Come summertime, there's nothing quite like that first succulent bite of a sun-warmed tomato, fresh from the vine. Sweet, juicy, earthy — it's an experience home gardeners and tomato lovers live for. It's not too long, however, before that first taste is forgotten in the flood of tomatoes that starts in July and surges through August.
The garden overfloweth, and you've got to find a way to put all those tomatoes to good use. Whether your bounty comes from a community supported agriculture farm share (a program in which members receive a weekly portion of produce from a local farm), or a backyard kitchen garden, make it last by canning the produce now and enjoying it later.
The basic chopped-tomatoes recipe seen here, made with a boiling-water canner, provides an easy introduction to the canning process, as well as a perfect base for pasta sauces, soups, stews and casseroles.
How to Can Chopped Tomatoes
- Run your canning jars through the hot cycle on your dishwasher, and place the lids in a hot-water bath. Lay out your utensils on clean dish towels, and clean and sterilize your work surfaces. Fill a deep "canner" or pot halfway with clean water, and bring to a simmer.
- Start with good-quality tomatoes, fresh from the vine if possible. Be selective. An average of 22 fresh pounds is needed per canner load of seven quart-sized jars, an average of 14 pounds per canner load of nine pint-sized jars. (Several jars fit on the canner rack.)
- Wash tomatoes and dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins split. Then dip in cold water, slip off skins and remove cores. Trim off any bruised or discolored portions and quarter.
- Heat one-sixth of the quarters quickly in a large pot, crushing them with a wooden mallet or spoon as they are added to the pot to unleash juices. Stir to prevent burning.
- Once the tomatoes are boiling, gradually add remaining quartered tomatoes, stirring constantly. Don't crush these. Once all tomatoes are added, boil gently for five minutes.
- Add bottled lemon juice or citric acid to jars. [See Safety First.] Add one teaspoon of salt per quart to the jars, if desired.
- Fill hot jars immediately with hot tomatoes, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace. Release air bubbles by inserting a flat plastic (not metal) spatula between the food and the jar. Slowly turn the jar and move the spatula up and down to allow air bubbles to escape.
- Wipe rims of jars with a dampened clean paper towel. Place the preheated lid onto the cleaned jar-sealing surface and fit the metal screw band over the flat lid.
- Load jars into canner rack and lower into water. Add more boiling water, if needed, so the water level is at least 2 inches above the tops of the jars. Turn heat to its highest position, cover the pot with its lid and heat until the water in the pot boils vigorously.
- Process a canner load of pints for 35 minutes and a canner load of quarts for 45 minutes. When finished, turn off the heat and remove the canner lid. Wait five minutes before removing jars.
- Using a jar lifter, remove the jars and place them on a towel, leaving at least a one-inch space between the jars during cooling. Let jars sit undisturbed to cool at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. Do not retighten lids after processing jars. As jars cool, the contents in the jar contract, pulling the self-sealing lid firmly against the jar to form a vacuum.
- Test the seal on the jars the day after canning by pressing the center of each lid, or tap with a spoon. The lid should stay down and give a clear, ringing sound when tapped. Remove metal screw band for reuse after jar has cooled.
Enchilada Sauce (Makes six pints)
• 12 cups of halved, cored, peeled tomatoes (about 24 medium or 8 pounds)
• Bottled lemon juice
• 4 tablespoons of chili powder
• 4 teaspoons of ground cumin
• 4 teaspoons of oregano
• 2 teaspoons of garlic powder
• 2 teaspoons of ground coriander
• 1 1/2 teaspoons of seasoning salt
• Follow first three steps for Canned Chopped Tomatoes. Halve tomatoes instead of quartering them.
• Mix chili powder, ground cumin, oregano, garlic powder, coriander and seasoning salt in a small bowl;
• Combine tomatoes with just enough water to cover in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook gently for
• Add 2 1/2 teaspoons of spice blend, 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon of salt, if using, to each hot pint jar. Double for quarts.
• Pack tomatoes into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Ladle hot cooking liquid over tomatoes, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and tighten.
• Process filled jars in a boiling-water canner 40 minutes for pints and quarts, adjusting for altitude. Remove and cool.
Annie's Salsa (Makes six pints)
• 8 cups of tomatoes, peeled, chopped and drained
• 2 1/2 cups of chopped onion
• 1 1/2 cups of chopped green pepper
• 3 to 5 chopped jalapenos, according to taste
• 6 cloves of minced garlic
• 2 teaspoons of cumin
• 2 teaspoons of pepper
• 1/8 cup of canning salt
• 1/4 cup of chopped fresh cilantro
• 1/3 cup of sugar
• 1 cup of vinegar
• 16 ounces of tomato sauce
• 16 ounces of tomato paste
• Follow first three steps for Canned Chopped Tomatoes. Drain.
• Mix all ingredients together.
• Bring to a boil. Boil 10 minutes.
• Pour into hot pint jars.
• Process in boiling-water canner for 15 minutes.
Seasoned Tomato Sauce (Makes five half-pint jars)
• 10 pounds washed, peeled, cored and chopped tomatoes
• 3 medium onions, chopped fine
• 4 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
• 1 1/2 teaspoons of oregano
• 2 bay leaves
• 1 teaspoon of salt
• 1 teaspoon of black pepper
• 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper
• 1 teaspoon of sugar
• Add all ingredients to a saucepan and bring to a boil.
• Simmer two hours, stirring occasionally.
• Press mixture through a food mill and discard seeds.
• Return to saucepan and cook over medium-high heat until thick, stirring frequently.
• Add lemon juice or citric acid to hot canning jars and pack with hot prepared tomato mixture, leaving 1/2 inch of headspace.
• Remove air bubbles. Wipe rim and screw threads and adjust lids and screw bands.
• Process in boiling-water canner for 35 minutes.
Terms to Know
Boiling-water canner: Aluminum- or porcelain-covered steel pot with a fitted lid and rack to lift jars off of direct heat. Canners with a flat bottom must be used on an electric range. Either a flat or ridged bottom can be used on a gas burner.
Mason jar: The preferred (and least expensive) container for canning. The glass jar's two-part lid consists of a metal screw band, which can be reused, and a self-sealing flat lid that can be used only once. Wide-mouth jars are easier to fill and empty.
Canner load: Typically seven one-quart jars or nine one-pint jars, in a boiling-water canner.
Headspace: The unfilled space above the food in a jar and below its lid, needed for expansion of food as jars are processed, and for forming vacuums in cooled jars.
Before you get started, make sure you understand the safety issues surrounding food preservation.
Growth of bacteria in canned food can cause botulism, a deadly form of food poisoning. Use one of two canning methods — pressure canning or boiling-water canning — to ensure safe foodstuffs.
Low-acid foods, including most vegetables, are not acidic enough to prevent the growth of bacteria; they must be canned using a pressure canner, which is designed to reach higher temperatures. High-acid foods, including most fruits, are able to block bacteria growth; they can be canned using a boiling water canner.
Because tomatoes have a borderline acidity, they must be acidified with bottled lemon juice, citric acid or vinegar to be canned safely when using a boiling-water canner. The acid can be added directly to the jars before filling. Add sugar to offset acid taste, if desired. Vinegar may have an adverse effect on flavor, so it is not recommended.
The Virginia Cooperative Extension suggests adding:
• Two tablespoons of lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon crystalline citric acid per quart.
• One tablespoon of lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid per pint.