The tomatoes have started to ripen, so it’s back to my Home Economist and Master Food Preserver role today. I think I have mentioned in this space before that I love tomatoes. I love stewed tomatoes, canned tomatoes, fresh tomatoes, red tomatoes, yellow tomatoes, orange tomatoes, tomato sauce, pictures of tomatoes… well, you get the idea. But I especially love growing tomatoes. When we moved to sunny Eastern Washington from much less sunny Western Maine, the first thing I did was plant a peach tree. The second thing was plant tomatoes. The number of tomato plants has gone up and down over the years and this is a low year. I only have about 25 plants of various types. But I always grow a good number of San Marzano paste tomatoes for canning.
Even though I love to preserve my tomatoes, it doesn’t mean I love the work that comes with canning tomatoes. One year I used the traditional method; plunging the tomatoes in boiling water, peeling and seeding them before canning. A lot of work and a lot of waste. Ever since I have followed the lazy woman’s method of canning tomatoes.
Start with a nice paste tomato like my San Marzanos or another kind of Roma. Wash, cut out any blemishes or spots, quarter and puree. Yes, the whole thing, skin, seeds and all. This is easier if you have a Vita Mix (worth every penny) but you can achieve the same result with a blender. Then cook the puree down a bit. I leave it with enough liquid so that it can be used in soup, but thick enough so that with a little extra cooking time it will make a good pasta sauce this winter.
Ladle into sterilized jars (see our Water Bath Tutorial here), leaving 1/2 inch head space and add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice to each pint jar. (I tell you why at the end of this post). Adjust the two piece caps and process in a water bath canner for 35 minutes (pints) or 45 minutes (quarts). Remove and let cool. It’s that easy!
This method does make a more rustic sauce than if you had gone through the whole peeling/seeding process, but it also makes a healthier sauce as you get all the fiber and nutrients from the skin (the healthiest part) and seeds. Not to mention the amount of time you save!
- You can use regular, round tomatoes in addition to, or instead of paste tomatoes. However, because regular tomatoes have more water, they will need to cook down a bit longer to achieve the desired consistency.
- Salt – I do not use salt in my canned tomato puree as I prefer to add salt to the final product if necessary. So, I may add salt to a soup using this puree, or a pasta sauce using the puree, but not the puree itself. Some people think that salt is necessary when canning tomatoes for preservation reasons. This is not true. Salt is for flavor only. Correctly processing the tomatoes and adding lemon juice is necessary for preservation. The little bit of salt you would add to canned tomatoes has no effect on the safety of the product, but may adversely affect your blood pressure.
- Lemon juice – Old-time recipes do not call for adding lemon juice. And many people may tell you that tomatoes are plenty acidic without needing extra acid. That might be true. Or it might not be. New tomato hybrids are less acidic than their old-fashioned counterparts. We now also know that growing conditions affect tomato acidity. Sunny days lead to more acidic tomatoes, cooler days lead to less acidic tomatoes. Don’t take a chance – just add the lemon juice. It does not affect taste but assures safety.
- Two-piece caps – Don’t forget to make sure that the lids have sealed before storing any home canned product. If one didn’t seal (and sometimes one won’t), keep the jar in the refrigerator. Use it within a week or so, or add it back in to your next batch of puree and try again. Good luck and have fun with your tomatoes.