I love canning my own tomatoes, but did not like the heat in my kitchen from them. It was very much a love/hate thing, until I was let in on a secret.
I was at a festival with a pretty hefty folk life section – spinner, makers of soap, carving, and a nice lady who was demonstrating how to make sauerkraut in a crock. I started talking to her and, holy cow, was she a wealth of information. And she was the one who let me in on the secret. I did not question a woman whose story started with, “When the boys came back from the war” and ended with a woman of her age still butchering her own meat. That says something – she knew what was up.
Her secret changed my entire view of canning tomatoes.
You will need:
Tomatoes – make sure they are ripe and you have quite a few of them
New canning seals (Do not reuse these. You can reuse the jars and screw bands, but not the seals.)
First, clean the tomatoes, cut off the tops, and then cut the tomatoes into pieces. These pieces do not have to be small. I do not peel or de-seed my tomatoes; to me it does not make a difference in the taste. Put all of your tomatoes in a large pot. Cook on medium high heat until the tomato juice is visible and getting close to the tops of the tomatoes. Then, set your timer for five minutes and let the tomatoes simmer in their own juice.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 250 degrees.
Fill a sink full of hot water and heat your jars, screw bands, and seals. This will keep the jars from shattering, so this is not optional.
When your timer sounds, turn off the stove. Give the tomatoes a minute to stop bubbling. Then, pulling one jar from the hot water at a time, fill it with tomatoes (if you don’t have a canning funnel, invest), add lemon juice (1 tbsp for pints and 2 tbsp for quarts). Seal the jar making sure the rim is clean first. Place jar on rack in the middle of the oven. Repeat with remaining jars until you run out of tomatoes.
Set your timer for five minutes when you place the last jar to tomatoes in the oven. When the timer sounds, turn the oven off and go away for a few hours. You can even leave the jars cooling in the oven overnight. You will hear the sound of your jars sealing. When the jars are cool, remove them from the oven, check to make sure everything sealed, and enjoy the beauty of your freshly canned tomatoes.
- If you have an oven with a fan that cools it after you turn it off, this will probably cause your jars to shatter. Please spare yourself the misery of having to clean glass and tomatoes out of your oven and use the stovetop hot water bath. Trust me on this one.
- I’ve used this technique for years since I learned the secret, and in those years, I can count the number of jars that did not seal on one hand. And I do can quite a number of tomatoes – sometimes over 50 lbs a year. Be sure, however, to check everything carefully to make sure it has sealed. If it did not, refrigerate the tomatoes quickly, and use them in a dish in which they will be heated thoroughly.