Friday, September 23, 2011

Things I've learned from canning tomatoes

1. If Gene takes the camera to work, I won't see it again for at least a week.

2. Rosemary loves to clean up the tomato squirts.

3. It takes 2 minutes in boiling water to get the skin on 4 tomatoes perfect for peeling.

4. It takes me 2 minutes to peel and core 4 tomatoes.

5. Pull the tomatoes from the boiling water with a ladle in your right hand.  Grab the hot tomato with your left hand using a dishwashing glove to protect from the heat.  Take 2 steps backwards across the kitchen to drop the hot tomato into the cold water in the sink.  It's an inelegant but efficient dance.

6. Canning whole tomatoes in their own juice works great for me.  I literally stuff them into a jar and squish the bejeebies out of them to get as many as possible in a single jar.

7. My hand will fit into a widemouth jar but not a regular one.

8. My hand won't fit into my mouth.  Ergo, my mouth is smaller than a widemouth jar opening.

9. It's possible to learn how to can tomatoes from the internet.  That's how I got started.  The resources for recipes and problem-solving are ever-expanding.

10. Unexpectedly, tomato jam is one of my favorite things.  It makes a fabulous and unusual gift.  I gifted so many that I have just a single jar remaining.
Photo from

11. Because pressure canning tomatoes takes just 20 minutes whereas the boiling water bath method requires 90, I always pull out my pressure canner for tomatoes.  Bonus: no need to monitor the water level.

12. There's always one jar that doesn't seal.  I have to figure out what to do with that jar this weekend.

13. It's possible to can 20 pounds of tomatoes in a mid-week evening.  (see #11 above)

14. Twenty pounds of tomatoes costs around $20 in my area, unless you hit the fruit stand late in the day and the owner unexpectedly gives you a $5 discount.  Growing tomatoes for home canning in Western Washington is always a risky business due to unreliable summers.

15. It's surprising how many things you can throw a jar of canned tomatoes into: braised meats; sausage and chickpea soup; shakshuka; chili; and more.

16. No matter how carefully I mete out my supply or how many jars I can, I always run out of tomatoes.

17. Twenty pounds of tomatoes equals about twelve eleven quarts.  (see #12 above)

18. After you've been canning your own tomatoes for a few years, store-bought canned tomatoes look weird.

19. The cats come running when they hear the can-opener but completely ignore the sound of a home-canned jar being opened.  These same cats haven't had canned cat food in nearly a decade.

20. The "ping!" sound that cooling jars makes as they seal is intensely gratifying.