Monday, May 24, 2010
Canning is a monotonous process. I enjoy it, but it's easy to let your mind wander. While canning tomatoes today, I thought of my pioneer forebears, who surely did this same task a couple of hundred years ago. I got interrupted by the baby crying, by the two year old wanting to "help." Pioneers probably had more kids running around than the three I have home today. Maybe they would gather together with a big group of women, talking and peeling tomatoes to store for the winter. maybe an older child would be put in charge of the babies, or the women would take breaks to watch the kids. Maybe most of the kids could run around outside, because the world was a little safer then, and you could actually let kids do that.
When the tomatoes were ripe and they had more than they could possibly eat fresh, it would be time to can. Today, I'm alone in my kitchen canning tomatoes for no other reason that the fact that I was out of canned tomatoes, and they were on sale for 50 cents a pound.
I've had lots of canning "parties" where friends come over and we spend the day canning. I'm sure the pioneers would be envious of us, complaining of the heat in our air-conditioned house, the dishwasher ready to go when we dirty another load. But today, I'm a little envious of them. A little nostalgic for a time when this kind of homemaking skill was the norm, and it wasn't quite as hard to find people who were interested in canning also.
The method to canning tomatoes is very simple. You can use either a pressure canner or a water bath canner. Most fruits can be canned using a water bath canner, while vegetables need a pressure canner. Tomatoes lie right on the border for acidity. That means, as long as you add some lemon juice, you can use a water bath canner instead of a pressure canner. A water bath canner is much less expensive. I bought mine for $12 at Kmart several years ago. It's just a big pot with a holder for the jars. (Pressure canners usually cost somewhere around $100.)
Boil a large pot of water. Dip tomatoes in for one minute, then set in a bowl of cold water. Scoop out the ... and peel off the skin. Place whole in jars. Press down to fit in as many tomatoes as you can. (They will shrink a little while canning.) Add 1 Tbsp. lemon juice per pint or 2 Tbsp. lemon juice per quart. Add sea salt if desired.
Keep unused lids and rims in a small pot of water heated at a low temperature. When the jars are filled, wipe around the top edges of the jar. Put lids and rims on. Boil in a water bath canner for 85 minutes.
Canned tomatoes will last at room temperature for about 1 year. These are a great alternative to store bought canned tomatoes (in actual cans) because the lining of those cans reacts with the acidity of the tomatoes, leaching BPA (bispenol A) into our food. BPA is a neuroendocrine disruptor. Canning your own is a cost effective way to avoid BPA, which is especially important for young children. (Source)