Turkeysong

Experimental Homestead

Canning Tomatoes: How I do it and why it works for me.

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Tomato season is finally on here at 1800 feet in coastal Northern California.  Having just mentioned canning tomatoes in the Mega Canner post, as well as also having recently been enjoying my few remaining jars of them, it occurred to me that my method of canning tomatoes might be of some use to other people.  Over the years, I gradually devolved toward a very simple tomato canning system that is not too much work and leaves me with a very versatile product.

My mom made tomato sauces and such, but what I really remember was the whole canned tomatoes.  I would sometimes beg a jar of them, open it, and just eat them out of the jar with a fork.  Yum, they were so good!  Home canned tomatoes are so much better than store bought!!!  I don’t care what brand you buy, there is just no comparison, because the commercial tomatoes are always bred for processing rather than flavor, and are harvested too early… just what we should expect from an industrial model.  One day I was thinking about what I wanted to eat.  I thought spaghetti sounded good.  I got the pasta water going, got the pasta cooking, saute’ed some onions and ground meat, then rummaged in the cupboard.  NOOOOO!!!! I was out of home canned tomatoes!  I was already salivating and could taste those yummy sweet tomatoes as they oozed into the spaces between the noodles, topped with slowly melting shreds of Asiago cheese.  But wait, there was a can of storebought tomatoes, that would have to do.  Nope, they were soooooo lame!  Total buzzkill :-/

Since horking down cans of my moms tomatoes at 12, I have sometimes made sauces and paste, but anymore I only can whole peeled tomatoes.  Aside from fond memories, the main reason I do so is versatility.  I don’t have to figure how many cans of sauce I’ll use, or what kind of sauce I want to make, or anything like that.  My whole canned tomatoes can be reduced to small pieces in the jar with a butter knife in a matter of seconds, or tossed in the blender to make pizza sauce, dropped whole into a casserole, or dumped straight into a pot of minestrone.  I can use them in Asian food, Mexican, Italian etc and so on.  There are no skins to get in the way, and the extra juice in the jar tastes amazing with a splash of hot sauce, perfect to sip on as an appetite stimulant while cooking, or as a treat to share with someone.

c'mon, this is the sexiest tomato you've ever seen.

c’mon, you know this is the sexiest tomato you’ve ever seen.

I’m not against other forms of canned tomatoes, but I’m an adventurous cook.  I can’t put Italian spaghetti sauce in my chili, but I can make spaghetti sauce with my whole canned tomatoes when I need to.  Using whole canned tomatoes is more like cooking with fresh ingredients.  They are on the watery side, but I can put them in a pan on high heat and have them reduced to a sauce by the time the rest of the meal is cooked, if not before.  Diced tomatoes, as a reader recently pointed out, are similarly versatile.  I have made diced canned tomatoes, but it just seems like more work than is necessary since whole canned tomatoes are so easily reduced in the jar with a butter knife.  And I do occasionally want the whole tomatoes, though admittedly not often.  The basic method I use could be adapted to make diced canned tomatoes just as well if one wanted to.

There are times when a long cooked thicker sauce is where it’s at.  Long cooking can develop deep rich flavors.  But most of the time I’m after a less tortured, less concentrated flavor from my tomato dishes, and I can get that with whole canned tomatoes.  I’ll admit that it’s less instant and convenient than sauce that is already cooked down and flavored and ready to go out of the jar, but I’ll also wager that sauce made with the same ingredients, cooked down with fresh herbs just before dinner from whole canned tomatoes, will be a cut above a precooked and pre-flavored canned sauce.

So here’s how I do it.  Maybe you can put up a couple of jars this season and see how you like them.

Good sized, dense fleshed, sparsely seeded tomatoes like these are best for canning. I grow them on purpose, but I'll generally use whatever I have extra of as well.

Good sized, dense fleshed, sparsely seeded tomatoes like these are best for canning. I grow them, but I’ll generally use whatever I have extra of as well.

What tomatoes to use:  First, USE RIPE TOMATOES!  Ripeness makes all the difference, and is your main weapon in superiority over commercially canned tomatoes.  I prefer to use canning tomatoes, but will can any excess slicing types too.  My favorite is probably Orange Banana (available from Fedco), a small yellow canning tomato with a very sweet fruity flavor.  It is not suited to every dish because it has less of a classic tomato flavor, so I grow reds as well.  I haven’t really settled on a red canning tomato yet, but there are lots to choose from out there.  I think Blue Beech is in the lead for flavor so far (also available from Fedco… I’m a big Fedco fan if you can’t tell).  It is a large tomato, few seeds, dense, tasty and reasonably productive.  Polish Linguisa produced like mad giving over 50 pounds off one plant in one picking, but the flavor lagged behind blue beech and others.  I’m planning to can some Zapotec this year.  It is a deeply pleated tomato with amazing flavor and seems fairly dense, though it’s a great slicing tomato.  One red canning tomato that is popular is San Marzano.  San Marzano gets a lot of press, but the year I grew it, this popular tomato seemed like a just above average commercial processing type, bred for holding in the field and to withstand lots of handling.  My guess is that it is basically a gourmet industrial processing tomato, but that’s kind of like saying “gourmet non-dairy whipped topping”.  I also did not like Speckled Roman as it has too much stringy fibrous stuff in it.  Early Girl makes a pretty decent canned tomato, though it is more watery and less dense than some canning types.   Basically, I’ll can whatever I’ve got at the time, but it’s really worth it to grow one each of a bunch of different processing types and then taste test them after canning.  Large tomatoes process much faster.  Processing 20 pounds of small orange bananas is a lot of work (though it’s worth it!).  (Edit:  I forgot to mention that some tomatoes, notably canning/processing types, have a small stem end so they don’t require coring out of the tops like most slicing tomatoes and heirlooms do.  It really is a lot less work to prepare canning tomatoes which peel easily and have those small ends.  Heirlooms, especially the big slicers, often have folds and pleats, cracks and scabby areas that have to be dealt with.  Early Girl has a pretty small stem end, much like a processing type tomato.)

Bigger is better as long as flavor isn't suffering. This tomato will probably filled an entire pint jar. Note the huge pile of skins in the background.

Bigger is better for processing, as long as flavor doesn’t suffer. This tomato probably filled an entire pint jar.

Zapotec. This outstanding tomato is quite meaty. It's not as meaty as some processing types, like Blue Beech (which has so few seeds that one of Fedco's seed growers calls it Blue Bitch) but it's pretty darn meaty. It tastes fabulous with a very rich tomatoey flavor. If it peels Ok, with it's pleatedness, I'm thinking it will make a pretty great dual purpose tomato for market, fresh eating and canning.

Zapotec. This outstanding tomato is quite meaty. It’s not as meaty as some processing types, like Blue Beech (which has so few seeds that one of Fedco’s seed growers calls it Blue Bitch) but it’s pretty darn meaty. It tastes fabulous with a very rich tomatoey flavor. If it peels Ok, with it’s pleatedness, I’m thinking it will make a pretty great dual purpose tomato for market, fresh eating and canning.

I add two other ingredients to almost all of my canned tomatoes- ripe roasted peppers and basil.  It might seem like basil is limiting in that it is not suited to all cuisines, but I have not found that to be the case.  I use only a small amount of fresh leaves stuffed in the top of the jar, and it seems to go fine with everything.  Since I use a small amount, I don’t even really miss it when it’s not there and it should definitely be considered totally optional.  I don’t even have a single basil plant this year, so I won’t be using any.

The pepper is roasted over an open flame, or better yet over hot coals, until blistered and a little charred.  Drop the blistered hot peppers into a paper bag, or wrap them in a towel for a few minutes to sweat and loosen the skins.  Slice them open, de-seed, scrape off most of the skin (a few remnants won’t hurt anyone) and cut into pieces.  I probably put the equivalent of a roughly 2×2 inch square in each jar.

Peppers roasting over charcoal. These will definitely taste better than gas roasted peppers.

Peppers roasting over charcoal. These definitely taste better than gas roasted peppers.

roasting on a gas stovetop works well enough but usually leads to excessive charring as here. A gas grill would be an improvement.

Roasting on a gas stove top works well enough but usually leads to excessive charring as seen here.  A gas grill would be an improvement.  The vast majority of peppers I’ve ever roasted have been like this though, so it works well enough.

To prep the tomatoes, bring water to a boil and blanch them for just a minute or two.  All you want to do is loosen the skin.  If over cooked, some of the tomato will come off with the skin, and if under cooked, they will not peel easily.  Ease of peeling varies from variety to variety.  At their best, the tomatoes will just about slip right out of the skin.  I use a large stock pot with a colander insert.  When they are done, the colander is plunged into cold water briefly to halt cooking and cool the tomatoes off enough to peel easily.  Bring the water to a boil between each scalding.

Throw the peeled tomatoes into a big bowl until you have a bunch of them.  I like to line up a dozen or more jars at a time so I can add ingredients systematically without missing any.  Clean your jars, or whatever you do.  I just make sure they are washed clean.  If they are clean off the shelf, I don’t even wash them.  That’s what the sterilizing process is for. I use a lot of pints and some quarts, but it bears keeping in mind that quarts do save on buying lids, which are rather expensive when you add up the season’s canning.  Stuff the tomatoes into the jars leaving just a little space at the top since they will sink quite a bit in the canning water bath.   Add the roasted pepper and basil, and for each pint use 1/2 tsp of salt and about 1/16 teaspoon of ascorbic acid.

About the ascorbic acid.  I started using it because some sources claim that tomatoes are not always acidic enough to prevent the formation of botulinum toxins in the jars after canning.  I actually don’t think that’s a problem, but my partner at the time always insisted on it and I didn’t think it hurt anything.  Eventually I decided it tastes better though, and a taste test of commercially canned tomatoes done by COOKS Magazine came to the conclusion that those brands with added acidity (usually citric acid I think) were just better.   It’s good stuff to have around anyway.  You can add it to juice when your sick, and use a wash of ascorbic acid and water for rinsing fruit to keep it from oxidizing, useful for drying and canning.

After the jars are packed, wipe the rims clean and screw on the lids.  I screw my lids on pretty firmly, but not super tight.  Put into warm or cold water, just not so hot as to crack the jars.  The jars should be resting on a grate to keep them off the bottom of the pan, and should be completely covered with water.  Bring the pot to a boil with a lid on it.  As soon as it begins boiling, you can set the timer.  Boil hard for 40 minutes for pints and 50 minutes for quarts.  I don’t remember where I got those numbers, but that’s how I do it.  Allow the kettle to stop boiling and wait about a minute before removing the jars.  If you remove them while too hot, they will boil over.  You may or may not need to snug the lids down as soon as they come out, I usually do.  Allow to air cool, check the seals, remove the rings, rinse the jars, label with the year, and with the variety for future taste testing if applicable, and stow away.  If you have a ton of them to process, check out the Mega Canner post.

Orange Banana, yum.

Orange Banana, yum.  The space in the top of the jar is just from cooking down.  Not to worry.  This is the last jar from last  season.  Fortunately tomatoes are ripening now.

I’m not convinced that this is the very best way to do tomatoes, but I do know that it is a system that has served very well here with almost limitless versatility and I see little reason to tweak it in any way.  These canned tomatoes have contributed to countless delicious meals here at Turkeysong.  The rough number of canned tomatoes I try to shoot for in a year, assuming two people and occasional guests, is 100 pints.  There are usually some jars left over when the canning season rolls around, but that is good since no one knows what the next year will bring.  I am thinking of putting up some tomato juice this year if I have enough tomatoes because I like drinking the juice off the tomatoes so much.  I can any left over juice that accumulates in the bowl of peeled tomatoes with a little salt and ascorbic acid added, but that only amounts to a quart or two a year.  Probably the easiest way to preserve tomatoes is by freezing them whole.  The skins slip off easily when the frozen tomatoes are run under the tap for a few seconds.  But I usually prefer my canned tomatoes for most uses.  Please tell us about how you preserve tomatoes, in the comments.

Drying tomatoes is pretty easy. I just find that I don't use that many. I'd like to, but I haven't caught the dried tomato bug.

Drying tomatoes is pretty easy. I just find that I don’t use that many of them. I’d like to, but I just haven’t caught the dried tomato bug for whatever reason.  They are really good as an ingredient in Italian pork sausage though.

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August 25, 2013 - Posted by | Food and Drink Making, Garden Stuff, Recipes! | , , , , ,

13 Comments »

  1. Thanks! Sound like less of a hassle than what I have been doing. You don’t add any liquid? I can’t wait to get home and can a batch.

    Comment by Glad | August 25, 2013 | Reply

    • Hi Glad! Nope, no liquid. i used to think I needed to, but now I don’t even add the juice that drains off. There is usually a pretty big gap in the jar when all is said and done, but that just doesn’t really matter. It’s not really air in there, it’s just space basically. Just fill those jars up pretty full, no more than 1/2 inch for sure.

      Comment by Stevene | August 25, 2013 | Reply

  2. I also do whole peeled tomatoes plus lemon juice. I like Gilbertie Paste for flavor. Mine sucumed to blight this year (we had rain for a month and a half this spring). I aim for a minimum of 52 quarts for two people plus guests. (one per week on average for use) I cook very very similarily to you it would seem. A jar goes into soup, chili, etc. etc. etc.

    I do one thing differently. I save my peels. Dehydrate them and grind them in a coffee grinder. Then I have “the jar” of special. I use the dried peel as thickener if my spagettie sauce didn’t go on the stove till 5pm and dinner with guests is at 6pm. That pizzza sauce was a bit runny, add a few spoonfuls from “the jar” and it thickens right up with an extra oomph of tomato flavor. Extra from the jar is used when I’m doing just a cup of soup and want tomato flavor and don’t want to open a whole quart jar.

    I wonder if I could dehydrate carrot, tomato, celery etc. and grind it into my own veggie bullion powder?? Hrm, new experiement coming right up. :D

    btw, I love that you post intermittently. Your thoughts always get me thinking but I don’t feel “obligated” to read everything daily. You’re in my RSS feed so I don’t miss anything and can mull it over but I don’t feel like it’s on the regular “post daily” treadmill. I get good thoughts when you have good thoughts, more comfortable for me as a reader. Many thanks for your posts!!

    Comment by c. | August 25, 2013 | Reply

    • thanks for the kind feedback C. I’ll try the peel thing! maybe I should try blitzing my dried tomatoes in a coffee grinder. I use coffee grinders a lot for grinding anything from chick food to spices and even sometimes coffee!. I buy any that are 2.00 or less and hoard them. When one breaks a blade or just burns out, there is always another one waiting in line. I also keep them for different uses, like one for coffee and one for spices.

      I have thought before of making whole canned tomatoes with different flavor profiles, like mexican and italian anyway. But, as you seem to agree, the versatility thing rocks. I’m interested to see that you put up roughly the same amount of tomatoes as I do.

      I’m glad to hear the feedback on post frequency. I tend to want to go into subjects in quite a bit of depth so that they are useful and I spend a lot of time writing and tweaking them. In a way I post more for the archive factor and for surfing hits than for the immediate read from subscribers, though I do think of you as my audience more than not. I even use my posts as an archive myself to find recipe amounts and stuff like that. I sometimes wonder if I shouldn’t post more. I think that’s one of the cardinal rules of “successful” blogging. But mostly I feel I’m doing the right thing and what fits me, the type of people I would like to reach and what is success to me. Lately I’ve had quite a bit to say, but I also have a couple other blogs to keep up with, so it will continue to be infrequent and hopefully up to a reasonable standard. I don’t ever want to be scrounging for material, just to post something. Don’t worry, there’s still a lot of stuff in the chute! Anyway, I really appreciate getting to hear that feedback.

      Are your boiling times similar to mine? 40 min for pints and 50 minutes for quarts.

      Comment by Stevene | August 25, 2013 | Reply

  3. I love canning tomatoes and put up 40kgs or close to last year. That included 10kgs tomatoes processed down into about 1.5 pints of tomato paste which iis delicious in its saltiness as a pizza base or anywhere really. I’ve just been shopping and bought about 7 packs (as well as receiving a few freebee packs) of tomato seeds and I am trying a huge variety this year. ( 2 packs heirloom mix ( Red Tommy Toe, Black Russian, Beams yellow Pear, Schimmeig Creg, Tigerella and Green Aunt Rubys German), Jaune Flamme, Mortgage Lifter, San Marzano, Costoluto Genovese (2 packs as one was a freebee), Principe Borghese, Violet Jasper (my son is called Jasper so he will grow these ones) and Wild Sweetie. I’ve canned cherry or small tomatoes before and the taste was out of this world. Last year I canned mostly romas which were nice but nothing to write home about. They were purchased toms although organic. This year I hope to grow enough to glut ourselves into insensibility. :)
    When I can tomatoes I add a tablespoon of lemon juice to increase acidity which of course is something else I can grow at home. Vinegar can also be added. :)

    Comment by rabidlittlehippy | August 28, 2013 | Reply

    • Rabid: Thanks for sharing your experience. Aunt Ruby’s is a Tomato that has stuck in my garden for the last 10 years or so since my mom introduced me to it. I’m pretty sure it’ll rate high for you. It’s fairly juicy and more of a slicer for sure. I can grow lemons in my greenhouse, and sometimes glean them in town, but I don’t have any when I need them unless I squeeze and freeze the juice in cubes, which I’ve done at times. I’ll try it if the tomatoes and lemons ever coincide.

      Comment by Stevene | August 28, 2013 | Reply

  4. I’m a little confused. Any significance to the Fido style, flip-down jars in the top picture? Are you boiling these jars? I would have assumed you’d only use Ball-screw top jars for water baths.

    Try Black Prince next year if you haven’t already. It’s the best tomato I’ve ever tasted and I think would taste amazing juiced. Thanks for the tip on Fedco tomatoes.

    Comment by Dennis | August 30, 2013 | Reply

    • i do use those European flip top type canning jars sometimes, and yes I do boil them. As far as I know, they are made for waterbath canning. They work anyway. I think they have advantages and disadvantages. Advantages: less waste, cheaper to use when figured over time Disadvantages: Hard to open! (unless I just haven’t learned the trick yet), clunky to store if lids aren’t sealed, and even then, they may just take up more room per volume, and the standard seals absorb odors and flavors something awful, especially bad when canning tomatoes and peppers. I think a high quality silicone seal might help with that issue.

      I think I have tried black prince. It’s extremely juicy! I do remember it being very good. I like Fedco as a seed company for numerous reasons. They have a pretty decent tomato selection.

      Comment by Stevene | August 30, 2013 | Reply

  5. I think my boil times are the same/similar. I always reference the ball canning book/bible because I don’t remember one time from another when I do weeks of canning. I start pears tomorrow for a friend with a pear tree. So my brain currently is attempting to think through the split of recipes I’ll be making for her. And yes, this time of year I feel like I work 3 or 4 full-time jobs and sleep way too little.

    I don’t use the Fido/european jars. I use weck and ball. I am in love with my weck jars and see their value as well worth it because I don’t have to replace lids every year. Warning – get their special lifter as a regular lifter will break seal when you pull them out because of how it bumps up against the rubber seal.

    Weck jars are opened by pulling the “tab” on the rubber sealing ring. I wonder, suspect, that the european ones are the same? The rubber tab then “poofs” it’s more rewarding than popping bubble wrap for sure! I don’t know if the european ones have the tab. If not I’d order rubbers from weck and see if they’re the same size thereby making them easier to open, I’m pretty sure they’re about the same thickness, unlike the rubbers that come with tattler lids.

    I love my weck because they are a bit heavier glass, are prettier and sometimes pretty does bring pleasure and the most important… I’ve don’t have sealing failures with the weck when I do with the ball. Given I’m using tattler lids with the ball jars and have, with time, gotten better at getting a seal with the tattler lids. When I first started with them I though they were garbage and I could only can jams and jellies in them because those were the only things that sealed hard!

    Comment by c | September 2, 2013 | Reply

    • Thanks for the feedback on jars. That’s an area of particular interest to me over the past couple years. I like the fido types Ok, the little I’ve used them for canning that is. Minimal experience with Weck, but they do seem nice. I have some old ball type glass lids that I’d like to use, but want to get, or make, silicone seals for them. They only seals I have are ancient rubber. I wonder if your trouble with the tattler has to do with the very thin seals? Do you have any idea why the weck works better? My suspicion is that while the switch from glass lids with seals to metal throw away lids was ostensibly about the pop down safety seal button, it was probably more about putting consumers on an endless treadmill of buying something they had to throw away after each use. The price of the disposable metal canning seals is actually quite a lot. If you’re a subsistence type of canner, it really can add up. Somehow Europeans have gotten by with glass lids and rubber seals without dying in droves of food poisoning (I’m assuming, I haven’t done any research!). I haven’t tried tattler, but I’m wary of the plastic, PBA or no. I’ve tried pulling on the tab, and figured that’s what it’s for, but some of my seals are pretty old, and some I made from high temperature food grade rubber gasket material, and those don’t have tabs. I really think silicone has the best potential for long life, minimal odor absorption and lowest potential toxicity. But I haven’t tried them because they are too expensive.

      Honestly, I don’t do a ton of canning. I can mostly tomatoes, and then some jams and tomatillo salsa and few other random things. I don’t like most things canned that well and it’s also time consuming and energy intensive… and like I said, expensive. Some stuff I freeze, some I dry, and some I ferment and store live.

      I’ve done quite a bit of pears canned in peeled halves with cinnamon sticks. Bartletts also dry very well. Very sweet and delicious, if a little challenging since they stick to everything and are soft. Not sure how other varieties dry.

      Comment by Stevene | September 2, 2013 | Reply

      • I think silicon is the way to go too. Until I look at other silicon bits in my kitchen. Some brands, items seem to break down/rip/tear all too soon for the money I paid. If you read reviews on amazon about silicon bakeware you’ll find similar complaints about smell, stickiness etc. I’m sure there are different formulations and that some just aren’t good. Of course, there is also the silicon lid from Ikea that the cat chewed because it came out of the sun oven with a bit of flavor left on it.

        Tattler’s rubbers, I think, need to be slim otherwise we’d need different screw caps to go over the assembly and grab the jar rings correctly. They’re also a harder rubber, warming them before they go on the jars doesn’t seem to make a difference in seal. Tattlers changed their instructions a year or so ago, both ways still lead to some failure. Sadly, I just crank em down to get em to work.

        I do think that the sharper mountain shaped edge at the top of the weck jars is a positive as well as the much thicker and wider rubber.

        I will be trying tomatillo salsa for the first time this year. The partner loves psole verde, he likes hot and purchasing salsa verde versus making seems like I’d save a bunch with the amount he eats. I can, easily, 52 pints of corn relish as that is his “go to” midnight snack, tomatoes and then a few small batches of marmalade, butters etc. Those are mostly for me and I don’t go through them fast enough to make more than is worth it to me in eating and trading.

        I aim more towards drying and then making my own stock and canning that. I have sources for free beef bones, I make stock, can it and return a portion to the source of the bones, which gets me bones the next year. So that changes the choices for me. I’ll dry many veggies that go into soup and use the stock as the rehydrating part.

        I think a number of canners jumped at the option of metal lids back in the day. The all glass jars are heavier duty and heavy over all. I’d think that the lighter weight option seemed “cool” and “convenient” at the time. I’ll also say that I’ve already broken a number of weck lids in the short years I’ve owned them. When they aren’t on the jar they’ll slide in a bin and sometimes right on out of it. I’m storing them differently, a small toweled corner of the bin gets the lids stacked sideways. I also see safety as a good selling point back in the day. My mother is friends with some immmigrant russians. She is appalled at their canning process. No waterbath, re-used pickle jars etc. from the grocery store. But then I think to myself, that is what they had available. We’re rich in comparison, no matter what jars we use, we have choices for safety that they may not have, and choices for energy use that they may not have.

        I do wonder, if it would be more energy efficient to can my tomatoes in pressure? Everyone seems to think that waterbath is easier but it’s very energy intensive. I wonder if you could do 10 pounds pressure on a quart/liter jar for 10 min. and you’d get the same effect as the 50 or so minutes in a water bath. Less water needed for that process, your pot is tied up waiting to cool but it might be worth it if you’re harvesting from the garden and it’s an indeterminate type so you only get 20 or so pounds every day.

        I can for a couple of reasons. One I grew up with it. Two it saves us money, although maybe not energy as I grow a fair amount of what is canned and dried. I ferment less, that is a temperature/space issue for us right now. But I can mostly because I hate sweet spaghetti sauce, don’t like all of the extras we get in our food, and, well, grew up with it. I’m rare for my generation, so I’m mostly doing it because it gets me food I like and will eat. That makes it easier to suffer through canning in a 95 degree day with no outdoor kitchen and no airconditioning. I am also in a location with a 3 month growing season, if we’re having a good year.

        Thanks again for the blogging. FYI, daily posting for a “sucessful” blog you missed the most important point, who defined sucess? What does that mean? That means that google ad words will have new content to put ads on every day of the week so they have more inventory to make money from. I often define sucess a bit differently, your goals may diverge from Google’s significantly so… ;) (being a human with a life instead of a machine)

        Comment by c | September 3, 2013

  6. I wonder if you could find silicon bakeware that was ripped or torn on freecycle or at the thrift store. You could cut rings out of it that are nice and wide using the old rubber as a template. I’d be tempted to play around with that as a cheap option. Seal something like jam in it that pulls nice and hard and then something a bit softer pulling and see how it works. pick it up by the lid ever week or so, see if the seal holds. I’d cut myself a little pull tab on the circle though even if the old one didn’t have it. Give myself a chance to open it if I wish. :D

    Comment by c | September 3, 2013 | Reply

    • great thoughts. I did a little research into silicone. According to one manufacturer of food grade silicone that I talked to, 100% silicone, which is so often advertised, is almost unknown. He said that there will almost always be other things added for durability, heat resistance, firmness etc… I’ve been looking for the right thickness of food grade silicone sheeting to make some ball jar gaskets with, but so far the only stuff I can find is too expensive. The old mason glass lids have a deeper ring to make up for the both the thickness of the gasket and of the glass lid. Rounding the edges of the glass lids should help reduce breakage.

      Old canning processes did differ a lot from today. We are told what is and isn’t safe by government and academic agencies. I often have wondered at how much margin of error there is… or in other words, how much of a margin of safety is built into those recommendations. I mean, if one person dies from botulism and the ph of the food is .1 lower than that previously known to allow the growth of the organism, then the rules change. I’ve especially wondered how relevant the whole thing about adding acid to tomatoes is. It’s true that some crappy varieties grown under crappy conditions can be pretty low acid, but that’s probably not relevant to people like us canning home canned varieties. I wouldn’t bother if it didn’t taste better. No one used to have pressure canners, but still canned all sorts of low acid things. But, what they did always do as I understand it, was they boiled all canned food because it destroys botulinum toxin. No doubt people did all kinds of things (and probably still do in many places) that would be considered extremely unsafe, and usually got away with it. Then again, I think a lot of people did die from that sort of thing, and it only takes once. I also use hot packing for juice and sometimes for jam. It’s still a hassle, as the jars and seals basically have to be sterilized first, but with large quantities of stuff, it can make a big difference in time savings. Also, the flavor is much better with the juice if it’s just barely brought up to a high enough temperature and not cooked to death in a water bath. My friends had some little rubber nipple things, or cots I guess, that fit over standard beer bottles and similar sized bottles. You can hot pack into the jars and then just slip one of those over. Pretty cool. I wouldn’t be surprised that if you pressure canned your tomatoes you might see a quality difference. That extra pressure really puts the squeeze on food. Just look what it does to salmon bones. Let us know if you try it.

      My grandma reused commercial jars, but just for jellies and high acid stuff like that. I’ve used them a little and it seems to work fine. They actually seem more durable than the canning seals for the ball jars. You can get away with a lot preserving high acid foods.

      I also probably can because I was exposed to it growing up. My main reasons though are that the quality is better than what I can buy, and I like subsistence activities. I’m pretty picky, so I try to preserve things the way that I’ll actually eat them. tomatoes I like canned. tomatillo salsa cans well, but I freeze fresh tomato salsas in small jars. green beans and zuchinni are good dried, as are a lot of mushrooms. Fava beans and green shelled peas get frozen. Roasted eggplant frozen. Peppers dried, roasted and frozen, or fermented into pepperoncini, hot sauce and pimentos. Green beans ferment well too as dilly beans. Roots we can eat fresh out of the ground all year here.

      If you do tomatillo salsa, roast the tomatillos, over charcoal if you can. Much better that way. I make two kinds my mom taught me to make. One is tomatillos, roasted green peppers, cilantro, salt and the other is tomatillos, toasted dried chilis (california chiles as they are known commercially, or dried Anaheim… same thing) cilantro and salt. All blended together. Neither one benefits from onions. I never use ripe tomatillos for those either. They have to be green or it tastes weird. Ripe tomatillos make a pretty good fresh salsa. The Mexican restaurants here have a thin tomatillo salsa blended with avocado that is really awesome, but I can’t imagine it keeps very well.

      Comment by Stevene | September 3, 2013 | Reply


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