Thursday, September 9, 2010

Tomatoes in Jars

It looked a little like a tomato stampede when I started unpacking the bags of tomatoes in the kitchen. They were piled up on counters and even took over the top most counter top. I did, however can this batch as whole tomatoes only. It took another trip buying just as many to get to the sauce portion of the canning. These went whole into jars. I only took a few jars last year during my canning with Annie and ran out faster than I thought I would. This year, being solo, I had to make a decision as to how many cans to make up. At first, I thought about doing around five maximum, but I quickly changed my mind when I thought about Dan's homemade chili and other yummy slow cooker recipes I like to make in the fall and winter when I get busy with crafting, tutoring, and dance studio things.

All the tomatoes had to be peeled, and this year the boiling water bath worked for all but two tomatoes. Out of 10 pounds of tomatoes, I would say that two not peeling easily was true luck. I think part of the success with peeling this year was due to me not over crowding the pot with too many tomatoes. Last year when it was the two of us working, we filled the pot up pretty full with tomatoes. I was, however concerned as I ran out of ice for the water bath. It took a lot of water changes, but the tomatoes did cool down eventually. The longer time they had heated up may have also contributed to the faster peeling since I have a tendency to pull things earlier than I should.

After peeling, it was time to core them out. Dan helped out a bit with this step. I think he felt a little bad for me working with this volume of tomatoes alone. It was nice to have a helping hand get me through this stage faster than the previous ones. The process became more streamlined and assembly machine like at this point. I would peel and set down on the cutting board, he would core them, and then the prepared tomatoes would go into the bowl. I was happy to see that the tomatoes were not just red skinned but also had nice red flesh through out the whole tomato. Nothing is worse than a ripe looking tomato that turns out to be tasteless and pink in the middle.

Next the tomatoes went into the canning kettle with water for their boil. I am wondering if I just don't boil them enough the first time, if I am bad at packing jars, or if I just do not pour off enough liquid the first time when packing the jars because this year I had tomato float again. It was rather frustrating. It caused me to actually lose sleep and begin to ponder if I have a canning perfection problem.

I ended up getting up the next day to open up all the cans, repacking, and reprocessing them all. My 12 cans went down to the eight you see here. Now they are nicely packed as I want them to look, but the tomatoes may end up being more stewed rather than whole tomatoes as I did two heat processes on them. As always, I did add the extra lemon juice to make sure there was enough acid in the tomato jars to make them safe for water bath canning. Hopefully eight will be enough. ;) For now I am off to sneak more boxes of cans into the house. Then it is off to 826 for tutoring and the dance studio. When will crafting get done around here again? Not till canning season is over I suppose.

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