Canning Tomatoes Made Easy Part 2

canning tomatoesIn yesterday’s post, we looked at how to make canning tomatoes easy. It involved the use of my beloved KitchenAid and the Fruit and Vegetable Strainer attachment. Today, we’ll follow up with actually canning the tomatoes. I decided to use Mrs. Wages Pizza Sauce mix with this batch of tomatoes. Yes, I know that I should be whipping up my own blend of spices to make my own authentic pizza sauce but remember the title of this post is “Canning Tomatoes Made Easy”. I was so excited to get started that I forgot to take a picture before I ripped the top off of the package.

While the mix may not be homemade, it doesn’t contain too many bad ingredients. Here’s a really poor quality picture for proof:

canning tomatoes

 

After you mix the Mrs. Wages packet with your tomatoes and the combo has come to a boil, you simmer the ingredients together for 25 minutes. This gives you the perfect opportunity to get your lids, bands and jars together. All of the pieces for canning need to be hot when you’re ready to put the product in the jars.

 

canning tomatoes

 

I used pints as it’s really hard for us to use a quart of pizza sauce before it goes bad. The slowest portion of the whole canning process (for me) is bringing the water in the canner to a boil. I like to can a bunch of things at the same time to save on the energy of bringing the water to boil but life’s not always perfect. Today, it’s 5 pints of pizza sauce. Here’s a picture of the 5 pint jars warming up in the canner.

canning tomatoes

 

Once the water in the canner starts to boil, it’s time to add the pizza sauce to the jars. A canning funnel makes this a ton easier…and neater. Be sure to leave headspace at the top of the jar. Each product is different but I never fill the jar any higher than the bottom of the neck. To make filling the jars easier, I use a measuring cup to dip the tomatoes out of the saucepan…or a coffee mug; whichever’s closest at the time.

canning tomatoes

 

Once the jars are filled, you have to add a lid and a band. The lids have to be new but the bands can be reused over and over. Since they’ve been sitting in simmering hot water, you need something to get them out of the pan. I love the little magnet on a stick that is included with the canning kit. It grabs the lids and bands so quickly and you don’t end up with burnt fingertips.

canning tomatoes

 

After the lid is put on and the band is hand tightened, it’s time to put the jar back into the canner. Enter another cool canning tool…the jar lifter. Grab the jar beneath the band and insert it back into the canner.

canning tomatoes

 

After all of the jars are put in the canner, put the lid on the canner (if you have one) and wait for the water to boil again if it has slowed down. Once the water starts boiling again, start timing. These particular jars needed to be processed for 40 minutes. After 40 minutes, you end up with these beauties.

canning tomatoes

Set them on a towel that you can cover them with and wait for one of the most beautiful sounds ever…”PING”. I love that sound…it’s so gratifying knowing that you just successfully made delicious food for your family…even if you did it the easy way.

What is your favorite food to can? Or are you just learning about the ins-and-outs of canning? Leave me a comment below or e-mail me with your thoughts. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Happy gardening…and canning!

 

 

 

 

Did You Know? Canning Tomatoes Made Easy Part 1

It’s tomato time here in the Mid-Atlantic gardening region and that means that it’s canning time too. Last year, I purchased a KitchenAid mixer and some of the many attachments that are made to make your life in the kitchen easier. By far, my favorite attachment is the Fruit and Vegetable Strainer. I use it to make canning tomatoes a pleasurable experience. Now I need to let you know that what comes out of the other end of the strainer is akin to tomato puree. I use this method to make my salsa, pizza sauce and chili mix. I prefer all of the above smoother rather than chunky. If you like your salsa with chunks of tomato, this may not be the way for you to go.

Before we start the pictorial, I thought that I would let you know how I prepped my tomatoes before I purchased the mixer and attachments. I would bring water to a boil, put the tomatoes in to blanch them for a minute or two, remove them from the water, put them in ice water to cool and then pop them out of their skins. Then I’d chop up the tomatoes to the desired consistency and strain them to try to get the seeds out. I think that the seeds can lend a bitter taste if they’re not removed. Once going through all of that, then I was ready to add the other ingredients and proceed with canning. Ugh. God bless all of the sous chefs in the world…all of that chopping drives me crazy.

But now, it’s easy breezy lemon squeezy. Here’s how I now prep the tomatoes for cannning.

 

canning tomatoes

The parts before being assembled on the mixer…it looks more intimidating than it really is

 

canning tomatoes

This is where the attachments go into the mixer

 

canning tomatoes

Here is everything ready to go. There are 5 pounds of tomatoes in the bowl

 

canning tomatoes

Aren’t those tomatoes beautiful?

 

canning tomatoes

The first drips of tomato puree. At the far right side you can see the skins and seeds being ejected

 

canning tomatoes

Here’s an overhead view of the process. The silver cone is what separates out the juice from the skins, stems and seeds

 

canning tomatoes

This is the bowl of “leftovers” after 5 pounds of tomatoes. There’s still a lot of juice and yummies left in the bowl so I send them through the strainer again

 

canning tomatoes

Here they are after a second run through the strainer

 

canning tomatoes

There was still quite a bit of juice left after the second run so I sent them through the strainer again. This is all the waste that remains from 5 pounds of tomatoes.

 

canning tomatoes

The frothy beautifullness of tomatoes…yes, I made that word up

 

canning tomatoes

I forgot to show the “pusher” in action…this is what pushes the tomatoes into the strainer

 

canning tomatoes

This is what is left after you remove the part that catches the puree. I put all of this in with the puree

 

canning tomatoes

Here’s the end result…9 cups of beautiful tomato puree

 

This whole process took 40 minutes from start to finish including cleanup and giving the kids a kiss goodnight. I wouldn’t normally pull out this equipment unless I was doing many, many pounds of tomatoes. The cleanup takes longer than the actual processing but I had a couple tomatoes go bad and I didn’t want to see the others meet the same fate.

How do you prep your tomatoes for canning? Do you use something similar or do you blanch them and chop them up? Tomorrow, we’ll look at the actual canning process since lots of people seem to have questions. Let me know your thoughts by leaving me a comment below or sending me an e-mail. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Happy gardening…and canning!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pests and Diseases: Blossom End Rot

blossom end rot
Photo courtesy of www.mofga.org

Blossom End Rot. Just the mention of it elicits all kinds of negative responses from vegetable gardeners. Those negative responses can involve frustration, anger and even curse words. For those of us veggie gardeners that start our tomatoes from seed, here is a typical progression of the season: You plant the seed in a nice warm, well lit area in your home so that it can get a good head start. You nurture that plant until it’s warm enough to be planted outside. You harden it off before planting. You amend the soil and finally it’s time to plant. You take great care planting it and water it in well so that it isn’t stressed in its first few days in the garden. You water the plant until it’s time to stake it. You stake it so the fruits wouldn’t be damaged from touching the ground. You continue to water it and then that magic moment happens. The green fruits ripen to a beautiful red and you go to pick your first tomato of the season. THIS is what you’ve waited for all season. All of your hard work culminates with…a tomato that has a big rotten spot on the end. Ughhhh!

blossom end rotBlossom end rot, otherwise known as BER, occurs on the “blossom end” of your fruit…the end opposite the stem. And lest that you think it only occurs on tomatoes, it can also happen on peppers. There are two main things that pre-dispose your tomatoes and peppers to BER. The first is a calcium deficiency in the soil. Calcium is needed for cell growth and if there isn’t enough calcium in the soil to “feed” the expanding fruit, the cell walls collapse and you end up with a mushy mess. The other major concern is soil moisture. That is directly related to the calcium issue. Nice and even soil moisture makes for nice and even tomatoes (does that description even make sense?) But alas, life is not perfect and we end up forgetting to water or God doesn’t provide enough rainfall to meet our tomatoes’ needs. Or we end up with a deluge of water like the central Virginia area did this past weekend. We received 5″ of rain! Five i-n-c-h-e-s of rain. I am beyond thankful for the rain after our many days of 100 degree weather and 0″ of rain. But…it won’t be good for the tomatoes.

So what can you do to prevent blossom end rot? There are several ways that you can reduce your chances of squishy, yucky ended tomatoes and peppers:

  1. Amend your soil so that it contains more organic matter. Organic matter helps to regulate soil moisture and that will help to prevent BER.
  2. At planting time, add a handful or two of Epsom salts to the planting hole. Epsom salts contains a readily available form of calcium that the plant can uptake. We did this last year (we forgot this year) and we had a great tomato season. This year…the tomatoes have blossom end rot.
  3. Mulch. Mulch, mulch, mulch. Again, it helps to regulate soil moisture. With even moisture comes those nice and even tomatoes we talked about earlier.
  4. Water evenly. I know that this is easier said than done but it really does help. While you can’t prevent 5″ of rain from reaching your plants (but then again, why would you want to?), you can help even out the dry times. Water deeply 2-3 times per week instead of lightly everyday. By watering deeply, you encourage your plants’ roots to dig deeper in the soil in search of H2O.

 

There’s one other thing that I wanted to mention about blossom end rot: if your fruits are infected, it doesn’t mean that you can’t eat them. Certainly don’t eat the squishy part…but the rest of the fruit is fine. They can be used in anything from sandwiches to salads to canning. They still taste delicious. If you have animals like pigs or chickens, offer them a change of pace with the bad ends. The pigs will turn all of those nasty ends into delicious bacon and the chickens will reward you with “hen fruit”. Yummmm….

So what has been your experience with blossom end rot this year? Mine has been that it’s a definite problem. Do you have any other remedies or ideas that you’d like to introduce to other Mid-Atlantic Gardening readers? Leave me a comment below or e-mail me. If you enjoy being part of the Mid-Atlantic Gardening community, join our e-mail list (upper right hand corner of this page), become a fan on Facebook and follow me on Twitter. Happy gardening!