Three weeks ago, I opened the last jar of tomatoes in my pantry — the ones I canned last summer. Even though tomatoes were already in farmers markets, I began counting the weekends until the end of the season.
Peeling, crushing, saucing and canning your way through 25- or 50-pound boxes of tomatoes in the hottest months of the year might cause family members to question your sanity, but it results in a most enviable pantry. Instead of lugging home canned tomatoes from the grocery store each week — the ones you need for those basic chilis, soups and pasta dishes — you’ll be able to use your own tomatoes to preserve the taste of summer in a jar.
The two easiest and most versatile preparations are crushed tomatoes in their own juices, and a seedless, smooth tomato sauce. Each requires only boiling water-bath processing.
A 25-pound box will yield 111 / 2 quarts of crushed tomatoes. Peel and crush tomatoes with your hands into a large stockpot, capturing all the juices. When a few cups have been added, crush them with a big spoon or a potato masher. Continue to add crushed tomatoes and stir frequently. Bring this mixture to a boil for 5 minutes, ladle into quart jars, add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and half a teaspoon of salt, if you wish. Leave a half-inch of space at the top of the jar. Clean the top of the jars well then place the lid and tighten the ring. Lower the jars into a tall canning pot filled with boiling water, covering the jars by an inch or two to process for 45 minutes.Transfer the jars to a towel on the counter and allow the jars to cool for several hours. The jars will ping to indicate a good seal. If the jar does not seal, store in the refrigerator and use within a month.
A 25-pound box of tomatoes will yield about 7 quarts of tomato sauce. To make sauce for canning, in the largest pot you have, add as many chopped tomatoes as will fit. Allow them to boil for 20 minutes, until soft, then use a food mill to remove the skins and seeds. Continue to sauce the tomatoes, adding them all to one pot, and simmer until all the tomatoes have been peeled and seeded. Bring the resulting sauce to a rolling boil for 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on the consistency you want. Ladle into quart jars, add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and salt if you wish. Leave a quarter-inch of space at the top then cover and process for 40 minutes. Transfer to a folded towel on the counter and allow the jars to fully cool for several hours before moving them. The jars will ping to indicate a good seal. If the jar does not seal, store in the refrigerator and use within a month.
Cathy Barrow blogs at www.mrswheelbarrow.com.