69. Can It!

Two years ago our CSA (plan b organic farm) gave us the option to buy a bushel of their organic roma tomatoes for canning. We’d never canned anything before, but since my husband had that week off work, we decided to go for it and figure out how to do it. It took us all week to get the tomatoes canned (mostly stewed dice, some whole, and my husband tried to make paste but never got it boiled down to a paste-like consistency) and they lasted us until near the end of February which was 5 months. By the end of the week, however, I thought I’d vomit if I smelled another stewing tomato…

Last year was a bad year for tomatoes in these parts, so we didn’t get the chance again and this year there was a glitch in the CSA’s email list so I’m not sure if they did it but by the time I got back on the email list their tomatoes were done.

We don’t eat many canned goods. I buy dried beans and soak and cook them with 4 to 6 cups to spare and freeze them in wide mouth canning jars for quick use. We get our veggies fresh. I don’t buy canned soups since they’re just too salty and fresh are much tastier. (Actually, one time I was feeling lazy and my eldest son asked for cream of tomato soup and instead of making it from scratch I opened a can and it was rejected by both of my sons.) Again, when I make soup I often double it and freeze half for a quick appetizer on a busy evening. However, we do go through a lot of canned tomatoes. I don’t know what it is. We eat lots of Italian and Indian foods, I guess, and they come in handy for both of those. But there’s the questionable issue of BPA in the lining of cans, and I read somewhere that canned tomatoes are the worst of canned foods since they’re so acidic and that makes the BPA leach into the food. This isn’t decisively harmful, but could be.

So a few weeks ago I went to our local farmers market and asked one of the vendors if he sells bushels of romas and he got me a bushel for the next week. I left them a day and then was asked what was going on with them the next day so I decided to get going… it’s a lot of work since you need to peel them first (put them in boiling water for a minute or until the skins start to split, then put them in cold water to stop them from cooking, then peel the skins off), then cut and stew them, sterilize the jars and lids, fill them with some lemon juice and salt, then boil the jars in a big pot for 30 or 40 minutes. However, in 3 days I had canned the lot of them (with a few put aside for a harvest tomato tart, pizza margherita, and pizza sauce) and we have what will hopefully be 5 months or so worth of canned tomatoes. They’re delicious… much better than the store bought ones. If you’re interested in doing your own canning, a website called canning-food-recipes.comis where I got all of the information and instructions on the process. Once I got into a bit of a rhythm, it was actually pretty quick. (Peel tomatoes first, sterilize jars and lids while stewing tomatoes, fill jars, boil jars, repeat.) I kept the water that was used to sterilize the jars and boil them later and added to it on each day to conserve water. I don’t own a pressure canner or any special tools with the exception of a large (fits 4 or 5 1-pint mason jars) and extra large (fits 7 1-pint mason jars) stock pot and a pair of canning tongs (rounded like a jar) that help with getting the jars out of the pot of boiling water.

canned tomatoes

This year's batch of canned tomatoes. © 2010 Lynn Wyminga

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