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Old 06-20-2011, 12:09 PM   #1
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ISO advice/help with canning tomatoes

My DH and I have started getting into canning. We've done jam and marmalade so far. I'd like to do tomatoes this summer because we use a lot of canned tomatoes. I'd like to have diced, crushed tomatoes and tomato paste for spaghetti sauce. I'm planning on placing a big order at one of the local farms. How much do you think would be a good amount to order? Also, do you have any recipes or techniques for tomato paste and crushed tomatoes? Thanks!

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Old 06-20-2011, 02:38 PM   #2
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tomato paste is a very very very long process - tomato paste is thicker than toothpaste - are you think about a tomato sauce for pasta / pizza?

practically speaking, I don't think you're going to find a lot of use difference between crushed tomato and diced - except possibly for the size of dice - when a dice goes to a mince, that's smaller (g)

here's my madness - adapt at your own risk (g)

in a dry pot, do a large chop of ripe tomatoes - picking out the stems and any slightly unripe / green / hard internal chunks.

cook down the pot, slowly, low heat, really low heat - not boiling, no steam coming out....
once the tomatoes have semi-broken up from the heat and cooking, increase the temperature and reduce the liquid volume to "stewed tomato" style.

some batches I add - at the outset - onion and green pepper, other batches I leave 'plain'

I'm too lazy to do the canning thing, so I freeze mine. when it gets down to stewed tomato consistency I ladle it into quart bags, cool, lay flat to freeze.

the reason behind my madness technique is simple: I don't need to plan ahead as to how much sauce, how much stewed, etc., I want to put up. we're very fond of homemade pizza with homemade tomato sauce - I pull out the stewed tomato and reduce it down further to pasta / pizza sauce - this also presents the opportunity to 'custom' flavor the sauce. that way I also don't have to plan how much with garlic/without garlic, etc etc, you get the idea. for a smoother sauce - I zap it with the stick blender. takes 20-30 seconds to go from 'stewed" to 'puree' stage.

substitute "can" for "freeze" - it works....

the obvious downside is "cook it down further" - that does take time and works best if you can plan ahead for that. you cannot rush reducing stewed tomatoes to tomato sauce, you get burnt pan and terrible taste.

quantity to buy:
typical boiling water canner holds 6 quart jars - takes about half a bushel of tomatoes to get there. adjust for scale... my grandmother had two coal fired stoves and four canners . . . we did a lot of tomatoes on the weekend (g)

we have tomatoes in our own garden, but I like to keep those for table use. any extra get frozen, but when tomatoes are in "high season" I buy the 'seconds' - like $2-3 per bushel - cook them down and freeze. one bushel I do over two days - go thru pick out the ones that need _immediate_ attention, put the rest aside for tomorrow..... if I had acres and acres I'd grow them all, but I don't so I buy bunches when they're cheap.
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Old 06-20-2011, 03:44 PM   #3
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I would probably just can the whole tomatoes (with an TNT recipe) and just chop/crush/blend them for whatever recipe I'm using them for after opening them.

PS I meant to add that nowadays they consider it necessary to use a pressure cooker for canning tomatoes
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Old 06-20-2011, 03:49 PM   #4
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Thanks so much for all the info. My plan is to try to get enough tomatoes canned so I don't have to buy any. With all the BPA and other issues in canned tomatoes, I'd like to try to reduce the amount as much as possible.

I wanted diced tomatoes for casseroles and things like that and the crushed tomatoes for sauce. I was thinking of doing a paste because I like a thick pasta sauce. Usually when I make it, I do a large can of crushed tomatoes and a small can of tomato paste. So, I guess from what you said, the thicker I want the tomatoes, the more I boil them down.

Thanks again!!
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Old 06-20-2011, 04:02 PM   #5
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>>the thicker I want the tomatoes, the more I boil them down.

bingo - with a small exception about the "boil" word - I'd use "simmer" - as it gets thicker, heat moves through the sauce 'more slower' - which increases the potential for burned bottoms.

if you put up "(large) diced" tomatoes, you can make anything from them. otoh, it's really tricky to make diced tomato from tomato puree..... (g)

the stick blender is a good tool, the "food mill" is the pre-gadget device for same
Food mill - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
they work great - and you can probably pick one up in a thrift shop for under a buck!

food mills are also great for applesauce (oh,,, non-chunky style, that is) if you want to go there.
as well as any number of fruit preparations ala jelly type stuff. jams be chunkier....
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Old 06-20-2011, 04:49 PM   #6
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I have a tomato press from Lee Valley Tools (I posted the link in the culinary gardener forum). I like it.

I freeze a lot of tomatoes. What I do is skin and peel them, half them (these are roma / plum tomatoes). I pack them in a square container, freeze them, and then double wrap the block in freezer paper. These taste as if they came out of the garden when I use them.

The other thing is dehydrated tomatoes. These are great--concentrated tomato taste (you can grind them into powder) and they take up less space than jars.

I use my roaster oven to make the tomato paste. But, I put a glass cake pan inside. It takes about 18 hours to get to the consistency I like.
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Old 06-20-2011, 06:21 PM   #7
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For my tomatoes, I wash and core. Then I crush them with my hands to get the seeds out before I throw in the pot to simmer before filling the jars. Hand crushing leaves them big enough to have big chunks when I want them but also enables me to chop them down when I need smaller.

If you add lemon juice to your jars (1 tbls I believe per quart jar), you can hot water can tomatoes. The lemon juice adds enough acidity to your tomatoes to make them safe.

I have no idea how much to tell you to order. I have a giant green bushel basket that I get about 3 dozen quart jars out of ...
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Old 06-21-2011, 09:46 AM   #8
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Here is everything you need to know to SAFELY can tomatoes: National Center for Home Food Preservation | How Do I? Can Tomatoes

I can lots and lots of tomatoes--this year, I have 44 tomato plants.

I make a roasted sauce that works well for pasta or pizza--I cut the tomatoes in half, and arrange them in a single layer on a greased half sheet pan. I roast for 1 hour at 400 degrees, or until the tomatoes are shriveled and some are a little browned. This removes the water, just like simmering on the stovetop, but you don't have to stir or worry about scorching.

I also add sliced green peppers, onions, celery and garlic cloves (whole). I scrape all the cooked veggies into a bowl when they are done, and use my immersion blender to 'smoothify' them--I don't bother to peel the tomatoes. We all need more fiber in our diets! :)

Roasting the veggies brings out the sweetness, so I add vinegar to brighten the flavor--amount varies depending on the kind of tomatoes, but generally a cup per gallon of the finished product is a good starting point. I don't usually add salt or herbs/spices--I wait til I am cooking to do that.

Because I am adding low acid veggies to the tomatoes, I pressure can this mix, using the times for green pepper canning. I can in pint or half pint jars, because I live alone.

You can waterbath tomatoes, but you do need to add extra acid to be safe. I pressure can almost everything, because it is quicker and doesn't heat the kitchen up as much, because you are not heating a huge canner full of water.

I freeze some tomatoes, too--just throw whole tomatoes into a ziplock. When you get ready to use them, pull out what you need, thaw slightly, and the skins will slip right off. Chop and add to your recipe.
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Old 06-21-2011, 10:09 AM   #9
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Thaks for all the tips and advice. We'll probably do them next month. I'l post pictures and let you know how it went.
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Old 06-22-2011, 12:27 PM   #10
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I freeze most of my tomatoes, I have 9 different this year. I also peel, seed and dry some and then grind to a powder using my via-mix. I can then add the powder to sauce and it works like tomato paste. Since it is dry and without much moisture it absorbs from the liquid you put it in too. Also, you can add a tablespoon or two of water to a couple of tablespoons of powder and make instant fresh tomato paste. Add more hot water and you have tomato sauce.

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