Canning summer tomatoes.

I recently spotted pretty jars of heirloom tomato sauce for sale in a kitchenwares shop and thought, “Shoot! I can do that myself.”

So I did. Not without difficulty.

I started with four pounds of three different varieties purchased from Findlay Market and the Lunken Farmers’ Market: Mortgage Lifter, an heirloom variety that’s dense and full of flavor, a golden variety whose name is unknown to me, and your standard reds (I think these were Jet Star).

I intended to can crushed tomatoes (as opposed to sauce)—a shortcut that turned out to be a bad call (crushed tomatoes don’t have to cook nearly as long as tomato sauce prior to canning). See, when I lifted the first batch out of the water-bath canner, the tomatoes and their watery liquid had separated in the jars in a very unappealing sort of way. Dismayed at the results, I popped the lids off the still-hot jars, dumped the contents back into the saucepan, ladled off some liquid, ran an immersion blender through the mess to create a smooth sauce, and re-processed them. My yield from this batch was One. Measly. Pint. Jar. But man, is this stuff good: deeply concentrated and flavorful.

With that experience behind me, I vowed not to screw up the next two batches. Again, the stick blender was my friend, helping to create a smooth sauce that reduced nicely in a shorter amount of time than simply cookingcookingcooking the bejeebers out of the tomatoes to get them to thicken. I canned the golden tomatoes straight-up, and added garlic and dried and fresh herbs to the Jet Stars to make a nice spaghetti sauce.

Ultimately, my home-canned tomatoes probably weren’t that much cheaper than the gourmet varieties I found at the store. But they’re prettier and, I’m sure, more delicious. Plus, they’re of my own hand.

3 thoughts on “Canning summer tomatoes.

  1. That happened to me my very first year of canning. I wanted the entire tomato product line – sauce, crushed, diced, whole. The sauced and whole turned out fine, but the crushed and diced each separated neatly in half. I still have those jars, some six years later, although I don’t know a reasonable resolution for the separation. No way I’ll eat them – I just keep them as a reminder that one is never really at an expert at anything – there are always lessons to be learned. (I do the rainbow varietal sauce thing, too – I have burgundy, red and pink on the shelf, just waiting for the next batch of orange and yellows to ripen….)

  2. I know that I’ll be highly disagreed with, but my grandmother and mother never waterbathed their tomatoes. And, I’ve been canning tomatoes and salsa for over 10 years myself and do not either. Nor have I ever (EVER) had a can of tomatoes or salsa go bad or not seal. I heat the tomatoes to a steady boil and reduce the heat to medium-low. At this time, I heat 2 clean jars at a time in the microwave for 1 minute. I fill each jar with tomatoes (or salsa), pull a lid out of simmering water, wipe off the rim of the jar, place the lid and tighten the ring. I set them on the counter and let them cool overnight with about 2 inches in between each jar.