Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Stewed Tomatoes...ABC's

Have you heard the term locavore?   It means that you try and eat locally and seasonally as much as possible.  You get food that hasn't traveled hundreds or even thousands of miles to make it your table, so this helps save the Earth.  Good.  You also know you're getting the freshest product available, that has been allowed to ripen naturally and not get gassed into ripeness.  Good.  You get to help support the farmers and economy in your area.  All good.

Now, when you combine the locavore movement with the DIY movement...what do you get?  Bottled tomatoes.  True. It's science.  So, I am excited to be a small part of both.  Also, the best thing about preserving your own food, you know what's in it.  Want to know what's in my tomatoes?  Tomatoes.  And a dash of lemon juice because the FDA says so.

But, what do you do if you've never bottled tomatoes before?  I was thinking about this and figured there are probably people out there, who want to try it, but where the hell do you start, when you're starting from the very beginning?  The beginning.  So, come along, let me give you some canning know-how, hard-earned from a life of helping my mom and grandmother's preserve food.

First thing though, you will need some equipment.  You need at least two large pots.  One of those two needs to be extremely large.  We are talking large.  My largest pot is a 21 quart capacity.  I didn't always have a pot that large, so if all you've got is an 8 quart, that's okay...as long as you have several other bowls and pots you can dump cooked tomatoes into.  You need a small pot. You also need a canner, whether this is steam or boiling water, it's okay, just follow the instructions.  You need quart bottles, lids and rings.  These need to be washed and ready to go.  You need a liquid measuring cup, a funnel, a pie tin and a 13 x 9 inch casserole dish.  Yes, a casserole dish and pie tin are essential when it comes to making bottled tomatoes.  Now, come along and see how to do it!!

Canning is a dirty, messy, long process.  Don't be fooled by all the beautiful pictures of rows and rows of bottled goods.  Don't wear your best clothes, be prepared to stand for hours on end and expect a giant mess when you're done.  Fair warning.  It's worth it, but, be it's nice to know what you're getting yourself into.

Step 1: Sort and wash your tomatoes.  Start with a clean sink, and begin going through the box of tomatoes, discarding any that are particularly unpleasant, and washing the good fruit and placing it in the sink for later.  My family just uses one of the tomato boxes as a garbage can.  Don't be afraid of tomatoes that have cracks in them.  These can be cut around.  In fact, if you purposely buy the cracked tomatoes, also known as the seconds, they'll cost you half as much.  Insider trick.

Step 2:  Imagine the pot on the left was filled with tomatoes, gently simmering for a few minutes, until the skins break a bit and you can peel them easily...I forgot to take a picture of that happening.  Sorry.  Once you've washed your tomatoes and  are ready to begin, start some boiling water.  They only boil for a few minutes to soften the skins.  Using a slotted spoon, remove the tomatoes from the boiling water to...

Step 3:  Your casserole dish.  This is where you place all the hot tomatoes and let them cool for a bit, amongst the discarded skins from the previous batch of tomatoes you've just peeled.  Once this gets too full of skins, toss the skins.  It's just easier to work in this one spot.  You can set your tomatoes down and clean them all in the same spot.  As you can see, next to my casserole dish is a large bowl where I put my peeled tomatoes.  Once that gets full I dump them in the stewing pot as seen above next to the simmering water.

Step 4: Peel your tomatoes. Here you go, a step by step on how I do it.  1. Make sure the tomatoes are cool enough to handle.  2.  With a nice sharp paring knife, cut out the core.  Don't cut yourself and don't burn yourself.  3.  Slurrp!  The tomato slipped right out of its skin.  It's not always that easy, but nice when it happens.  4.  Quarter the peeled tomato and toss it into bowl.

Follow a proper canning guide book regarding amount of time to cook.  My Mom, and therefore me, likes to cook our tomatoes longer than is strictly necessary.  Make sure you stir your tomatoes so they don't scorch on the bottom!

Step 5:  In your clean bottles, measure out the appropriate amount of lemon juice.  According to new guidelines, you should put 2 Tbl. lemon juice or vinegar per quart bottle.

Step 6:  Get your pie tin, measuring cup and funnel and place them next to your cooking tomatoes.  Place your empty bottle in the pie plate, put funnel in and start  scooping up tomatoes in measuring cup and carefully pour into bottle.  It will splatter.  Beware.  The reason for placing your equipment in the pie tin is to keep the mess from going everywhere.  It helps....minutely.   Set filled bottle aside and continue filling bottles until you have 7...which is how many you can can at once.

Step 7: In small pot of simmering water, place the necessary amount of un-used rings and let simmer for 10 minutes.
Step 8: Using a damp paper towel or cloth, wipe the rim off.  If there's anything here, the lid will not seal properly!

Step 9: Now, just follow the canning guidelines.  Pay special attention to altitude!  If you're like me and live at a higher elevation, you need to process for a longer time.

Step 10: Label it.  Using a permanent marker, make note what you've made and what year you made it.  Now, I just put the year, because I know the only thing in quart jars in my pantry are stewed tomatoes.  Other people might have salsa or chili sauce or spaghetti sauce...and in that case it could get confusing.

There you go.  Now you have a little knowledge on what equipment to use and how to use it, I feel secure in unleashing you to the farmer's markets for your own boxes of tomatoes.  And this coming winter imagine all the pots of soup and spaghetti and chilli you get to make, all from your own bottled tomatoes.  It's worth it.

Thanks for reading!

Shared here:
Mellywood's Mansion



  1. My mom had shelves of stewed/canned EVERYTHING when we were growing up. She had 2 giant gardens and we ate "locally" every day. I was never interested in gardening until just recently. The older I get, the more self-sufficient I want to become. I'm dying to get moved in to the new place and start my gardens! I know it's going to take awhile to get everything established, but I totally want to produce enough to can for the winter!


  2. I grew up canning tomatoes...I really wish I could do it again. Maybe in a few years when the 3 monkeys are a little older

  3. So many great ways to use these, so you're right it is totally worth it!

  4. Heather that's so awesome I'm scared of tomatoes I'm convinced I will kill the kids with botchalism

    1. Hey I forgot to mention compost the tomato skins or feed them to the chickens don't throw them out!! Thanks for linking hun xo

  5. Heather I admire your locovore ways! I have a friend who for the last two years has been canning venison meat. I didn't even know you could do that! Between the two of you...I'm putting canning equipment on my garage sale list for next year!

  6. What a great and informative post. Loved it all. Thankfully, my mother in-law cans for me!

  7. If I ever get my own garden, I am definitely doing this. What a great, great tutorial on this process!! I had a neighbor once who was Hispanic and he did something like this with peppers for his salsa. Homemade is the best, and now I know what locovore means!


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