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Does anybody can tomatoes.. or anything else?

  • m

I grew up with a mom who canned produce from her garden..her mom did the same. I did the same.

I live in N.CA now..and was invited over to my neighbors garden to pick as many tomatoes and lemon cukes as I wanted. I told her I would can some and bring them back. She said she'd never done that..nor had her mom. My mother-in-law said the same.

Is is just a thing that people do who happen to live in areas with shorter growing seasons?

I'll never forget the time my mom and dad drove to CA (from Wyo) to visit my step-sis. I was still living in Wyo. My mom called me all excited..."we were driving down the freeway and there was this huge open truck filled so high with tomatoes that they were falling onto the highway. I made Jack stop so I could pick them up along the side of the road. I couldn't believe it that nobody else was stopping. All those tomatoes going to waste!"
She had enough to can 40 jars by the time she got to S. CA...even tho she had to buy all of the canning equipment when she got there. She left some with my sis and brought the rest home. I have never seen her so happy or so smug.

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  1. No I don't think it's a function of growing season, it's more to do with whether you like to cook or not. I grew up with homemade Chinese pickles my grandmother made, so I didn't find it unusual to can tomatoes. I starting canning and making preserves when I lived in South Africa which has a year-round growing season.

    Love the story about tomatoes falling off the truck. I would have done the same, as would my mother.

    1 Reply
    1. re: cheryl_h

      I don't like to shop for veg every day so I do a lot of refrigerator pickling rather than the more sophisticted canning. It allows me to utilize a lot of veg that might otherwise not be fresh after a couple of days and makes delicious additions to salads - especially like mushrooms and string beans. Just simmer veg in strong vinegar/water solution with salt and pinch of red pep. flakes and refrigerate for 2 days before eating - kepp for a couple of weeks refrigerated.

    2. I have in the past but no longer do but am giving some serious thought to putting up tomato jam this summer. There is noting like it on a hot biscuit or as a savoury beside a roast or fried chicken.

      In recent years I had been working a lot and just did not have the time. I had to place a limit on how many tomato plants we put in because of the waste that occured. I now have a little more leisure and am thinking of canning again and making dilly beans too. They are the best pickle!

      1. I live in Scandinavia and here pickling and preserving is thought to be innate methods of cooking. It was an ideal way to keep especially veggies available during off seasons and prevent people from dying of scurvy.
        I do it myself all the time. I preserve just about everything that grows (and that I like eating). Last year I made green tomato preserves. I was told by the receiver that they enjoyed them immensely (I'm a tomato allergic myself). I cook jams and make preserves and pickle any veggie I can get my hands on. Dressed with nice labels etc., they also make great gifts.

        1. I grew up with canning being an important part of summer.
          We grew peaches and apricots which my mother canned.
          The canned peaches and apricots lived in a cupboard in the basement, and ~I SWEAR~ when you opened that cupboard, the golden summer sun streamed out.
          My mother also made jelly from our quinces and it's a taste I truly miss. She also made jelly from our blackberries and my aunt's raspberries. The big bag of berries dripping juice into a bowl is one of my fondest kitchen memories....

          1. yes, I still can also, although I freeze quite a bit too. The tomatoes in my area are just not happening this year, but I am (as I type) processing a full bushel of absolutely incredible "summer pearl" white peaches I picked with my family this weekend (aunts, uncles, nephews, what fun). I will freeze most of them, or at least what my visiting nephews don't eat anyway. Bad bad year for tomatoes, though.

            1 Reply
            1. re: Betty

              I've been surprised at my own impulses to can lately. I've made concord grape jam a couple of times (once from our garden and once from the store when the wildlife beat us to the grapes) and last year I put up some peach jam. But I need a much better recipe for the next peach jam I make. We have a relatively short growing season here, so there is some of that impulse to make it last longer. I love opening a jar of grape jam in January.

            2. I think canning is considered daunting by many cooks because of the necessity of properly sterilizing and sealing the jars, and the dangers resulting from improper or careless canning techniques. It's also a hot task involving very large pots of ingredients and boiling water. My mother canned many things (reluctantly, I think, and I remember her standing over the stove with sweat standing on her forehead). Her enthusiasm was definitely on the low side when my father brought home a bushel of small cucumbers that had been brought to the drugstore as a thanks for his getting up in the middle of the night to fill a prescription. But she would valiantly sweep into action and produce many jars of fine dill pickles, to be given away during the holidays. That was in Arkansas, where people often tended large vegetable gardens.

              I've made jams, chutneys and preserves, but I haven't canned produce, made pickles or sauerkraut as my mother did. I admit to being intimidated by the sterilization issue. Also, although I dabble in gardening wherever I live, I haven't had access to a large producing garden -- and here in Arizona in the summer, not much grows anyway. Plus, the small sampling of produce found at local farmers' markets is expensive.

              Sarah C

              1 Reply
              1. re: kittyfood

                I'm with you. I love fruits and veg, am an enthusiastic gardener and market shopper, but I once read a novel in which a woman (unintentionally) killed her mother-in-law with home-canned green beans. I've made small batches of strawberry and apricot jam and chutneys. One of these years I hope to get over this fear, maybe with the help of this board!

              2. Every summer I make a dozen pints of ketchup (without cornsyrup) and three or four other tomato based products -- usually a very spicy tomato chutney, a fresh horseradish/tomato salsa, tomato marmalade, things like that. I also roast a slew of plum tomatoes and toss them into the freezer. This keeps me happy through the winter. I do this primarily because it is a passion, not a need.

                2 Replies
                1. re: pitterpatter

                  So am wondering about the freezing tomatoe thing. You roast them for how long and then put them in what to freeze? Do you "de-seed" before roasting?

                  Also..I'd love to have a good salsa recipe!

                  1. re: melly

                    I cut them in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds with my finger, but I do get all obsessive about this. Then I drizzle them with a small amount of olive oil, and roast them at 200 degrees for three hours or so. I don't season them with garlic or basil, or salt and pepper. I save that for later, depending on how I use them. Then, when cooled, I put a handful or two into each of several ziplock bags, roll them tightly to get the air out, then toss them into the freezer.

                    If you are interested in my horseradish tomato salsa recipe, I'll be digging that out in a few days. This is canned, and has coriander and other spices, but is not hot, as the cooking dissipates most of the punch of the horseradish. My ultra-food-conservative FIL loves this, and always polishes off the jar with a spoon.

                2. I make blueberry jam every summer from my picking excursions. Then I freeze the berries in 2-cup plastic bags to have all winter. I do the same with Rhubarb. My MIL cans a lot, she makes pickled veggies, cans peaches, green beans and several other items. My BIL makes pasta sauce and cans it. I think it's all a matter of what you grow up with. It's a lot of work but the results are far better than anything you can buy in a store. Last summer we canned peaches, and made a spiced peach blend that was out of this world. I grilled the peaches and used the syrup to make a sauce for grilled pork. I could have eaten that until I burst the flavor was SO amazing. And in the middle of winter too!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: cooknKate

                    "I think it's all a matter of what you grow up with." Absolutely. Canning is one of those processes that most people learn to do only after watching someone else do it repeatedly, helping, and then doing it themselves. It is harder to learn from a book and get the feel for gelling, headroom, handling all that boiling water. Like learning to make gnocchi or bread or cheese, perhaps.

                    I haven't done a lot of vegetable canning aside from tomato sauce and pickles every year - I am hoping folks will share their recipes. Dilly beans? Carrots? We make tons of jam for Christmas/hostess gifts. This year strawberry, cherry, and plum and will soon start blackberry. Last year also red currant, apricot, and raspberry. A friend just gave us a jar of grilled figs which I am determined to try this year.

                    We have a white peach tree whose peaches are small and almost green. Fresh, the peaches are nothing special, but I can quarts of peach halves every August and they are just amazing for breakfast on dark mornings in February. The canning brings out their flavor. Sadly, this is the first year the tree is not groaning under the weight of peaches - too much rain in March.

                  2. I purchased a big pot for canning, as well as a how-to book last year. For some reason, it's a major mental hurdle for me.

                    Because I have 30 active tomato plants, I'd like to make something utilizing those tomatoes so I can enjoy them during the "off season".

                    If anyone is willing to share tried-and-true recipes for canning tomatoes (jam, chutney, whole tomatoes, etc.), I would be very appreciative of your time (I'm sure others would be also!).

                    1. AS a former University of Wisconsin-Extension home economist, I highly recommend that you contact your local cooperative extension office for bulletins on canning. They are updated by USDA on a routine basis, so will give you reliable and safe instructions on the procedures and techniques to follow. The bulletins usually include some excellent recipes.

                      If you're not familiar with cooperative extension, try looking in the phone book for the local 4-H office.

                      4 Replies
                      1. re: WI LouLou

                        I second this! I've done canning in the past, and it's very rewarding. But it's serious business, so like with anything else, do your research first before you plunge into using other canner's recipes.

                        You want the official word on canning if it's your first go, and though you may get many recipes here, you want to do it by the book the first several times. The local Ag Extension Service (a program of your state's agricultural colleges) has booklets, and at this time of year, classes on home food preservation.

                        The Ball jar company used to put out a book called "The Ball Blue Book" which I believe is out of print. Look for it at a used book store. Farm Journal Magazine also printed an excellent home food preservation book. Look for that title also.

                        Check your local library for many books on the subject. Once you do your basic research and understand the processes, using home cooks' recipes will be much easier.

                        Lastly, there are high-acid foods which require less processing and low-acid foods which require LONG processing. Please be very carefull--call your ag extention service with ANY doubts you may have. Don't decide on your own if a food is low or high acid.

                        1. re: toodie jane

                          I have that Ball Blue Book. Purchased it at a thrift store last year. (no tomato jelly though :(

                          1. re: toodie jane

                            I've not heard that the Ball Blue Book is out of print. That is shocking. I have had many editions of it over the years and used to teach out of it. Are you sure? I'll have to check at the hardware store next time I am in there. I just can't believe so valuable a resource would no longer be available.

                            I just checked on Amazon and the name has changed. It is now the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving and was published this pat April. It sells for about $12.95 and is worth every penny.

                            I was really worried that someone(s) ar Ball had lost their minds.

                            1. re: toodie jane

                              The Ball Blue Book remains in print. I bought a copy last summer.

                              I can a few things every summer. I freeze more which is faster but less satisfying.

                              My grandmother canned tons of food every summer both because they liked the taste of fresh, home grown food and because it ws economical. My grandfather was a minister in a rural area and a lot of the food was given away to people on hard times.

                          2. My mom and I have been canning tomatoes every summer for as long as I can remember. We're actually worried that this year we might not get a good crop since NJ has been experiencing a lot of rain recently.

                            I don't know if we do this the "right" way, but it's how we've been canning for years and how my grandmother canned and no one has died yet. We boil three pots of water - one to sterilize the glass jars, one to sterilize the lids and rings and one to blanch the tomatoes. We blanch the tomatoes for about 30 seconds and then peel and seed them. The flesh goes into another large pot that is then cooked until it boils. Once the tomatoes are boiling, we form an assembly line with my mother sterilizing the jars/lids/rings and me using a sterilized funnel and ladle to fill the jars. Once the jars are filled, we wipe the lip with a clean towel, place the lid on top and tighten the ring only slightly. The filled jars are set aside and as they cool, the vacuum effect seals the lids and you hear a distinct "pop." Any jars that don't seal we either re-can or put in the fridge to use within the week.

                            We're also planning to make a huge batch of pesto this summer(not really canning, but more like putting away for a rainy day) since my mom has three HUGE basil plants.

                            6 Replies
                            1. re: SarahEats

                              pesto freezes very well in 1/2 pint wide mouth jars. I leave the cheese out till using. Even frozen, the flavor is still very fresh tasting!

                              1. re: toodie jane

                                I make pesto for the freezer every year. I also leave out the cheese, and freeze it in ziploc bags in one cup increments. I seal the bag squeezing out all the air and flatten it at the same time so the pesto is of uniform thickness. They freeze really quick, and better yet, thaw out in a sink of cold water in about 3 minutes so dinner can be super fast.

                                1. re: cooknKate

                                  Thanks for reminding me to leave out the cheese. I definitely would have forgotten and I would hate to compromise the flavor.

                                  1. re: SarahEats

                                    I freeze with the cheese--tastes identical IMO. (I make about 15 cups (finished product) at the end of each summer.)

                              2. re: SarahEats

                                We would peel the tomatoes after 30 seconds in boiling water, put them into the sterilized jars with proper lids/gaskets, and then lower them (in the rack) into the water and let them process. We'd take em out and wait for the "pop sound". The lids of the jars would sink in a bit when sealed.

                                1. re: SarahEats

                                  Actually the method you describe would be considered UNSAFE, by the USDA. Tomatoes (which for years were considered high acid and now because of hybridization have a more neutral pH) needed to be processes in a hot water bath for a minimum of 5 minutes for pints. I don't have my bulletins handy--but I think quarts may need 10 minutes. This is to kill bacteria which may be present and cause diseases such as botulism.

                                2. My mother canned tomatoes and a few jams. When I had a restaurant and was broke I started canning to make gifts. I have since left the restaurant business but still can goods for gifts. I invested in a pressure canner to can stews and other kinds of tomato sauces. Now I make six kinds of tomato sauces-marinara, spaghetti (meat)sauce, tomato porcini, syracuse (with eggplants and olives), mushroom, sausage and tomato and a tomato chipolte sauce. In addition to that I consider my specialties to be dilly beans, pickled watermelon rind, chili sauce, chinese duck sauce and caponata. Then I make jams, apple sauce, pickled beets, hot dog and hamburger relishes as well. I used to give people boxes of canned good based on what I thought they liked. Then I changed to sending out a list of what I have available and having them put in an order. Then I know people will use what they get. My SIL once sent back 7 cases of unopened canned goods. Needless to say she never got any after that.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: AGM_Cape_Cod

                                    I would love to be on your mailing list :).
                                    I pickle and preserve alot but have never ventured into meat dishes.
                                    As to sterilisation that people are worrying over. I have a large assortment of patent jars. When it's time to pickle I sterilise them in the oven and add a new rubber ring. I also rinse them with a preservative added to boiling water (after a few minutes I pour the water away). I also take great care when I put the veggies/fruits into the jar, using a ladel I have poured boiling water over and I wear plastic gloves to keep my fingers from contaminating anything. So far I haven't experienced anything going bad. You can usually taste that veggies or fruit for whatever reason have gone bad during storage. If it tastes foul, throw it out.

                                  2. You are a canning god/godess!

                                    I cannot believe that someone would send back canned anything!!

                                    Homecanning.com is a good website.

                                    1. The Ball Blue Book is NOT out of print, and please don't buy an old one. Info in the old ones may be out of date, and you could be endangering the folks who will eat your canned goods.

                                      The BBB is THE ultimate authority on SAFE canning, and a great instructional manual for first time canners, as well.

                                      You can buy a new BBB at WalMart, near the canning supplies, or in some grocery stores, or online--google it or go to Amazon. It only costs about $5.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: sparrowgrass

                                        Are you saying their book from 1997 is obsolete?

                                        1. re: Funwithfood

                                          The 1999 book still allows water-bath processing for tomatoes albeit with the additon of citric acid or lemon juice, which is obsolete. The hot pack and seal approach has been considered dangerous for years. Newer recommendations call for pressure processing for tomatoes. Newer varieties of tomatoes are much less acid than the sorts that were canned years ago. Don't think using heirloom beefsteak types is safe because they always had relatively low acidity.

                                          Acidity is important in canning because it retards the development of botulism. Pickles and most fruits have sufficient acidity to prevent botulin spores from developing toxin, which is very dangerous. Botulin spores are ubiquitous in soil in many areas, so soil splashed by rain can leave spores on tomatoes. Using some of the old canning techniques is akin to playing Russian roulette.

                                          1. re: Eldon Kreider

                                            This is all sounding quite involved...maybe I'll just freeze the tomatoes whole as a poster once suggested.

                                            1. re: Funwithfood


                                              It really is not complicated at all. Try it..you'll like it. If you can delay gratification at all...it is well worth the work. It is fun work too!

                                              1. re: Funwithfood

                                                I grew up with my Mom "canning", but only jellys and pickles.

                                                In fact, my Mom came over last week and taught my best friend and I to make fig preserves. (she's a retired school teacher and she had a ball I could tell) Per my mother, one should only can items that have sugar or vinegar, both preservatives in their own right. And in particular not to can anything low-acid. (I remember her staring in horror at her M-I-L's home canned green beans) If one wants to can those items, one must have a pressure canner, she says.

                                                As for tomatos, a couple of weeks ago I made a double batch of Mario's basic tomato sauce from the Babbo book (subing skinned fresh for canned) and froze individual zip lock bags. This weekend, i made oven dried tomatos. I used to freeze them whole or roughly chopped...but they get very ice-y in the freezer...I like making sauce first better. My Mom also makes large quantities of vegetable soup this time of year w/ tomatoes, corn, and beans, and freezes for winter suppers.

                                                1. re: Funwithfood

                                                  One trick for freezing small quantities of tomatoes is to cut into chunks and zap them in a microwave with no water added. Let drain in a strainer or a food mill with fine blade. The liquid that drains out is tomato water, which had a run in fancy restaurants a year or so ago. Run the rest of the tomatoes through the food mill for a nice puree with the seeds and skins left in the food mill. Freeze in convenient size containers. This puree will beat anything you can buy. We do it with both red and yellow tomatoes although not usually mixed.

                                                2. re: Eldon Kreider

                                                  Low-acid tomatoes are only "low-acid" when compared to regular tomatoes. Compare to green beans, they're very high acid, indeed. The worry-warts have run amock if they're telling people to pressure can tomatoes! Generations have been processing tomatoes in water baths and I've yet to hear that one person has died from eating them (unlike improperly processed beans).

                                                  1. re: pikawicca

                                                    Unfortunately, the high acid tomatoes were just above the border for acidity for safe canning with water-bath processing. Lower acid varieties are below the border. Green beans, along with practically all other vegetables, always were very, very far below safe acid levels. I saw enough cases of bulging and exploded lids and other signs of spoiled tomatoes years ago to want to take any chances. The real danger is borderline botulism without obvious signs of spoilage.

                                            2. Well, Melly (& other "canners"), you're cordially invited to my house to can with me at the end of summer!

                                              What is pressure processing anyway?

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: Funwithfood

                                                Pressure processing is processing in a pressure cooker. The pressure raises the temperature so kills off bacteria more effectively than hot water processing.

                                                1. re: cheryl_h

                                                  ....a special Pressure Canner, not your regular home cooking pressure cooker. Check out this photo and see how big it is. Will accomdate quarts.


                                                2. re: Funwithfood

                                                  Okay...we'll make it a fun, fun time!

                                                3. I can. I do tomatoes, bread & butter pickles, pumpkin butter, fruit jam (depending on which of my trees are productive in any given year) and any time I can get concord grapes (not often enough) I do a killer conserve with nuts.

                                                  I have a gas burner on my outdoor gas grill. I do all my canning out there because who wants the extra heat in the kitchen in the summer when produce is good, available and cheap. I do the fruit prep up to the boil in the kitchen and carry a reasonable sized pan outside to boil. I carry the hot pan back into the kitchen to pack the jars and put them in the rack to carry to the boiling water kettle outside. It's very convenient to just pull up a water hose to the huge kettle and fill it up for the water bath. No carrying the big, heavy, sloshy thing anywhere!

                                                  I love Weck jars from Germany for their beautiful shapes and also for the glass tops that I can *watch* force out air. Their one liter bulb-shaped jars are so beautiful packed with tomatoes that I keep them within sight until they're gone sometime over the winter.

                                                  3 Replies
                                                  1. re: rainey

                                                    Brilliant canning outside! Reminds me of my husband's Italian-American relatives who all had second kitchens in the basement or garage so that the house wouldn't heat up when they canned tomatoes. Where can I find the Weck jars?

                                                    1. re: rainey

                                                      Whoa....great tips!
                                                      I know you can, I know you can.

                                                      Yesterday I made a killer hot sauce that I jarred up and am giving away. I used fresh tomatoes,tomatillas,garlic,onion,jalapeno's,and pepper flakes...oh and some zuchinni that was given to me. Chopped it. Simmered it all for over an hours then pulsed in processor a few times. My husband and neighbors loved it.

                                                    2. A friend and I make make a damson plum chutney in September - wonderful with pork, roast chicken, etc. We live in NYC, so not so much room for keeping what we "put up" as my grandmother would say.

                                                      1. Oh boy...Wed. I am teaching my neighbor to can tomatoes! They have 9 tomatoe plants and I can hardly wait. She's never done it. She promises to teach me how to make decent pie crust.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: melly

                                                          You are a good neighbor. Are using the "pressure" method?
                                                          (Please post photos of your final products. :)