Canning Tomatoes: Fear Not!

12 Oct

I think commercially tinned tomatoes are disgusting.  It’s just my opinion, but there’s something about the watery taste and mealy texture that even the gourmet brands can’t avoid.  I still buy them occasionally, but mostly because they are on sale and might be good to have in the pantry in case of emergency (the Act-of-God type, not the bolognese type).

My canned tomato snobbery is simply managed once a year with a bushel of lovely ripe tomatoes, a bottle of wine, and the company of a good friend.  Lucky for me, all three happened to collide this week.

Canning tomatoes

Tomatoes get a bad rap in modern preservation lore.  Fortunately preservation literature provides fact and science to combat the crazy aunt that thinks you’re about to permanently cripple her with your chicken cacciatore.

The basic issue is that your product needs to be acidic in order to safely can it in a home kitchen.  Tomatoes sit right on the pH fence between acidity and alkalinity.  Nasty microorganisms like botulism can survive or grow in certain pH levels, and really ruin your day.  The simple addition of acid will push that tomato off its fence and into the safe acidity zone. That’s it.  Now you’re informed and can safely proceed.

In this recipe I’ve used bottled (i.e. commercially tested and verified for 5% acidity) lemon juice.  You can add a little sugar to offset the sharpness.  I’m going to try citric acid next time (stay tuned).

Canning Whole Tomatoes

As far as canning goes, this is a pretty quick and easy process.  The total time is 2 hours, but 40 minutes of that is totally inactive, so it’s easily a work night project.  We’ve had a pretty great September/October so our growing season went a little longer than normal.  Mid September is an ideal time to be putting up your tomatoes.

Remember to buy good quality tomatoes.  If you wouldn’t happily eat your tomatoes with a little salt and pepper, then why the heck would you want to bother saving them?! 

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