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Home Canned Tomatoes (Whole, Sauce or Juice)

Make in any amount

Store-bought canned tomatoes are pretty good, but home-canned are even better. They are probably the easiest product to preserve because they require the least amount of other ingredients. Sauces can be seasoned before canning or unseasoned so that you can season as desired when you use them. Tomato juice can be made with or without vegetables. Most importantly, you get to control the salt in any of the recipes. I must admit that store-bought no-salt-added tomatoes and sauce are a great improvement over salted ones because they actually taste nearly as fresh as home-canned. Listed below are simple techniques for making each type of tomato product, using hot packing and a boiling water canner. You will need to consult the jar manufacturer's instructions or preserving organizations for other types of packing or processing. Alternately, any of the products can be frozen for up to one year without lemon juice or canner processing.

Whole or Halved Tomatoes - Use tomatoes that are ripe but not too soft, thoroughly cutting away any blemishes that could spoil. If in doubt, do not use it. Tomatoes need to be peeled before heating or packing. Place cleaned, whole, uncored tomatoes into the sink and close the drain. Heat a large pot of water to boiling and pour it over the tomatoes. Let it set about 1 minute, moving the tomatoes around as needed so that each is immersed in the water part of the time. Let the water drain out and rinse with cold water to cool slightly. Remove the cores and the peels will easily pull off with a paring knife. Place tomatoes in a large pot. Make enough juice from some of the tomatoes to cover the whole tomatoes. (You can also use equal parts unseasoned plain tomato sauce or puree and water to make the juice.) Boil gently until thoroughly hot, about 5 minutes. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice (bottled juice is recommended as it as a constant acidic level) or 1/2 teaspoon citric acid to each quart jar. Place tomatoes in jars and fill with hot tomato juice from the pot, using a butter knife to make certain it fills all the crevices and any bubbles rise to the top, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Top with lids. Process in a boiling water canner 85 minutes for altitudes up to 1,000 feet, 90 minutes at 1,000 to 3,000 feet, or 95 minutes at 3,000 to 6,000 feet.

Sauce and Juice - Since tomato sauces and juices will be passed through a food mill after cooking for a time, they require no peeling. As above, use tomatoes that are ripe, thoroughly cutting away any blemishes that could spoil. If in doubt, do not use it. Cut the tomatoes into quarters, place in large pot and simmer for 5 minutes. If desired, onions, celery, peppers, carrots or seasonings can be added for extra flavor, but no more than 3 cups of vegetables per 22 pounds of tomatoes. For sauce, I add green pepper, onion and a bay leaf. I prefer to add other seasonings when I use it in a recipe. Sauce can be reduced as much as you want depending on desired thickness. For tomato juice, I add green pepper, onion, celery, a little coarse salt and pepper. Pass the tomato sauce or juice mixture through a sieve or food mill and press out the skins, seeds and any vegetables. Return to the pot and simmer until hot or desired thickness. Add 2 tablespoons lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon citric acid to each quart jar. Fill jars with hot tomato juice or sauce, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Top with lids. Process in a boiling water canner 40 minutes for altitudes up to 1,000 feet, 45 minutes at 1,000 to 3,000 feet, or 50 minutes at 3,000 to 6,000 feet.

Notes: Processing times are based on guidelines provided by the USDA National Food Safety Database.