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Easy Canning: Tomatoes, Lemon Juice + Water

9:47 AM

We've been in the kitchen almost every night since I was diagnosed and I've learned more than I would've ever imagined. When boredom sets in we experiment with new things; my eyes have opened to a vast array of possibilities. Necessity is also our mother of exploration—Tanya has a really amazing tomato plant and right now we have a whole bunch of ripening ones growing out back (and not nearly enough sandwiches to put them on).

Therefore, we're getting into canning. I always thought canning was an art form reserved for Italian grandmothers—and it is an art form, don't get me wrong, but it isn't super duper hard. Granted, we're just getting started. Other vegetables probably get more tricky. But Tanya canned some banana peppers in under an hour and these tomatoes are so incredibly easy. For those of you allergic to nightshades, we still encourage you to explore canning! You can use almost any veggie—we'll be doing lots more, I'm sure.

(By the way, just to prove how easy these tomatoes are, I'm doing them all by myself. Yep. Tanya's on vacation this week so Rupert and I are forced to fend for ourselves, and I'm canning tomatoes. They're that easy.)

Before you get started, let's talk about the tools you need. You'll want to get everything out beforehand so that you aren't scrambling during the process!

You'll definitely need:

Tomatoes. We're using Romas, but other low-juice varieties work as well. According to my research, more juicy heirloom varieties will also work but they won't hold shape as well. We used about 14 oz (410g). 

Mason Jar(s). Our tomatoes fit perfectly into one pint-sized jar. More will fit than meets the eye—once you blanch them, they get quite a bit smaller. We originally thought we would need two jars but they ended up fitting perfectly into one. You'll also need a lid and a rim for each jar, of course. 

Jar Lifter. Yeah, we have one—it might be dangerous not to. You'll use this to lift your super hot jar out of the boiling water.

Waterbath and Rack (Or A Fake One). You have options here. Either you can become the proud owner of a waterbath and rack (like these here) or you can fake it. If you fake it, you'll need a large stock pot, some tin foil, and jars small enough that they can stand upright in the pot and be submersed under at least an inch of water. You'll make a few rolls of tin foil to stand your jar up on so that it doesn't touch the bottom—this is very important, because that direct heat could make your jar crack! You could also use jar rims to set your jar on instead of tin foil. 

Other Normal Kitchen Stuff.
A slotted spoon
A pairing knife
A saucepan large enough to boil your tomatoes in
A teapot (or other pot that allows water to boil and then easily be poured)
A bowl
A chopstick (or stirring stick, or even a thin knife)
Lemon juice (store bought), 1 tbsp. per pint-sized jar

Got it all? Great. You'll also need about 1.5 hours of time (45 min. prep + 45 min. jar boiling). You'll maximize your time if you have a few things going at once, so we'll try to properly align the steps.

1. Boil Water  |  Prep Tomatoes  |  Prep Ice Water
First, go ahead and get your waterbath over heat—it takes a lot of water and will require time to reach a boil. Also fill your saucepan with water and bring it to a boil.

While you're waiting, wash your tomatoes and cut off any stems or bad spots. Cut a small "x" in the bottoms with your pairing knife.

When the water in your saucepan is nearing boiling, prep a bowl full of ice water large enough to submerge your tomatoes after you boil them. 

2. Blanch Tomatoes
When the water in your saucepan reaches a nice rolling boil, plop in your tomatoes. Boil them for about a minute and then use your slotted spoon to transfer them immediately into the ice water. 

3. Boil Jars + Lid  |  Peel Tomatoes  |  Start Teapot
Once your waterbath is boiling, place your jars on the rack and submerge them for ten minutes to sterilize them. Half way through, add the flat part of the lid to the hot water to loosen the sealant.

Meanwhile, once your tomatoes are cool enough to handle, peel and dispose of the skin. It should practically fall off—if it doesn't, start from the "x" you cut and use your pairing knife to peel backwards.

You'll also want to bring water (at least a cup per pint-sized jar) to a boil in your teapot.

4. Assemble Jars
After ten minutes, remove your jars from the water with your jar lifter. Add one tbsp. of lemon juice to each pint-sized jar and then drop in your tomatoes. Pour boiling water from your kettle over the top, leaving about 1/2 inch of headspace. Wipe the rim clean so that the seal can bond correctly, center the lid and then screw the ring on tightly. 

5. Boil Jars
Place the jars back onto the rack and submerge them into boiling water. You'll need to make sure that they're covered by about an inch of water. Remember, if you're using the pot-and-foil technique, your jars must be upright for the seal to work properly and they shouldn't come in direct contact with the bottom of the pot. Leave your jars submerged for 45 minutes, making sure the water remains at a boil the entire time. 

6. Remove, Cool + Save!
Use your jar lifter to remove your jars from the water and set them on a hot plate or wire rack to cool. Don't shake them, tilt them, tighten the lid with your fingers, or anything else—any funny business might prevent the seal from forming correctly. Leave them there for 12 to 24 hours. You might hear a loud pop or two coming from the jar; that means the seal is forming correctly! Yay!

Once they've set, remove the screw part of the top from the jar (if you don't, it may start to rust). It shouldn't matter—if your seal is tight, you should be able to pick it up by just holding onto the little metal lip. It's really that secure.

You'll want to store your jars in a cool, dark place until you're ready to use them.

Help, I screwed up! If your seal isn't tight, it's okay. You could try again with a new lid, but re-cooking the tomatoes might ruin the flavor. We'd suggest storing that jar in the fridge and using it sooner rather than later, and then trying again on your next batch!

See, not too hard, right?! We're going to experiment with some recipes made from our canned tomatoes soon.

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