First canning batch of tomatoes - are they okay?
I canned a small batch of tomatoes today - just four pint jars - using this recipe:
When I pulled the jars out of the canner, there was a one-inch layer of water at the bottom of the jar. I assume it separated from the tomatoes, but I'm not sure. Is it normal? Did I do something wrong? So far, the seals on the jars are intact. Those of you who have more experience, please advise.
Fruit floats. Sometimes no matter what you do. Definitely use a slotted spoon to put your maters in the jars. Try filling only halfway, add a little of your packing liquid, get in there with a spatula to release the bubbles, finish filling jar, add a little liquid, release bubbles, then add enough liquid to get proper head space. If I'm using a jar with shoulders, I'll cut thin wooden skewers to fit, criss-cross them, and shove the ends under the shoulders, then do the final head space adjustment. Keeps the fruit down in the liquid and in the case of something like peaches, prevents oxidation of the top layer.
I've discovered after the jars have cooled sometimes gently shaking them will redistribute the liquid into air pockets and the fruit will rest on the bottom. But not always.
Ah yes, the floating tomato/fruit problem. I don't know anyone who has raw or hot packed tomatoes or fruit who hasn't had this issue at some point. Hot packing and draining the juice when packing seems to be a better method for preventing floating fruit, but not always, as the OP experienced. I think in this case it was just a matter of using the proper utensil for packing.
As I wrote in the other thread, I think I wrote it, I like your skewer wedging method.
Hopefully the tomatoes will sink; if they don't, it's not a big deal, just looks funny.
I've had the fruit/veggie float issue myself. As a newbie canner, I figure it has to be my technique or the moisture content of the ingredients. But some of the "floaters" seem to sink after a couple of weeks (e.g. my zucchini relish had a small layer of liquid at the bottom with the vegetable contents on top). I assume that is normal. Only the peach jam (second batch) were there semi-permanent separation issues, due to the gelling. BTW, that jam still tasted divine!
Yes, the tomatoes and juice were floating above a layer of water at the bottom of the jar. From the replies, it seems as though I should have used a slotted spoon to place tomatoes in the jars, filling them as full as possible, and then added any liquid needed. I used a ladle instead - oops! Also, is there a variety of tomato that is better suited for canning? Thanks! Now I know that while the tomatoes may not be pretty, they are edible!
Yes, a slotted spoon is helpful. Then you can stuff as many in as will fit and just top off with the liquid.
I like to do plum tomatoes (halved), using the hot pack method. Sometimes I'll add a basil leaf too. I stuff 'em in tight and then top with the hot liquid and anything else called for in the recipe (usually lemon juice and salt).
Good luck with it!
...there was a one-inch layer of water at the bottom of the jar. I assume it separated from the tomatoes...
Just watery tomatoes. I get this quite often. You can reduce this by using a slotted spoon to drain off the water as you put the tomatoes in the jars. You can always add a bit of juice back in before you cap the jars if needed.
You can also reduce the water by canning the smaller tomatoes halved or whole.
All that extra juice...put it in the fridge and enjoy later.