When I first started canning I was terrified of tomatoes. I heard all sorts of comments about how dangerous it was and you could kill your whole family without even knowing it! Seriously? Ridiculous! I’m not trying to make light of the importance of following safe canning procedures but it’s not as scary as people made it out to be. Today Im going to show you how to bottle diced and crushed tomatoes and how to do it safely! First let me give you a quick summary of why tomatoes have gotten such a bad reputation for canning.
You know the whole argument over a tomatoes being a fruit or a veggie? This is part of why the discussion exists. The acid level of tomatoes is not as high as fruits but it’s not as low as vegetables either. Did you know all vegetables have to be pressure canned to be able to seal and store safely? I learned this when I water bathed 12 quarts of green beans, only to have them all go bad! If you want you can pressure cook tomatoes and you won’t have problems, but I think that water bath canning is easier than pressure cooking! In order to water bath tomatoes you have to add acid to each jar to make it safe. You do that by adding salt and lemon juice. Here is a little chart to help you know how much to add to quarts and pints.
If you add acid to the jars it makes them safe to can the tomatoes with a water bath canner. This is also why you can’t bottle just any salsa or spaghetti sauce. Most of them will have a lot of vinegar or lemon juice added to them to up the acid level. I looked forever for a good salsa recipe because they were always so vinegary to me. Today we are going to concentrate on canning diced tomatoes and crushed tomatoes.
Preparing the tomatoes
To begin you need to get a few things ready. I add water to my canner and turn it on med-hi so it’s ready for my jars when I have them filled. I also start a big pan of water a little under half full and turn that on hi to boil.
Lastly I get a pan of cool water inside my sink and then add lots of ice to make it really cold.
Next you start the blanching process. Blanching is what you do to make the skins peel off easily. To blanch them you put the tomatoes into hot boiling water for about a minute.
When you see the skins break you know that they are ready.
Then you ladle them into the ice water.
Then you start peeling them. The skin should slip right off.
I also get my jars sterilizing at this time. You can put them through your dishwasher and have them on heated dry. Sometimes that can be hard to time though and I found a new method I like better. You can use a cookie sheet or a saucepan to do this. Simply add a little water in the bottom and place your clean jars upside down in the water. You can also add your sealing lids to the water. I put it on med-hi until it starts to boil and then I turn it down. I keep it hot enough so that the jars remain hot and steamy.
You want your jars hot not only for the sterilization but also because you don’t want to put a cold glass into a hot water bath canner – it can cause the glass to shatter.
Now you have to decide how you want to bottle them – whole, diced, crushed, etc. I’m going to show you how to do diced and crushed tomatoes since those are the ones I use most often.
I do pints of diced tomatoes and use them just like store bought cans of diced tomatoes. If I am doing diced tomatoes I will start my kettle on the back burner full of water at this time since with diced tomatoes you sometimes have to add liquid to fill the rest of the jar. Then I peel all of my tomatoes.
Now you have to up the acid level inside of your hot jar. For the pints I added 1 Tbsp lemon juice and 1/2 tsp salt. I only take 1 jar at a time from the steaming water so they don’t cool off too much.
Dice your tomatoes to the size you want them and add them to your jar.
I give the jar a light tap-tap-tap on the counter so that they settle some but you definitely don’t want to pack them in super tight.
Some people insist you have to boil them for 5 minutes before adding them to your jars but I don’t like to because they fall apart. Instead I pour the boiling water to fill the rest of the jar.
One other thing I do as a precaution to keep the jar from shattering when I’m doing diced tomatoes: I have my water bath canner simmering and will add the jar to the water bath canner when I fill it. I do this to each jar as I keep filling jars. When the bather is full or I am done filling jars, I turn the heat to hi and bring it to a boil. This way the jar and the tomatoes inside have time to heat up before the water is boiling. (Skip the next section to sealing the jars to know how to close them up properly).
I do quarts of crushed tomatoes for homemade spaghetti sauce and for things like homemade chili.
When doing crushed tomatoes you don’t want there to be a lot of water inside the jar. After you peel the tomato you have to squeeze the juice out of the tomato. To do this you squeeze it and the tomoto will kind of pop and the juice and seeds will come out. Just make sure you do it in the sink!
I add the squeezed tomato to my food processor until the food processor is about half way full.
Then I pulse it to the consistency I want.
Then to drain off any other extra water I add the crushed tomatoes into a stainer over the sink and let it drain off. You don’t want your strainer to have a ton of big holes just small ones. You can see the size of mine in the picture, all the holes in my strainer are like that.
When the tomatoes are all done I add them into another pan – yes, you dirty A LOT of pans when you bottle tomatoes! Then you boil the tomatoes for 5 minutes.
After the tomatoes have boiled for 5 minutes you prepare your jars by first adding the lemon juice and salt.
To Seal the Jars
In order to get a good seal you have to make sure the jar rim is clean. Take a clean cloth, wet it, and then wipe the rim.
Then place your hot lid over the clean rim.
And then add the ring.
Bring the water bath to a full boil and then start the time. 40 minutes for pints, 45 minutes for quarts. Now you can turn all your tomatoes into year round yumminess for your family!
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