You need to listen to me, and you need to listen to me good. If you want to press your own tomatoes you need to stop reading this post immediately and run out to buy a bushel of tomatoes. Now. GO! You can catch up on how to do it when you get back.
In the middle of September, tomatoes are getting close to their breaking point. 2 weeks ago, they were everywhere. Now? In order to get 2 good bushels of tomatoes for myself this year, I sat on the floor of my supermarket separating all the half rotten bushels of tomatoes into two piles. Gross enough to make me vomitty in one pile, and good in another. It took me half an hour and several questioning looks to get 2 bushels of good tomaotes.
That is the sort of thing I do.
Because I’m me.
And me is a bit unlike other people.
Me doesn’t care about questioning looks if it’s going to result in really good pasta sauce.
So! You wanna press your own tomatoes do you? You’re feeling like an Italian pioneer are you? Good. Glad to hear it. But, I have to warn you it can be a miserable, miserable job. Pressing and canning tomatoes is a bona fide “thing” and not something you can do without a bit of planning and a bit of know how. Luckily for you … I’m here to show you how to do it.
I’ve been pressing my own tomatoes since I was in highschool. Yeah. I know. Probably not what you were doing in highschool. I’ve always used the recipe passed down from my mother who had it passed down to her from someone else. Until this year that is. Up until now I’d always just boiled the tomatoes and then ladled them into a hot jar. That’s the way they did it in the olden days, and I like to do most things the traditional way. The problem is … things have changed since the olden days.
Tomatoes have changed since the olden days. They’ve been “improved” and tweeked and hybridized to within an inch of their lives. This tomato mutation has caused the pH level of tomatoes to change over the past century. Where tomatoes used to be high acid, they are gradually becoming lower and lower acid. Things that are low acid are dangerous to can without either pressure canning them or giving them a hot water bath. And by dangerous, I mean could kill you. I don’t know about you but if I’m going to die from self inflicted stupidity I’d rather it be something fun like inhaling too much laughing gas or some sort of Bouncy House mishap. Not from eating botulism infused pasta.
So … that is your canning lesson for the day. What worked for gramma’s heritage tomatoes (or any other veg/fruit) may not work for today’s Frankentomato. The basic canning methods haven’t changed, but food has.
What you Need
1 bushel of Roma Tomatoes
Brown Sugar (1 tsp. per quart jar)
Coarse Salt (1/2 tsp. per quart jar)
Citric Acid (1/2 tsp. per quart jar)
Canning jars with NEW seals
Large Canning Pot(s)
Tomato Press (as seen below)
A good quality tomato press is around $140. Do not cheap out and buy a plastic one. You’ll be cursing the tomatoes, the press and the person who sold it to you within 10 minutes.
You simply drop the whole tomato into the press and crank the handle. You can fill the entire hopper up and just keep shoving them down the chute one by one.
The tomato press automatically filters the tomato pulp and juice from the seeds and skin.
The seeds and skin come out one end, the good stuff out another.
Once you get a pot of tomatoes pressed, bring it inside and put it on the stove. The tomatoes need to boil for 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, do your pre work.
1. Fill your canning pot(s) with water and get them boiling.
2. Place your clean jars in a 210 °F oven. (this prevents the jars from breaking when the hot tomatoes are funnelled into them)
3. Put the sealer lids (not the rings) into a pot of boiling water. Keep them simmering there throughout the whole process. As you need them, you will pick the lids out of the pot and place them on your jar.
4. Line up bowls of brown sugar, salt and citric acid.
5. Cover counter with dishtowels to sop up inevitable spills.
6. Make sure you have a funnel and a ladle. Jar tongs and a magnetic lid grabber are handy to have too.
Once your tomatoes have come to a boil for 15 minutes, you can start jarring your sauce.
1 tsp. brown sugar,
1/2 tsp. coarse salt,
1/2 tsp citric acid
into each jar.
Do NOT do multiple jars at once. Keep the jars hot in the oven and only do one at a time.
Place a funnel over your 1 quart jar and ladle in hot tomatoes to within 1/2 ” from the top of the jar.
The “head space” is very important. Do NOT leave 1″ or 1/4″. It must be 1/2 ” to properly seal.
Remove funnel and wipe around the rim of the jar with a clean dishcloth or damp paper towel.
Anything drips sticking to the glass rim will prevent sealing.
Take sealer ring from hot water and place on jar.
Screw screwband on. Barely finger tighten only. Do NOT overtighten.
Once you’ve filled enough jars to fill your canning pot, place your jars inside using your jar tongs.
Your water should be hot … almost boiling when you place the jars inside.
The water needs to cover your jars by a couple of inches.
Put the lid on your canning pot and bring the canning water back up to the boil.
Once at the boil you can start timing.
Your jars need to boil for 45 minutes.
This process goes on and on for hours and hours. While your 45 minute hot water bath it taking place, you can run outside and start cranking your remaining bushel of tomatoes.
This will take hours. And hours and hours.
But it it worth it.
1 bushel will get you 20-22 quarts of tomato juice.
2 bushels of tomatoes will get you 42-44 quarts.
Like so …
These tomatoes will last me 2 years. Now you’re probably wondering … what the hell are you supposed to do with them? They are the perfect base for anything tomato related. Just add spices and a little bit of tomato paste and you have a basic tomato sauce. Cook it for only an hour and it’ll taste very fresh and bright. Cook it longer and it takes on a richer, smokier taste. Use them wherever you would use canned tomatoes or tomato sauce. Like in chili or for a spicy tomato sauce or … best of all … for this … Gramma’s Spaghetti & Meatballs.
Tips for Canning
* Get everything washed, organized and ready to go the night before.
* If you don’t have a canning pot, just use a large pot and place a metal trivet on the bottom. (the water needs to circulate around and under each jar)
* If your tomatoes are muddy and dirty wash them in the bathtub. If they only have a bit of surface dirt, just wipe them with a dishtowel.
* Some people also add in a basil leaf to infuse basil flavour into the sauce. I do not. For one thing the leaf turns black and gross looking.
* Play opera while you’re spending the day pressing tomatoes. Even if you don’t like opera.
I’ve done this so many times it’s second nature so if you’re unsure or think I’ve left something out let me know. Or … you could just sit staring at your computer giving me a questioning look.