Tomatothon, Day 2

August 23, 2015

One of these things is not like the other. Tomato juice, front and center.

One of these things is not like the other. Tomato juice, front and center.

Whew. This felt almost like a vacation. No matter I bought ANOTHER box of tomatoes at the Farmers’ Market, to go with the ones I had. That ought to give me somewhere near 16 to 18 quarts of tomatoes, to go with the five I already had in the shelves. That gets me out of tomato anxiety, although It’s not enough to see me through the winter.

But these go up much quicker, as they’re just plain canned tomatoes, which, in addition to being simpler and less tiring, have the advantage of not stinking up the house.

Washed, cored, and ready to go.

Washed, cored, and ready to go.

Like so much of food preservation, canning tomatoes is pretty simple.

Step 1 — Wash and core your tomatoes, and cut away any egregious bad spots.

Step 2 — Put the tomatoes in a strainer basket in your big stock pot. Run water over them until it’s as full as it can get. Take tomatoes out. Boil the water, and then put the tomato basket back in. Turn it down to medium high, and leave for about 5 minutes. Pull the basket out, and dump the tomatoes in an ice water bath; refill the basket, and keep going.

Nekkid tomatoes, peeled and ready to cook.

Nekkid tomatoes, peeled and ready to cook.

This step loosens the skins on the tomatoes, so they just slip right off, which saves you much time and effort. The ice water bath is to get them back down to the point where you can handle them, as you’re mainly peeling with your hands.

Step 3 — Put the naked tomatoes, poor things, in a pot. If it’s a good-sized Dutch oven, add about 1/4 cup sugar — maybe not quite that much — and about a tablespoon of salt. Turn them on medium and let them cook until they start to break down.

Step 4. Take your potato masher to the tomatoes. You just want to break them up roughly. You can just finish them off mostly whole, but some will break up in the course of processing, and I always break down my whole tomatoes anyway, so why not go ahead and get it over with?

All cooked down, broken up, ready to can.

All cooked down, broken up, ready to can.

Step 5. Fill your jars, making sure to get a bigger percentage of tomato pulp than juice in each jar. Stand by and you’ll learn the reason for this.

Step 6. When you’re down to where the remaining tomatoes in the pot(s) are mostly juice, combine the pots into one. Put your strainer basket in another pot, and pour the tomatoes into it.Lift the basket,let a lot of the juice drain out, and dump the partially drained tomatoes back in the second pot.

Yes, you will get tomato juice all over your kitchen in this step. That’s ok, because at this point, you ALREADY have tomato juice all over your kitchen.

Step 7. Continue as before. When you’re down to mostly juice again, combine them one more time, and this time strain your juice through a fine mesh strainer. Use the remaining tomato pulp to either finish filling a jar, or stick it in a bowl and do something else with it, or chunk it, depending on how much of it there is.

Step 8. Put the juice in jars. You will can it as well.Then you can have Bloody Marys with homemade tomato juice.

Step 9. Process them in a water bath for about 20 minutes or so. They may have already sealed from the heat of the tomatoes; no matter. They’ll unseal, and then reseal, in the canner. Take ’em out, and wait for the happy little popping sound that tells you your jars of summer flavor are sealed.

I can my tomatoes in quarts. I generally find if I’m making soup or stew, I want a quart. I MIGHT get some more later on this summer and can a few pints, just to have them….or I might not. Probably won’t, in point of fact, since I already have all that tomato-garlic sauce, not to mention 5 quarts of tomatoes I canned earlier.

A word on cost. I paid $10 for my box of “seconds” tomatoes in Georgia. I paid $20 for my box of “seconds” here (shoulda got that other box in GA). So, $30 all told for 15 quarts and a pint of tomatoes, 2 quarts and a pint of juice. So call it 31 pints, roughly a buck each at the grocery, and three quarts total (I had another pint of juice I stashed in the fridge) of juice at $1.59 per. Now, if I factored my time in there, not to mention how tired I am at this point, that’d jack the price up, but still, the taste of home-canned tomatoes this winter will be worth it. On the other hand, my 10 bucks worth of Romas yielding me 15 pints of sauce ($1.69 per) and 11 half-pints of chutney ($2.59 or so per ?) is a significantly more economical undertaking.

H’mm. I believe I’ve saved enough money (not to mention being industrious enough) that I’ll fix myself a Bloody Mary. If you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em would like to join me, come on.

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