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Canning Summer Tomatoes

I grew up canning with my family. My Grandma Lisa would can peaches from her well-tended trees each summer and those jars would become ever more valuable as fruit went the way of summer and winter came knocking. My Grandma Ellie would can pickles, green beans, tomatoes. My mom would try her hand at jam. My dad, living in Fresno had what seemed like an endless supply of stone fruit each summer. I have special memories of family spending an entire day from morning to night canning fuit. My job would be packing the jars – a job well-suited for small hands.

I’ll admit, canning is a lot of work, but I think it’s worth it. Not only am I passing along some great knowledge and memories to my kids, we’ll be saving some money in the long run.  I purchased a box of tomatoes from a local farm for $5.00.  These were organic, dry-farmed early girls, a least 10 pounds. A real find at that price – I find it’s easier to get these kind of deals the more I take the time to establish relationships with farmers.  I ended up with about 15 half-pint jars of sauce.  It took about 3 hours to process them all.  Now we’ll have these lovely summer tomatoes to add to meals for months to come.

But the best reason – the number one reason to do it is the same reason we as allergy parents do with everything our family eats – it gives us peace of mind knowing what is in the food our family eats. I’ve sourced the tomatoes and anything else that goes into the jars.

I’ll use these sauced tomatoes to make sauce that will go on pizza or spaghetti squash, pour into soups or add to barbecue sauce.  The small jar size makes it easy to adjust how much you use at one time.

If you are new to canning, I highly recommend taking a class, purchasing a book or finding some helpful resources online.  While canning isn’t complicated, it does require some diligent work sanitizing and processing the food in order for it to be done safely. It also requires some equipment, a large pot for boiling water, jars with rims and lids, tongs, clean towels. It can all be found inexpensively. Also know that all the cooking and boiling water can heat up the house, so I like to use an outdoor burner in the summer.

These canned sauced tomatoes were prepared by running the cleaned and quartered tomatoes through my auger juicer. Using the juicer was an easy way to remove the skins and most of the seeds.  I didn’t bother running the juiced sauce through a strainer. I ended up with about 18 cups of sauce. I put them on low heat to reduce for almost an hour, skimming off the foam along the way.  They were canned using a traditional boiling water bath method. I added 1 and 1/2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice to each 1/2 pint jar.  Canned tomatoes require extra acidity to remain safe to eat. This is where following a recipe is important.

Here are some of my favorite books for canning recipes and advice:

The juicer I used is below but it is not necessary. You could peel and crush the tomatoes the old-fashioned way.

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