Every summer, for almost 20 years, we’ve canned tomatoes we’ve grown. Over the years, I’ve learned how to get the tomatoes into the freezer quickly before they go bad in the summer heat and put the task off canning the tomatoes off until later in the summer or early fall.
Approximately, 40 plum tomato plants make up the bulk of our vegetable garden every year. When my husband and I planted our first garden together at my inlaw’s home over 20 years ago, we started with plum tomato plants to supply us with tomatoes for the spaghetti and meatballs we made every week. Times were lean for us, and tomato sauce was how we got through it.
Since my tomato plants usually ripen over the time, I had to come up with a way of handling the harvest until I had enough for canning. When tomatoes started ripening, I picked the tomatoes every other day and prepped them. I cut off the stems and squeezed out the seeds. Then I put them in well-stuffed gallon freezer bags. I laid the bags on their sides in the freezer until I had 5 to 6 bags.
The night before my canning session, I took the bags out of the freezer and set them in our laundry sink to defrost. Inevitably, one or more bags would have a small leak. The liquid could go down the drain overnight. In the morning, I poured off the excess tomatoey water and put the defrosted tomatoes into a very large copper pot to cook for at least an hour. It wasn’t unusual for many of the tomatoes to be partially frozen. Freezing the tomatoes and defrosting them helped release excess water and shorten the cooking time.
To fill up the quart canning jars, I used a large metal slotted spoon to drain out the excess water while scooping up the tomatoes. If I needed more liquid to get the jar to the proper head space, I scooped up liquid from the pot.
Then I canned the tomatoes in a pressure canner according to the USDA guidelines. Though some people feel a little leary of using a pressure canner, I have never had an accident happen. Do check the rubber ring inside the lid. I find this needs to be replaced every other year. If the rubber ring is too loose, the lid on the pressure canner will not seal properly.
My favorite resources
- Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving
- Stocking Up (I use this for guidance on steaming fruits and veggies for freezing)
- Summer in a Jar (one quart and one pint recipes)
- My Recipes
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