If you're able to can only one food each year, make it crushed tomatoes. They are incredibly useful throughout the winter. Admittedly, this preparation takes time and will make a mess of the kitchen. But it’s worth the effort.
To ensure that the tomatoes (which have variable pH) are shelf-stable, it is imperative that you add acid to the jar, in the form of either fresh lemon juice or citric acid. Citric acid is inexpensive and sold with canning supplies at grocery and hardware stores in the Washington area.
You’ll need 7 sterilized quart jars with new lids and rings.
Storage Notes: The canned tomatoes can be stored in a cool, dark place for up to 1 year.
Servings: 7 quarts
- About 20 pounds of red, ripe tomatoes, cored, peeled and seeded (see NOTES)
- 14 tablespoons fresh lemon juice or 4 1/2 teaspoons citric acid (see headnote)
- 7 teaspoons kosher salt or fine sea salt (optional)
Tear or chop the tomatoes into large chunks. Add the first 4 cups of tomatoes to an 8-quart or larger nonreactive pot. Use a potato masher or the back of a strong spoon to smash the tomatoes vigorously. Bring to a strong boil over medium-high heat before adding the next 4 cups of tomatoes; crush them with the masher and bring to a boil. Continue in this fashion until all of the tomatoes are crushed.
Bring the total amount of crushed tomatoes to a strong boil over medium-high heat and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Ladle the tomatoes into the quart jars, leaving a 1/2-inch head space. Add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid to each quart jar.
Add 1 teaspoon of salt, if using, to each jar. Use a flat plastic knife, a chopstick or a bubbler to stir the tomatoes to dislodge any air bubbles.
Clean the rim of each jar. Top with the warmed lids, and finger-tighten the rims (not too tightly). Process in the boiling-water bath for 45 minutes. Use the jar lifter to transfer the jars to a clean folded dish towel to cool for several hours.
Label and date the sealed jars. Store in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Refrigerate after opening.
NOTES: To peel the tomatoes, bring a pot of water to a boil. Fill a bowl with ice water. Cut an "X" in the bottom of each tomato and remove the stem. Place in the boiling water for 10 or 15 seconds -- no longer. Use a slotted spoon to quickly transfer to the ice-water bath. The skins should simply slip off.
Water-bath canning safely seals high-acid, low-pH foods in jars. The time for processing in the water bath is calculated based on the size of the jar and the consistency and density of the food. For safety's sake, do not alter the jar size, ingredients, ratios or processing time in any canning recipe. If moved to change any of those factors, simply put the prepared food in the refrigerator and eat within a week.
Fill a large canning kettle or deep stockpot two-thirds full with water. To keep the jars from rattling against the pot, place a rack in the pot. (A cake rack works well; a folded dish towel is equally effective.) Sanitize the jars in a short dishwasher cycle or by boiling them in a canning kettle or pot for 10 minutes. Fill a small saucepan with water and add the rings. Bring to a boil over high heat, slip in the lids and turn off the heat.
Use a jar lifter or tongs to lower the filled, sealed jars into the boiling water bath, keeping them upright. When all of the jars are in place, the water should be 1 to 2 inches above the jar tops. Add water as needed. Bring the water to a low boil before starting the timer for processing.
At the end of processing, turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the water bath until the boiling has stopped. That will reduce siphoning, in which the food burbles up under the lid, breaking the seal. Use the jar lifter or tongs to transfer the jars to a folded towel, keeping them upright. Leave the jars until they have completely cooled, at least 12 hours. Remove the rings and test the seal by lifting each jar by the lid. The lid should hold fast. Label and store in a cool, dry, dark space.
Because water boils at lower temperatures in higher altitudes, processing times will vary:
At 1,000 to 2,999 feet, add 5 minutes.
At 3,000 to 5,999 feet, add 10 minutes.
At 6,000 to 7,999 feet, add 15 minutes.
At 8,000 to 10,000 feet, add 20 minutes.
From Cathy Barrow, author of "Mrs. Wheelbarrow’s Practical Pantry: Recipes and Techniques for Year-Round Preserving" (Norton, November 2014).
Tested by Cathy Barrow.
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