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Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

What to do with Tomatoes…

We tend to think about fresh ripe tomatoes as a food that needs to be eaten intact, and right now, because it is just soooo good.  But…what if you could open a jar of tomato sauce in December that had that same wonderful flavor?  Flavor that you knew was all natural because you put it there yourself?  Here are some ideas:

  • Freeze
  • Can (needs hot water bath)
  • Make salsa or pico de gallo
  • Sun-dry or dehydrate them

 

Freezing:

To remove tomato skins, put the tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds.  Take them out, and plunge into an ice water bath.  The skins should slide off.  Then halve or quarter, removing the seeds and stem areas.  Give them a squeeze to get rid of some of that moisture, and set them in a colander while you work on the rest.  This will give you a thicker tomato sauce when you cook them.  When done processing, fill freezer bags (don’t overfill!) and remove excess air using a soda straw.  Place on a tray or flat shelf in freezer so they will freeze flat, then store.

NOTE:  You can freeze them whole and unpeeled, you’ll just need to do the work on the other end and they’ll be mushy from being frozen.

 

Canning – Hot Water Bath Canning (High Acid)

Equipment:

Hot water bath canner with Rack – any large pot will do, but it must be at least 3-4 inches deeper than the height of the

jars in order to allow for the jars to be covered by at least 1-2 inches of water at a rapid boil.

Jar  lifter – used to lift jars from hot water bath

Lid lifter

Non-metallic spatula

Canning Funnel (nice to have)

Small pot for lids

 

Step 1:  Check and Prep your jars

Wash jars and lids in hot soapy water.  Rinse, but do not dry.  Check jars for seal by running your fingertip around the mouth of the jar, discard any jar with a chip.  Place on rack in canner, fill with cool water and bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Do not boil.  Jars should be kept hot until you are ready to use them.

Set screw bands aside.  Lids should be placed in a small pan and brought to a simmer (180°F) over medium heat.  Do not boil.  Lids should be kept hot until you are ready to use them.

 

Step 2:  Prep food

Use only “perfect” red tomatoes for canning*.  Blanche tomatoes for less than a minute to remove skins.  Remove from boiling water; plunge into cold water to stop cooking.  Trim green areas, remove core, and leave whole or cut into pieces.

 

Step 3:  Fill the Jars

Using the jar lifter, remove one jar at a time and set it on a towel on the counter.  If you are using a funnel, place it in the jar.  Ladle the food into the jar, leaving the headspace (space between the food and the top of the jar) specified by the recipe you are using.  Using a non-metallic spatula, slide down between the food and the inside of the jar a few times to remove trapped air bubbles.  You may need to add more food to adjust the headspace.

 

With a clean, damp cloth, wipe the jar rim and threads to ensure a tight seal.  Using magnetic lid lifter, remove lid from hot water and place on jar.  Attach screw band – do not over tighten; the jar will vent during the canning process.

Return filled jar to elevated rack in the hot water canner.  When the rack is filled, lower and begin processing.

 

Step 4: Heat Process the Jars

When all the jars in the canner are filled, adjust the water so that it covers the jars by at least 2 inches.  Put the lid on the canner and bring the water to a rolling boil.  The listed processing time for the recipe starts once the water is at a full boil.

 

Step 5:  Cool the Jars

Once the food has been processed, remove the lid and turn off the heat, allowing the canner to cool for 5 minutes before removing the jars.  This allows the pressure inside the jars to stabilize.  Lift the jars without tilting.  Set jars on a heat proof surface on a dry towel and let cool – do not disturb lids while the seal is being formed.  You’ll hear them “ting” as the vacuum forms.  Properly sealed lids are concave and don’t move when you press on them.  You should be able to remove the screw top and lift the jar using only the lid.  If the jar has not sealed properly, you must either reprocess it or refrigerate it and use it within a few days.  Jars will need to cool for 12-24 hours before being stored in a cool, dry place.

 

Dehydrating: 

Dehydrated tomatoes can be used in any cooked food where you would add cut tomatoes. 

Only use the best tomatoes!  Cut in ¼” slices and remove seeds, but not pulp (optional).  Salt lightly to draw moisture if desired.

Oven Drying:  Cover rack in oven or a cake rack with cheesecloth held on with close pins.  Place cut tomatoes on rack ½ to 1” apart, cut side up.  Heat oven to no more than 140°F and prop the oven door open 4” for airflow.  It’s helpful to have a small fan blowing through the crack in the door as well, and make sure to watch carefully as they finish drying because they may scorch.

Using a Dehydrator:  Same as for oven, except racks should be 1-2” apart.  Place a thermometer on the bottom rack if you can’t set the temperature to 135-140°F.   You may have to turn the tomatoes and rotate the racks as well due to airflow.  They can scorch using this method as well.

 

Resources and Helpful Links:

Ball Canning Website:  www.FreshPreserving.com

Ball Home Canners’ Help Line:  1-800-240-3340

Dehydrating Tomatoes:  www.seasonalchef.com/tomdehyd.htm

Copyright 2011 Feed Texas First

 

This is the hand-out from the tomato preservation class taught at the Coppell Farmers Market by Trish Percy on July 9, 2011.   Trish represents Feed Texas First (www.feedtexasfirst.org) which fosters food independence for North Texas.

 

 

 

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