How-To: Putting Up Tomatoes

Yesterday, I woke up early, trucked it over to Stevie’s, then together we headed up to the McCarren Park farmers market to pick up 25 pounds of not-quite-ripe Roma tomatoes. Because we were buying so many, the farmer even gave us a discount: $1/lb., rather than the advertised $2. With trembling arms, we carried these home, then went back out to Brooklyn Kitchen to get quart and pint jars, as well as a wide-mouthed funnel.

25 pounds of tomatoes.

We began by sterilizing the jars. We filled Stevie’s extra large pot with water and placed the jars and their lids inside, then set it over high heat to come to a boil.

Floating jars.

Then, we began to scrub the tomatoes to get all of the dirt off. Stevie put another pot of water on to boil. In the meantime, she scored the bottom of each tomato with an “x” to facilitate peeling later on.

Scoring the tomatoes.

Once the water was hot, she put in one batch of tomatoes at a time, removing them once their skin cracked.

Washed and ready to go in the water.

As she removed the tomatoes, she brought them over to me to peel, core, and quarter. With one hand gloved to protect it from the heat, I began the arduous process of peeling, using the edge of a paring knife to literally get under the tomatoes’ skin.

Peeling back the skin.

We removed the large pot of jars from the stove to make room for the batches of tomatoes that needed to cook but left everything covered in the hot water. Stevie explained that the jars need to be hot when we put the tomatoes into them in order for them to seal properly. In separate pots, she cooked the tomatoes with a bit of salt and sugar, accenting the natural sweetness of the tomatoes while adding salt (a preservative) to the mix. When they were ready, she removed them from the heat and brought over a few jars to begin the canning process.

 Placing the hot tomatoes and their juice into the hotter jars.

The funnel is important because it keeps the lip of the jar clean – necessary in order to seal them properly. If anything gets between the jar and its lid, it will not close up and make the much-anticipated “popping” sound that signals that all air is out of the jar and its contents are sealed for later use. Stevie had read that an acidifier was recommended in order to help preserve the tomatoes, bringing out their natural acidity, so I placed a tablespoon of lemon juice per pint on top of the tomatoes before we closed the jars. Then, we sat and waited, making sure that each and everyone popped, sometimes for an agonizing thirty minutes! At the end of the day, however, we succeeded, with about 10 and a half quarts put up.

Our beautiful jars of canned tomatoes!

Can’t wait to try these this winter!