Hurry Up and Get Canning!

The first day of autumn is but 10 days away, which means the opportunities for home canning and preserving are diminishing by the minute. If you’ve been putting off “putting up” like I have, there’s no more time to waste! This weekend, I hope to devise a plan and get real busy real fast next week with my canning partner Kate if she’s game.

Last year, we canned peaches and made berry jam, and this year, I’m going to suggest pickled cauliflower (as seen in the September issue of Saveur and a big ol' batch of tomato sauce, using Barbara Kingsolver’s (“Animal, Vegetable, Miracle”) recipe (details below). Looks like we might have help; I just received an e-mail from fellow food blogger Leslie Hatfield, of Eat Well Guide, who’s in Seattle visiting family. She says she’s ready to lend a hand; wonder if that would give us time to try canning our own tuna. Wouldn’t that be the coolest?

Now I’m tempted to declare the next ten days as the Mighty Appetite “Can Your Heart Away” extravaganza. You guys can share your tips, recipes and canning reports, and if you’ve got pics, I’ll put’em up, too. Intrigued and want to know more about the science of canning? Check out this handy backgrounder brought to you by the National Center for Home Food Preservation and then head over to epicurious, which has compiled a nifty interactive canning guide with recipes and the lowdown on setting up your canning rig. It’s a goodie.

In the midst of contemplating buckets of marinara sauce, I found this recent
San Francisco Chronicle interview with Kingsolver about canning tomatoes.

Now I must sign off – I’ve got a few canning calls to make – and 30 pounds of tomatoes to track down. Have a delicious weekend!

Family Secret Tomato Sauce
From “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” by Barbara Kingsolver
If you’re canning, stick closely to this recipe; adding additional fresh vegetables will change the pH so it’s unsafe for water-bath canning. If you’re freezing, then it’s fine to throw in peppers, mushrooms fresh garlic, whatever you want.

Makes 6-7 quarts.

10 quarts tomato puree (from about 30 pounds tomatoes)
4 large onions, chopped
1 cup dried basil
½ cup honey
4 tablespoons dried oregano
3 tablespoons salt
2 tablespoons ground dried lemon peel
2 tablespoons thyme
2 tablespoons garlic powder (or more, to taste0
2 tablespoons dried parsley
2 teaspoons pepper
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg

Soften onions in a heavy three-gallon kettle – add a small amount of water if necessary but no oil if you are canning (very important!). Add pureed tomatoes and all seasonings, bring to a boil and simmer on low heat for 2-3 hours, until sauce has thickened to your liking. Stir frequently, especially toward the end, to avoid burning. Meanwhile, heat water in canner bath, sterilize jars in boiling water or dishwasher and pour boiling water over jar lids.

Bottled lemon juice or citric acid is not optional!

Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice OR ½ teaspoon citric acid to each quart jar (halve that amount for pint jars). This ensures that the sauce will be safely acidic. When sauce is ready, ladle into jars, leaving ½-inch headspace. Cap jars, lower gently into canner and boil for 35 minutes. Remove, cool, check all seals, label and store for winter.

By Kim ODonnel |  September 12, 2008; 11:40 AM ET Canning/Preserving
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We're in the midst of our annual canning right now! We just finished a batch of peach jam and tomorrow we'll finish our tomato canning.

Over the years, we've found the most useful thing to do with tomatoes, for us anyway, is to make straight up tomato sauce. We peel and core the tomatoes the usual way then crush them with our hands and cook it down till it's the thickness we want. We don't make it super thick and if we want it less chunky, we use an immersion blender. Blend before the end 'cause this adds air which I like to cook out. Then fill jars and process.

All winter long we have the best tomato sauce for sauce (reduces fast in a hot pan), soup or whatever. We never add lemon juice or citric acid or salt. Pure tomato. It's never been a problem, but we're not adding non-acidic stuff to the mix. Also, even at three years, the sauce doesn't really darken. The difference between tomatoes from a can with salt and citric acid and the taste of pure tomato is amazing. We make enough to use at least one jar/week ( just two of us so we do pints). We haven't bought a can of tomatoes in years. Our favorite farmer sells half bushels of seconds for $8.00.

Oh, we did some plum (Roma) tomatoes this way too. Of course, there's a lot less water to boil out, but we like the taste of the regular tomatoes better and the plum tomatoes were harder to peel.

Posted by: Fran | September 12, 2008 3:17 PM

I forgot to mention that a half bushel makes about 16 pint jars of tomato sauce.

Posted by: Fran | September 12, 2008 4:06 PM

I had always heard that tomatoes required a pressure canner so I was intrigued by this recipe. Then I saw Fran's comments and had to do a bit of research. I found this tidbit:

"Tomatoes are generally considered a high acid food item with a pH below 4.6. Unfortunately, a lot of misinformation has been printed in the popular press about "low acid" tomatoes referring to those with a sweet, non-tart taste. These tomatoes are often white, yellow, or pink in color but are not low in acid content. The higher sugar masks the acidic flavor.

Researchers at USDA and at the University of Minnesota have found that most underripe to ripe, cooked tomatoes have a pH below 4.6. Unfortunately, a few varieties may have a pH above or close to 4.6. These include Ace, Ace 55VF, Beefmaster Hybrid, Big Early Hybrid, Big Girl, Big Set, Burpee VF Hybrid, Cal Ace, Delicious, Fireball, Garden State, Royal Chico, and San Marzano. Some of these are grown for commercial purposes and are not found in home gardens. However, safely canning these varieties requires additional acid for water bath processing or a pressure canning process similar to low acid vegetables."

So, that explains the addition of lemon juice in Kim's recipe and why it's not optional.

I suppose if you're using the same variety from year to year and you haven't died yet (though botulism is tasteless, in my understanding), just canning the tomatoes straight in a water bath might be ok.

Personally, I'm going to try the pressure canner after I pick my tomatoes up at the farmer's market this Sunday. As much as I love that clean tomato flavor, it's not worth dying for.

Posted by: seattlecookingmom | September 12, 2008 5:54 PM

We canned tomatoes for the first time this year and had a blast doing it!

We did a write-up about it on our blog and have already started receiving some great tips in the comments about other methods for next year.

Posted by: Clay @ The Bitten Word | September 12, 2008 7:33 PM


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Posted by: Vickie | September 15, 2008 11:22 AM

I just tried canning for the first time, with crushed tomatoes and a simple, small batch of plum jam.

Write-ups & photos are here:

Posted by: FoodieTots | September 15, 2008 12:55 PM

Sorry its is Fall already metreologically.
Fall starts Sept 1 and Winter Dec 1.

Posted by: Anonymous | September 16, 2008 1:29 PM

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