatoes, the boiling bath processing time drops from 85 min to 40 min. Additionally, by cooking out the air prior to canning, less space is wasted inside each jar, AND fewer jars are needed cause you can cook down the tomatoes into a sauce of your desired consistency. Their method also called for a food mill instead of peeling the tomato skins.
Unfortunately, using a food mill for tomatoes was not a good idea in my case. After quartering the tomatoes and cooking them for an hour, sure the food mill retained the seeds and tomato skins, but it also retained the pulp – not much got through but the juice. After one ladle of this method, I gave up on the food mill and set us to work with chop sticks, picking out the quartered tomato skins. Skinning tomatoes takes a lot of time. I don’t mind tomato seeds in my sauce, so I will probably try the chopstick method again next time.
I am sold on hot packing. The jars sealed successfully (well, 4/5 with the 5th becoming dinner), the tomatoes are further along their way to becoming sauce, and >25 lbs became 5 full jars instead of 8 or 10 filled 50% with tomato, 25% with juice, and 25% with air.
If you have favourite methods or tricks to trade, leave me a note!
Jen, your pictures are gorgeous! It’s almost like looking at a flower garden! It’s great to hear there are so many ways to ‘can’ tomatoes! I’m still happy with the tried-and-true method I have used for 40 years – peeling each tomato with the blanching method (boiling water, then ice-cold water to crack the skin – so easy to peel after that treatment)…then coring (you just cut off any parts that your garden has rendered useless) and putting into jars. Then a boiling-water bath for 35 min, and they almost always seal themselves if I have properly cleaned the rims of the jars before putting the lids on them. I find that although the tomatoes are quite juicy this way, the juice can boil off when you use them depending on the recipe or to whatever extent you want, (and, after all, it is tomato juice!), and as you cook the sauce you make, the seeds boil down into part of the sauce and are no longer recognizeable as seeds. Yup, takes more jars, but I have the luxury of space to store them, and it lasts through many many meals! Just finished canning 16 jars for the winter. Yum!
If I am just making sauce, I tend to boil away most of the water – so some ‘reduced’ jars will be good on space and time. But I will continue to make some the way I learned from you for the juice. E.g., If I am simply adding tomatoes to a soup or stew, I like to pour off the juice and use it instead of water when making rice. If I miss the juice too much, next year I will hot pack them, but not cook them down. Thanks maman!