Diary of an Average Gardener

Canning Tomatoes

– Posted in: Garden Projects

Canning Tomatoes: Easy Way to Use Your Surplus Tomatoes

If you have several tomato plants, chances are that, occasionally, you have a surplus of ripe tomatoes. You could share them all with your neighbors or you could simply prepare some or all of them to be canned later.

With the healthy plants I had this year, I had so many ripe tomatoes (most of them those large grape tomatoes which I believe was a Juliet Roma Grape Tomato plant) that I decided I would prepare them for canning as they became available. This simply meant, when I had a surplus, I cooked them, stored them in containers, until I had enough to make at least six or seven quarts. This not only saved time on the actual canning day, but also kept me from having to give away all the surplus.

When I planted my garden, I planted a mix of determinate and indeterminate tomatoes. Determinate tomatoes typically will produce most of their fruit all at once. Indeterminate tomatoes will keep on blooming and bearing fruit as long as the plant is healthy. Bush type tomatoes usually fall into the determinate category and indeterminate are typically vines. I use both for a couple of reasons. I planted the determinate type to have a significant amount of tomatoes all at the same time for the purpose of canning them. The indeterminate varieties give me an ongoing supply of fresh, vine ripened goodness.

Thick tomato juiceIn early August, I had an abundance of ripe tomatoes all at once from the two Better Bush plants. I was able to can 7 quarts of tomatoes from these plants (determinate) plants. Not bad for two plants, plus a couple of pounds of those grape tomatoes. The juice turned out really thick due to the meatiness of the Better Bush tomato.  Those same plants still have some fruit on them, but it is much smaller and they have stopped blooming. It might be time to pull them out. So sad…..

Canning tomatoes can be time consuming and messy (at least it is for me), but it’s not difficult at all. I first  learned how to can tomatoes from my mother when I was old enough to turn the crank on the food mill.  In past summers when I didn’t have a flourishing garden, I bought boxes (they don’t come in bushel baskets anymore) of tomatoes to can, just so I would have a supply of juice.

So, if you want to try and can some juice but don’t have enough tomatoes all at one time, here’s the ticket. Simply cut up the tomatoes that you have, simmer them until they have broken down (yes, leave the skin on, just cut off the stem area and any ugly spots). When they have simmered for 5 to 10 minutes depending on how many you’re cooking, I take an old fashioned potato masher (not a ricer) or the back of a large spoon and mash any remaining big chunks or whole pieces.  When they have cooled I put them in a large container. It doesn’t matter whether you fill the container or not. The next time you have some surplus, do the same thing and add the cooked tomatoes to the same container. When I have two gallons or more of cooked tomatoes, I put them into a big pot, heat them up, put them through the food mill, heat the resulting juice, pour into sterile jars, gently seal, then put them into the canning pot full of boiling water, and boil for 40 minutes. For detailed canning instructions, visit cooking.loisashton.com Canning Tomatoes

I hope you try canning tomatoes. The homemade juice is far better than any brand you can buy. Not only is it better tasting, but you know exactly what is in it and more importantly, what is not. Plus, the satisfaction of growing, preserving, and then eating something you produced….. from a seed…. very satisfying.