Since tomatoes are easy to grow and often plentiful, you may find yourself up to your ears in the ripe, scarlet fruit as frost approaches — and a few hints on the preservation of the harvest may be welcome, along with some tomato recipes to enjoy.
I’ve also taken the canning jar shortage into account in preparing this article, and have included some guides to the use of alternative containers (along with directions for a couple of preservation methods which require no jars at all).
Tomatoes are really a fruit and have always been canned accordingly — by the cold pack method, in a boiling water bath. Until recently, the high acid content of all garden tomatoes made this practice perfectly safe.
Now, however, low-acid varieties of the fruit have been developed, and if you’ve heard nasty rumors about the possibility of botulism even in canned tomatoes, these new types are the culprits.
If you’re putting up such tomatoes, either raise their acidity by adding vinegar or process them in a pressure canner as you would any other low-acid food. The home economist at your county extension office can give you detailed instructions for handling of doubtful cases.
Better still, start with a good old reliable tart variety of tomato and proceed as follows: Prepare the jars for canning according to the manufacturer’s instructions; or wash the containers in hot, soapy water, rinse them well, and boil or scald them (I simply dip mine in boiling water and set them aside).
Select only firm, ripe tomatoes, place them in a colander or wire basket, and dunk them into boiling water just long enough to loosen the skins (usually half a minute or so). Remove the fruit from the hot bath, let them drain, and pull off the skins with the aid of a knife (try not to injure the flesh).
Then slice the tomatoes — I cut them into quarters — and pack as many chunks as possible into each jar, pressing them down with your fist or fingers. Leave about half an inch of clear space at the top of the container. Add 1 teaspoon of salt (or substitute sugar, if you like) per quart. You might want to experiment with various other seasonings: garlic salt, oregano, basil, etc.
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