Adventures in canning

As we alluded to at the end of last week‘s post, we decided to embark on a new…er, old, or rather, new to us venture in food preservation: canning! With a huge stock of tomatoes and not nearly enough time in the world to finish them all anytime soon, canning seemed like a good preservation choice. Though we had considered taking up canning last year, we never quite got around to it. This year we were much more prepared. We went out and found the appropriate pot, jars, and supplies. We read up on the process, watched videos (specifically on canning tomatoes), and did our best to retain all that knowledge once we got into everything. (The most nerve-wracking piece of advice: be prepared to work quickly.) With a potentially rainy day precluding any outside work, we opted to just go for it.

The first job was preparing the tomatoes.  We learned that there are tons of ways to preserve tomatoes — whole, as sauce, stewed, peeled, unpeeled, chopped, seasoned, etc., etc. For our first outing, we kept things moderately simple: jarring the tomatoes whole but peeled. So we set about getting them all peeled by dropping them in boiling water until the skins broke, and then placing them in an ice bath and peeling away the skins. We used a variety of tomatoes, from the whites and yellows, to our favorite red Rutgers. When it was all said and done, we had a large bowl full of the most lovely tomatoes ever!

The smell of fresh tomatoes permeated the kitchen!

Once the tomatoes were done, we prepared all the supplies, sterilized the jars, lids, and all the supplies.

Good thing it was a cool day because things heated up inside quickly!
Good thing it was a cool day because things heated up inside quickly.

With the jars ready, the next few steps were a complete blur, as evidenced by the fact that there wasn’t a moment to snap a photo! We filled the jars with tomatoes, boiling water, and a little lemon juice. On each jar we set a sterilized lid and ring, tightened all the tops, and then placed the jars into the giant water bath.

And we also took a moment to breathe.
And we also took a moment to breathe.

According to the canning instructions we were following, our quart jars of tomatoes had to be in the boiling water bath for 45 minutes. It was a very long (and hot) 45 minutes, and we did have one boil-over, which affected the timing a little. Once the time was up, out came the jars to cool.

Cooling down.
Cooling down.

It’s been several hours and already the lids have started to sink as they should, forming the welcome vacuums that will keep our tomatoes safe for the long haul. We realize that we could have packed our jars much more than we did, but for first-time canners, we think things turned out great. Aside from all the prep work, the actual act of canning was very simple and we can’t wait to get to another batch! (Ground cherry jam is definitely in our future.) We’re almost looking forward to winter now, to the time when we pop open one of these jars to hopefully make some fresh, summery tomato sauce.



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