Preserving Tomatoes

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It’s nearing the end of summer and still the tomatoes are coming.  I don’t know whether it was beginner’s luck but I have had a bumper crop of tomatoes.  I am not complaining; tomatoes, unlike cucumbers, are useful.

If, after you have made relish and salsa and have dried, pickled and roasted your tomatoes, you are still picking them by the bucket load, it is time for some serious preserving.

The most important thing to know about preserving tomatoes is that you do not need any fancy equipment.  All you need are:

  • jars – You do not need to buy special preserving jars that cost a fortune.  Jars which come with food in from the supermarket are just fine.  For this recipe, 500 mil jars are best.  If you use other size jars, make sure you adjust the amount of lemon juice accurately and adjust the processing time.
    You should, however, buy new lids for your jars.  In Australia, you can buy them from Silverlock and Cospak.  Both places are wholesalers but they sell to the public.  The only problem is that you have to spend a minimum of $50.00.  Lids are pretty cheap so this is a lot of lids but they sell lots of other great stuff so it is easy to spend $50;
  • a large pot that is taller than your jars to process the tomatoes in and another pot to boil the tomatoes in;
  • a heat-proof trivet that fits inside the pot you are going to use to process the tomatoes – this is to keep your jars from being in direct contact with the heat source.  A round cake rack or a metal pot stand will do;
  • a jar lifter or silicon gloves – A jar lifter is like a large pair of tongs that grabs the jars.  It is really handy for putting the jars into boiling water and for removing them.  Do not try to lift the jars with ordinary tongs because you are likely to drop them (I know, I have tried).  If you don’t have a jar lifter, silicon gloves work.  I made about 15 jars of tomatoes last week in Perth and my jar lifter was in Bridgetown.  I found that my silicon gloves allowed me to place a couple of jars in boiling water before my hands got hot.  I just alternated hands.

This technique comes from The US Department of Agriculture’s Complete Guide to Home Canning Guide 3: Selecting, Preparing and Canning Tomatoes and Tomato Products.  You can get all the Guides on-line.  Here is the link.  I decided to preserve my Roma tomatoes crushed because I figured I could get more in each jar and they end up crushed, anyway.

  1. Sterilise your jars and lids.
  2. Have your processing pot ready.  Place a trivet in the bottom of the pot.   Pour water into the pot and begin to heat it.
  3. Wash the tomatoes.
  4. Peel the tomatoes.  To do this, cut a cross in the bottom of each tomato then dip it in boiling water until the skin begins to split – about one minute. Remove the tomato from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and peel the skin off.
  5. Remove the core from the skinned tomatoes and then quarter them.
  6. Heat one-sixth of your tomatoes in another large pot, crushing them with a potato masher or wooden spoon. This is to ensure that you get enough juice.
  7. Add the rest of your tomatoes in stages, making sure the last lot has come to the boil before you add more.  These remaining tomatoes do not need to be crushed. They will soften as they are heated.
  8. Once all the tomatoes have been added, bring back to the boil and then boil for, at least, 5 minutes. I boiled mine significantly longer because there was a lot of juice.
  9. Spoon the tomatoes into your jars, leaving 1.25cm (½ inch) at the top.
  10. Add 3 teaspoons of lemon juice to each 500 mil jar.  This is important to ensure safe acidity so do not omit the lemon juice.  (The guide suggests bottled lemon juice – I do not know if this is significant.)
  11. Add ½ tsp of salt to each jar, if desired.
  12. Remove any air bubbles.
  13. Wipe the jar rims and seal.
  14. Put your jars (using a jar lifter or silicon gloves) into your pot of hot water.  Make sure your jars do not touch each other.
  15. When all your jars are in, add more hot water if needed to ensure the lids of the jars are covered.
  16. Bring the water to the boil.  For 500 mil jars, boil for 35 minutes.  For larger jars up to 1 litre, boil for 45 minutes.  Do not use jars larger than 1 litre.  If you live more than 1,000 feet above sea level, check the Guide for processing times.
  17. Remove jars from boiling water and set aside to cool.

IMG_2196 copyI also have a very large supply of cherry tomatoes and there is no way I was going to skin them so onto the web I went looking for ideas of what to do with them.   I found this video on You Tube.  The guy was making a sauce for pasta with cherry tomatoes.  He insisted that there was no need to skin them first.  He just threw them into his food processor to mush them up and then into the pot they went. I liked it.

I put a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes in at a time, processing them until they were well and truly mushed and then put them into a large saucepan.  I did this until all the cherry tomatoes had been processed.  I brought them to the boil and boiled them down until I had the consistency I wanted.  I then followed the technique above to preserve them.

13 thoughts on “Preserving Tomatoes

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  4. Congrats on your success – but for continued success, keep in mind that your soil and its health is the key determiner – treat your soil well and you’ll have a great garden. I’m not an organic gardener, not entirely anyway, but I do believe that overuse of chemicals leads to poor soil health.

    My theory about avoiding an overload of one kind of veggie is first learn what does well in your garden and each year plant less of that. And then there’s the cost effectiveness element – as an old manager, it works on my psyche to spend $$$ on growing something in my garden that I can buy for $ at the grocery store! And often, there isn’t even a taste advantage with my own – onions, potatoes, and cabbage are good examples in my garden. So I’ve verrrrry slowly learned it is best to concentrate my garden space for those items which I can’t buy at the grocery (like Asian greens or celeriac) or varieties of winter squash that never seem to be in my grocery.

    Happy gardening – and congrats on such a great year!

    • Hi Doc. I have certainly learnt a lot this year. I planted everything much too close and too much of it. We have had so many cucumbers, you would not believe how many. I like tomatoes as we use a lot of them in winter but the cucumbers are pretty well useless. We can’t even keep up with giving them away. Though we struck a jackpot the other day. Maus visited our neighbour offering cucumbers and came home with a big bag of passionfruit. Good deal.

  5. Thank you for this great how-to post, Glenda. I’ve never jarred tomatoes, preferring to freeze them, but I just might give it a try this Summer. I’m pinning this so I’ll know where it is when I need it.

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