Friday, August 31, 2012

Canning with Kacey 101, How to prepare tomatoes for canning!

If you have been following my previous blogs about preserving food, you know that I find it a very fulfilling and nostalgic practice. Many people have wonderful memories of canning with their mom or grandma. As I was putting up tomatoes yesterday it was just the boy and I. My girls were at school and I was thinking, I can't wait until my girls are old enough to help me in this process. I picture us gathered in my kitchen, the smell of salsa boiling down on the range top, my girls around me peeling tomatoes and chopping peppers, talking about what's going on in their lives and which boys they like. I have great memories of bottling pickled beets with my Grandma Gay and my mom in-law, we had the purple fingernails for weeks to prove it! My mom has helped me peel many of tomato in her day! I have also had many wonderful times canning with my girlfriends. Those are treasured memories for me and I hope to make more canning memories with my kids, but for now...It's just me and my kitchen, with a little Luke Brian in the background. "Rain is a good thing!"
     So for this post I thought I would share a how to get your tomatoes ready to be bottled. (Keep in mind that if you are new to this idea, when I say canning I am referring to the practice of preserving food, but in all reality we are putting things in glass bottles and not in cans.) But I like the term canning better.
Tomatoes can be preserved in so many different ways such as salsa, chili sauce, stewed/quartered tomatoes (like to be used as you would a can of tomatoes in soups, stews, recipes later), tomato sauce, juice or spaghetti sauce just to name a few. But in all of these ways to use them one thing remains the same...the tomatoes need to prepared before they can be made into something. Their skins and stems need to be removed before they can be used. So I am going to show you how I prepare my tomatoes. Here goes!
*First step is to pick your tomatoes, or buy them from the Farmer's Market. Make sure they are picked fresh. They should go from vine to bottle within 24 hours.
*Next wash your tomatoes, removing all dirt and nature's other yucky stuff like spider webs etc.
*Then have a large shallow pan full of boiling water on the stove next to the counter where you have your washed tomatoes. Dip several tomatoes into the boiling water for about 30-60 seconds then promptly remove with a slotted spoon when the skins start to split. This process will loosen the skin making it pleasurable to remove it. (If you were to skip this process you would be peeling forever and the tomatoes would look horrible!) But remember only long enough to split the skins, you don't want them cooking, that will come later. So hence the next step...
*The ice bath, because you don't want to over cook the tomatoes in this stage go from the boiling water to an ice bath. (Large bowl filled with ice and a little water to stop the cooking process.) Replacing the ice and water as it melts/as needed until all tomatoes have been through the process.
*Then from the ice bath bowl to the holding bowl.
*Make an assembly line going from wash sink, to counter top, to boiling water, to ice bath to holding bowl and if you have more than yourself, you can add someone peeling and chopping.This is where it is nice to have friends, it goes faster!
*Once you have slipped the tomatoes skins you can now prepare the tomatoes for their ultimate purpose, such as on to the juicer/food mill or chop up for salsa etc. (Keeping in mind the food mill says you can throw the tomatoes with skins, stems and all into the food mill after the boiling water, such as to make tomato juice, but I prefer to remove all that first in case I missed any nasties while washing because they usually hang out in the stem or skin.) I used the tomatoes photographed below to make a stewed/chopped tomato to be used as an ingredient in sauces or soups in the winter, like you would use a can of tomatoes from the store.
*Make sure that during the chopping step that you cut the tomato in half first and then face the inside toward you so you can view the inside as you cut as to catch any undesirable things that sometimes hid within. (See photo below.)

I wash mine in my kitchen sink.

Then move them to the counter top to wait for the boiling water.

Then they go into the boiling water pan.

This tomato is ready to shed it's skin for you! See the split.
Then to a nice ice bath to cool down.
Here is the ice bath bowl and the holding bowl.

Now ready to peel off the skin.

Another tasty bowl of scraps for my hens.

Now cut out the stems/cores. I make a triangular cut with the tip of my knife.
Cut out any undesirables such as this gross spot or any bruises or cracks.

Chopped tomatoes ready for your canning purpose.

Once you are to this step you will want to refer to a trusted source for instructions on how to  process your tomatoes. I like to use   the Complete Guide to Home Canning put out by the USDA/USU Extension Service it can be printed from online. I have mine in a 3 ring binder that is out on my counter top most of time during the canning season. It will tell you how to prepare and give tested recipes for salsa, sauces etc. as well as what canning methods to use for the best outcome. It is a staple for me, my go to canning book! If you don't have an experienced, trusted canning friend, mom or grandma to ask you can always call your Local Extension Agent with questions on canning if you can't find your answer in the guide. Here is a link to where you can print the guide from USU.  Complete Guide to Home Canning
I made these into stewed/quartered tomatoes to be added to soup during the winter.

Well, gotta go now, I have these waiting on my counter. I'm thinking salsa today!!


  1. Love this mato post. I made chili sauce with my MIL last year but I'm not finding enough uses for it. Do you make that and if so what do you use it for most?

    1. Hey Amy! I love Chili Sauce on any roasted meat as a condiment and I just posted a recipe for Baked Beans using Chili Sauce. Try it and let me know what you think!