Difficulty Level Easy, but time consuming

I had this great idea a couple of weeks ago. Coming home from our cottage I passed a warehouse store that had an astonishing number of bushels of tomatoes and red peppers out. I thought, I should buy a bushel of tomatoes and a bushel of peppers and can them. My son, Hugh and his girlfriend, Becca were enthusiastic and said they would come over and help me and share the bounty.

Well, between my great idea and the execution of it, Hugh got a second part-time job and Becca got a third part-time job. Suddenly mom was on her own. I thought I could manage it quite easily, and in a way I did, but I was also having a dinner party for 20 people that week, so there was a bit of pressure to get it all done and out of the way.

I've been using a book called Well Preserved by Eugenia Bone for a lot of my canning this year and I was following her suggestion of peeling, seeding and crushing the tomatoes. After a Sunday afternoon and most of the evening I had just 8 jars to show for my efforts, and 3/4 of a bushel yet to be done. I changed the game plan. I started just peeling the tomatoes and putting them into the jars whole, which sped up the process quite considerably, although there was still a night when I didn't get to bed until midnight.

I don't want this to sound daunting, because it's really quite simple. In my case, it was just the sheer number of tomatoes to get through, and the processing time is long. However, buying a bushel is a really economical way to use tomatoes. The whole bushel cost me $18.00 and I got 41 pint jars and 4 quart jars out of it. It makes sense to share a bushel with someone else, or simply to do the canning over two days when you don't have any other commitments.

Just a note about canning tomatoes. They are right on the edge of what is safe to use the water bath canning method due to the high pH level. Choose plum or Roma tomatoes as they have a higher level of acidity. You must add citric acid to the tomatoes to lower the pH. This recipe suggested Fruit Fresh, which is a commercial citric acid made for canning, but I couldn't find any. I simply used bottled lemon juice, rather than fresh lemons because they vary more in acidity. Use 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice per pint jar and 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice per quart jar. You don't need to sterilize the jars because you are processing them for more than 10 minutes, but do scald them by dipping them in hot water before you fill them.

INGREDIENTS

6 to 8 lbs ripe unblemished tomatoes, un-refrigerated
6 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp citric acid, such as Fruit Fresh, or 6 tbsp lemon juice

PREPARATION:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water, count off 10 seconds, then remove.
  2. With a sharp parring knife, slit the tomato skins and peel them off. They will come off easily. Core the tomatoes and tear them in half, squeezing out the seeds. Toss into a pot. Drop the skins and seeds in a colander over a bowl. A lot of tomato juice is saved this way, which you can add to your canning tomatoes or refrigerate for use in, oh, say Bloody Marys.
  3. Crush the tomatoes. You can use a food processor, or a potato masher, or you can just crush them with your hands and save on cleaning.
  4.  Heat the tomatoes and boil gently for 5 minutes. Have ready 6 scalded pint jars and their bands. Simmer new lids in a small pan of hot water, to soften the rubberized flange. Dump 1 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp citric acid (or 1 tbsp lemon juice, if using) into each jar. Lade in the hot tomatoes, leaving 1/2 to 3/4 inch of headspace. Wipe the rims, set on the lids, and screw on the bands fingertip tight. 
  5. Place the jars in a pot fitted with a rack and add enough water to cover the jars by 3 inches. Bring the water to a boil over high heat. If the tops of the jars are not covered with water at any point, you have to delete the time that the cans were not totally submerged, add water, bring back to a boil, and begin timing again. Process the tomatoes for 40 minutes, then turn off the heat. Wait 5 minutues or so, then remove the jars and let them rest.
  6. After about 8 hours remove the bands and check the lids. You do not need to store the jars with the screw top on, the lid is enough.

    If you make a big batch as I did and decide to use quart jars, process them for 45 minutes.

  7. From the book Well Preserved by Eugenia Bone

This recipe appears in: Vegetable Side Dish

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