Not even Mr. Heinz could argue and win this one. It’s a fact: fresh tomatoes that are canned at home taste better than any store bought brand, hands down. The problem is, canning your own tomatoes the traditional way is a hassle. There is no argument there. And, you need plenty of equipment to process the tomatoes with. Not to mention the fact that the processing procedure will heat up your kitchen considerably.
However, there is a simpler method you can use to can your own tomatoes at home! It will take considerably less time and effort on your part. Plus, it’s a safer procedure because the time it takes to can is reduced. Therefore, you won’t have a scalding pot of water on the stove any longer than you need to have.
The first step is to choose red-ripe firm tomatoes. Even if you don’t have a garden to pluck them from, you can purchase a bushel or two of fresh tomatoes and can them in either pint-size or quart-size jars. The smaller sized jar is just right for serving one or two people. Or, if a recipe calls for one or two cups (eight or sixteen ounces) of tomatoes, a pint works the best. A quart of tomatoes, which is two pints, or thirty-two ounces, can serve up to five people. It can also make a family-size pot of Chili or Beefaroni.
Thoroughly wash the tomatoes one by one and remove any bad spots. Then, core them and cut each tomato into fourths. Place them into a large cooking pot. Do not use an aluminum pot because the acid in the tomatoes will react with the metal. A stainless steel one is the best!
When the pot is full, place it on your cooking stove and turn the heat to “medium”. As the tomatoes cook, use a long handled spoon to stir them from time to time as they are reaching the boiling point. Make sure that you place the spoon clear to the bottom of the pot and stir well.
This will prevent the tomatoes from scorching or sticking
While the tomatoes are cooking, wash your canning jars in hot, sudsy water and rinse them thoroughly. You can set them upside down in a dish drainer or on a clean dish towel to air dry.
You’ll also need to get your screw-on canning rings and lids ready too. Wash the lids and the rings in hot, sudsy water, then rinse them well. Place them in a small pan with enough water to cover them, and set them on the stove. Turn the heat on to “medium-high”.
When the pot of tomatoes reaches a boil, spread out a thick towel across your kitchen table or other work surface. Set several of your canning jars on the towel so they’ll be ready for use.
Also, place a large, heavy, heat resistant crock or bowl on your table as well. To make tomato juice, you’ll need a hand cranked strainer that fits securely on top of the crock or bowl.
Use a large ladle to remove some of the tomatoes and their juice from the large cooking pot. Be careful, because their are hot! Fill the strainer up, then run that many tomatoes through it. Repeat the process until the crock or the bowl is nearly full. Then, quickly ladle the steaming hot fruit juice into the canning jars you have prepared. Fill each pint-size or quart-size jar up to the bottom of the rim. Sprinkle one half teaspoon of table salt in the top of each jar.
The next step is to remove the pan that contains the rings and the jar lids from the heat. Use a pair of tongs to remove them one by one from the boiling water. Quickly place one lid, and then one screw-on ring, onto each canning jar; tighten the rings well.
Once you have finished filling every canning jar, cover them all with another heavy towel. The towels will help to keep the heat in so the jars can seal properly. Allow the jars to sit undisturbed for several hours. As each canning jar seals, you’ll hear a “pinging” sound. Make sure that you check the jars to make sure they have all sealed. To do this, press down on the middle of each lid. If you can’t press the lid in, then the canning jar has properly sealed. If any of the lids haven’t sealed, place the cooled jars in the refrigerator and use promptly.
Continue this process until you have made juice out of all your tomatoes.
If you want canned tomatoes instead of juice, you can use this same method. The only difference is that you will need to skin the tomatoes after you wash them. The skins can be removed easily by dipping each one in boiling water for several seconds, and then in cold water first before you use a sharp paring knife. Place the quartered tomatoes in a large pot and bring them to a boil, just like you do to make tomato juice. But, instead of running the tomatoes through a strainer, place them in the prepared canning jars as they are. Finally, add the salt and place the seals and the screw-on rings on each jar.