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Published: Tuesday, 7/28/2009

Canning tomatoes: Preserve flavor of summer

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

Doris Herringshaw and her daughter, Sarah, 24, of Bowling Green are experts in home canning, and have tips for home cooks who want to preserve those excess tomatoes of the season.

Mrs. Herringshaw is the extension educator for the Ohio State University Extension in Wood County. Sarah is a 2009 graduate of Ohio State University with bachelor and master's of science degrees in food science technology. In August she will start her job in product research and development for General Mills in Minneapolis.

Last week they used oblong Roma tomatoes and some medium round tomatoes. 'I like to can tomatoes that are meaty and solid,' said Mrs. Herringshaw. 'For sauce you can use any [type].'

Before she started the project, she laid out all of the equipment, including a jar lifter, a funnel for filling the jars, sterilized jars kept hot in the dishwasher, lids and rings, and a magnet lid lifter.

Blanched tomatoes are placed in cold water before
being peeled. Blanched tomatoes are placed in cold water before being peeled.
Enlarge

• Next she filled the water bath canner with water and its rack and started heating it.

• On a second burner of the stove she had a pan with hot water for lids.

• On a third burner she had a pot with a rack that was filled with boiling water ready to blanch the tomatoes in order to peel the skin off.

• A fourth burner held hot water used to add to each pint of tomatoes.

Blanching means to plunge food into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds and then into cold water to stop the cooking process. Blanching loosens the skins, particularly in peaches and tomatoes. It heightens and sets color and flavor, too, according to the Food Lover's Companion.

Before the two women started blanching their tomatoes, which had been washed, they cored them. 'If you're freezing tomatoes, use ice water,' said Mrs. Herringshaw. 'If you're canning, you want to just cool off the [blanched] tomatoes in cold water.'

She set enough tomatoes to fill the bottom of the pan in the rack and then gently lowered them into the boiling water, watching the clock for 30 seconds, and then lifting the strainer and setting the strainer and tomatoes in a bowl of cold water.

Some varieties of tomato take a little longer for the skins to loosen. If you can get tomatoes that are really ripe, you almost don't have to blanch them because the skins come off so easily.

Then the Herringshaws peeled the tomatoes with their fingers lifting the tomatoes out of the water into another bowl ready to be canned. The skins are thrown away.

That day they canned whole tomatoes. 'For sauce, I used cooked tomatoes and make juice,' said Mrs. Herringshaw. 'I put the juice in a slow cooker for several hours until it reduces. Then I put it in sterilized jars with a hot clean lid and rim and process for 45 minutes per pint.' Tomatoes are also processed for 45 minutes per pint.

When she's ready to use the sauce, Mrs. Herringshaw adds herbs and spices and uses it for spaghetti or eggplant parmigiana.

Canning tips

Canning must be done properly, advises Mrs. Herringshaw, who was a source for Chow Line, an online publication of the Ohio State University. 'The risk of botulism is a serious one. The Clostridium botulinum bacterium is harmless until it finds itself in a moist, low-acid, oxygen-free environment or a partial vacuum. That's exactly the kind of conditions found inside a jar of canned vegetables, and it's why following proper canning procedures is vitally important.'

Jars are sterilized in the dishwasher. 'I pull out the jars as needed,' said Mrs.

Herringshaw. 'You need to be careful jars are not antique jars with glass that's uneven which won't seal as well.'

As Ms. Herringsaw used the funnel to drop each tomato into the wide-mouth pint jars, she added lemon juice. 'You add lemon juice to make sure the pH stays low.

Tomatoes have a lower pH, which differs by variety. A lower pH means more acidity.' She uses 1 tablespoon lemon juice per pint and 2 tablespoons per quart.

Lemon juice does not affect the flavor of the tomatoes.

She was able to put about 4 Roma tomatoes in a pint jar, cutting the last tomato to fit it in. 'Use hot water or your own tomato juice or you can mash the tomatoes in the jar to get juice,' she said.

If you don't put the tomatoes in snugly, after processing the tomatoes will float.

Salt can be added to the pint: teaspoon per pint or 1 teaspoon per quart. 'Salt is only for taste. It is not a preservative and it won't change the acidity,' said Mrs. Herringshaw, using a 'plastic bubble wand' down the side of each jar to remove air bubbles as she added the liquid. 'You can see the bubbles coming to the surface.'

You can also use the handle of a wooden spoon to remove bubbles, but don't use a knife because that can crack the jar.

'Keep the tomato content at the bottom ring of the jar top so it doesn't boil over and unseal during processing. Once the jar is filled, 'USDA recommends wiping the jar rim with a paper towel,' said the extension educator. 'Now we're ready to the lid.'

She used the magnet wand to get the hot lid out of the pan of hot water, put the ring on top, and then used a jar lifter to lift the hot jar into the boiling water bath canner with lid. Wait until the water bath returns to a rolling boil to begin counting the processing time.

Finished product

After the processing time, use the jar lifter to remove the jars, placing each on a towel lined rack to cool. Sometimes you immediately hear the 'popping' of the lid to indicate it is sealing, but it can take up to 24 hours.

Use a boiling water bath canner with a lid for tomatoes, fruit, and pickles. Salsa can also be processed in boiling water bath. For a thicker salsa use a meatier tomato.

A pressure canner should be used for green beans, corn, squash, and meat. She notes that a pressure canner can be used as a boiling water bath canner by setting the lid on top and not waiting for the steam or pressure.

Always used approved recipes. 'If you are using grandma's recipe from yesteryear, find a similar recipe on USDA web site or Ball Canning or OSU's ohioline.osu.edu.,' she said.

For more information, Doris Herringshaw can be reached at OSU Extension, Wood County 419-354-9050.

Kathie Smith is The Blade's food editor.

Contact her at: food@theblade.com or 419-724-6155.



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