Last year when I started canning, I had a only one goal: to put up as many tomatoes as I could. (For those not caught up on your canning lingo, “put up” is ole-timey way of saying “can”.) I tracked what I used from my pantry the year before and realized I went through way more cans of tomatoes than anything else. Black beans and tuna were a close second, but I am definitely not at a point where I feel comfortable canning my own tuna! So, all summer I bided my time. I canned jams, pickles, beets, peaches, and just about anything I could get my hands on until it was time for the tomatoes.
Then… came September. I saw the price of tomatoes at the farmers’ market hover around $3 to $4 a pound. I’d pick up a dull, light-red tomato and take a whiff, smelling nothing – not the sweet, ripe, tomato-y flavor I’d hoped for. Farmers claimed it just never got and stayed warm enough to get bushels of ripe tomatoes. I was devastated. So, instead of canned tomatoes I made green tomato salsa and sweet green tomato pickles, I found the best red tomatoes and canned salsa in limited quantities, and I waited…
This year the weather has not been so mean. We had a slow start to summer, but the last month has been warm and sunny. I started looking around at farms and realized my CSA farmer from last year, Sun Gold Farm, was selling 20 pound boxes of San Marzanos – the king of canned tomatoes. So, with my friend, Rebecca, we bought 40 pounds and got to work.
After 6 hours of cleaning, scoring, blanching, peeling, and canning tomatoes we were left with 6 quart jars each, plus 4 pints of tomato juice each. I don’t know about you, but 6 quarts is sadly not enough to get me through until next September. I probably use about a quart and a half a month in soups, braises, and sauces.
So, in a week we are going to be at it again. Luckily, we learned some things that we will continue the next go-around.
- Two water bath canners are necessary for this many tomatoes. The quart jars take 45 minutes to process and if you had to wait to sterilize new jars in between you are looking at an additional 30-45 minutes just waiting for water to boil.
- When using two water bath canners, setting one up outside is the nicest thing in the world. I am so happy Erik let us use his camping stove for this.
- An assembly line is key and rotating jobs frequently will decrease back and shoulder pain as well as increase tolerance for tomatoes.
- I may purchase a food mill between now and next weekend. We made tomato juice by straining the leftover skins and seeds and then cooking down, but I bet we can get more out of it if we processed through a food mill. I am thinking of buying this one. What do you think? Does anyone own a food mill and love it? Should I stay away from the OXO version?