So, canning without cans? It seemed like a novel idea to me when I moved here four years ago, but I’m not really sure what else you could call it, ‘jarring’ doesn’t really roll off the tongue in the same way.
No one that I know of back in Britain ‘cans’ fruits, vegetables and preserves in the way that it’s done here. For starters the jars and canning equipment are not readily available, and the types of fruit and vegetables that are traditionally grown there such as apples and root vegetables don’t require preserving in that way. Jams, marmalade and chutneys are commonly made there, most people just save old jam jars and don’t bother with the water bath method for that. My granny made the best rhubarb jam ever, and she just put a little wax disk on the top of the jam and then the lid on it, it would keep for a long time like that without spoiling.
So I decided that this year would be THE year that I finally get around to canning some tomatoes. I’ve thought about it before and even bought the jars, but last year the tomatoes were all gone before I got my act together. Last week I was given a large box of tomatoes from a friend and so I simply had to get on with it.
How to Can Tomatoes
If you’ve never done this before then please go to the Ball website and read the Introduction to Canning. I don’t have a fancy water bath canner, just a cheap tall enamel pan that I found in Walmart along with a metal steamer basket that I already had to keep the jars of the bottom. You will need either pint or quart jars along with the correct sized lids, wide mouth jars are the easiest to work with for this. A Ball Utensil Set will make your life so much easier, especially if you plan to can again in the future.
I had a large box of tomatoes, about 20lbs I think. Before you start you’ll need to prep your jars, I used 24 pint jars, you can run them through the dishwasher on a sanitize cycle before you start with anything else. Then I took a large pan and brought some water to a boil on the stove and then reduced the heat right down so that it was just simmering, I also put my canner on at the same time, half filled with water, to come up to temperature. Get a large bowl or another pan and fill it with iced water, then you can go ahead and put a bunch of tomatoes in the simmering water for about 1-2 minutes. With a slotted spoon lift them into the iced water, the skin should slip off easily and you can cut the tomatoes into quarters. I found it easier to skin the whole lot in batches before moving onto the next stage.
Then get your jars ready by adding one tablespoon of bottled lemon juice per pint jar or two per quart jar, this is supposed to help retain colour and reduce the odds of spoilage, but I have several canning friends who don’t bother with this step. Spoon in the your tomato pieces and then top up (leaving an inch of space at the top) with boiling water. Make sure there are no air bubbles in there, you can use a plastic utensil to poke around the sides to release the bubbles. Check that the tops of the jars are clean, then you can put the lids and rings on.
Boil the jars in your canner with at least an inch of water covering them for 35 mins for pints and 45 minutes for quarts. If you live at high altitude then you will need to adjust the canning times, you can read about some more here
Once done remove the jars from the water leave them to cool, this takes hours. You may hear popping sounds as the jars lids seal. Once they have cooled you can check the seal by pushing gently on the center of the lid, if it moves up and down then it is not sealed properly. I would just refrigerate that jar and use it from there, some people put it back in the water bath, but you would need a new lid to do that.