August 24th, 2009

Yes We Can Can

For decades, I have studiously avoided canning. The reasons shifted, serving as a litmus test of where I “was at” in my culinary development, as in:
Canning? How Uncool.
or Canning? You’ve got to be kidding. I’ve got No Time for That.
or Canning is Too Scary. The terms “process bath” and “botulism” freak me out.
and Canning? A messy ordeal. I’ll roast and freeze, thank you.

These days, with a little more time on my hands, and a lot less freezer space, I understand the wisdom of canning.

And now, thanks to Maggie, the relative ease.

Tomatoes are the only vegetables that do not require a pressure cooker to safely can, just a “hot water bath.” So, on to Demystifying the Process.

All that you need is the Right Equipment—mason jars and lids, stockpots, canning tongs, wide funnel–and a couple of leisurely hours. Your ingredients are simply your assortment of lovely, ripe tomatoes, and kosher salt. Fresh basil, too, if you are so inclined.

Maggie points out—and rightfully so–that it’s much easier on you if you work in small batches. Don’t get overwhelmed; you don’t have to make a day of it. We began our process at 9am and had everything complete, tidied up by 10:45. Not bad!

1. Place tethered canning rings on the bottom (this makeshift rack cushions the jars)of your 12 qt. stockpot and fill with water. Bring to a boil.

2.Have a 3 qt. pot of water heated and ready to blanche your tomatoes. Have a bowl of chilled water ready to halt the cooking, post-blanche.

3. Have canning jars and lids cleaned with hot, soapy water, rinsed and dried. Place 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt into each Pint Jar (1 teaspoon salt if using Quarts)

4. Select ripe tomatoes, wash, and dip into boiling water for 30 seconds–or until skins crack. Plunge into icy water and remove. Core the tomatoes, and slip off the skins. Cut into quarters and place into a 3-4qt. saucepan.

5.After you have cored, skinned, and quartered all your tomatoes, bring them to a boil.

6. Using the wide mouthed funnel, ladle the tomatoes into each jar. Place a sprig of fresh basil into some, if you like. Leave about 1/2″ gap at the top of the jar.

7. Carefully wipe off the outer rim of the jar, place seal and ring on top and tighten.

8. Lower jars into stockpot. The jars shouldn’t touch one another, or the sides of the pot. About 2″ of water should be above the tops—add more hot water if necessary. Return to a boil. Process for twenty minutes–counting your time from when the water begins boiling. (in our case, that took about two minutes.)

9. Remove jars with canning tongs. Set out on the counter to cool. After a few minutes, You will hear a distinctive POP–that’s the seal being made.

10. That’s IT! Tomatoes for sauces, soups, stews, a wonderful, candied taste of summer that you will surely enjoy in the dead of winter!

Posted in Recipes, Vegetables

9 Responses to “Yes We Can Can”
  1. mark Says:

    Images of my Romanian Grandmother in her kitchen kept popping into my mind as I read the blog. I was very young and do not remember the recipe; I do remember red and green peppers, cloves of garlic, whole cloves and apple cider vinegar. It was, as I recalled, yum food. If only I could talk to you now, Nana. Thank you for reminding me of this great lost memory.

  2. Kim U Says:

    I was scared for years to try canning after an over-zealous home ec teacher drilled the dangers of botulism into my head. Finally got over it a few years ago. There’s seriously nothing better than pulling a jar of home canned tomatoes off the shelf in the middle of January. I’m also a huge fan of small-batch jam canning, easy but delicious.

  3. Maggie Says:

    Hey Nance – I just finished a small batch a couple of hours ago. It really is so easy!!! As an aside, I always take a sip out a jar when I open it – it is nothing like a factory canned tomato – this is my reminder that it was worth the time spent canning!!!

  4. Melissa Says:

    I never could get green beans to taste like my Grandmother Presley’s no matter what I did until last summer. I decided the only thing I hadn’t done was can them. My grandmother always did green beans – place about a teaspoon of salt in the bottom of a quart jar. Quickly blanch the prepared beans and place in the jars. Pour boiling water over. Cap and process about 20 minutes. (You can add some sugar also – it’s a matter of taste.

  5. Melissa Says:

    Okay – I was having a senior moment last night when I got all excited about everyone’s canning adventures. Regular green beans I did pressure can. It was the pickled spicy green beans for bloody marys that can be processed with a hot water bath.

  6. goodfoodmatters Says:

    Oh, Melissa–thanks for the clarification–I was wondering about that. Those pickled spicy green beans sound ever-so-good. Maggie also has a recipe for “refrigerator zucchini pickles” that require no processing at all—these, to me, are tastier than the ones made with cucumbers. I’ll post about those soon.

  7. veg head Says:

    I’m inspired! Thanks!

  8. claudia (cook eat FRET) Says:

    one day…

  9. Flying Colors Says:

    Wonderful! This canning is so worthwhile specially if one grows their own.
    I too was fearful, but my sister convinced me, she is married to an Italian and he loves his pasta a la Primavera / Napolitana. She learned how to do this in Venezuela and did not have the fancy equipment the USA offers.
    Thank You for this post it is so complete & I do small batches also!

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