Chances are, like many gardeners, you have sometimes found yourself with an overabundance of a particular crop. Perhaps your peppers were particularly prolific. Maybe this year’s crop of zucchini grew with unanticipated zeal. Or perhaps you have more tomatoes than you can reasonably add to salads, put on sandwiches or make into salsa.
That is where the time-honored art of home canning steps in to save the day. When faced with a surplus of tomatoes, you can prepare and store them for future consumption by stewing and canning them.
Think that sounds both delicious and useful, but not sure where to start? Below you’ll find a helpful set of instructions outlining how to can stewed tomatoes.
Ingredients and Materials for Canning Stewed Tomatoes
Canning stewed tomatoes might seem intensive when you first look at the combined ingredients and materials list. The ingredients are what you’d expect when making easy stewed tomatoes, but the materials can be daunting for those who many be canning for the first time. Luckily, once you purchase your canning equipment, it will serve you well for years to come.
The ingredients list is fairly straightforward. For about three quarts — roughly seven pints — of canned stewed tomatoes, you will need:
- Two dozen (24) large, ripe tomatoes
- ¾ cup of either green peppers, celery or a mix of both
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 Tablespoon of sugar
- 2 teaspoons of canning, or pickling, salt
The materials list is about half canning-specific supplies and half kitchen basics:
- Canning jars, lids and rings
- Pressure canner, not a pressure cooker
- Magnetic wand
- Jar lifter
- Canning funnel
- Knives, paring and chef’s knife
- Spoons, spatulas and ladles
- Large pot, big enough to fit all ingredients above
- Cloths or towels for cleaning and handling materials
Whether you just bought your first pressure canner or have owned one for years, it’s important to inspect it each time you use it. Performing an inspection helps you make sure everything is clean, accurate, fits properly and is in good condition.
Preparing Your Canning Materials
Before you start preparing and cooking your ingredients, it’s a good idea to get your canning materials cleaned and ready to go. This way, you can start filling your jars as soon as your stewed tomatoes are ready.
As mentioned above, perform an inspection of your canner before using it. Once you’re satisfied that it is clean and in good working order, make sure the jar rack is in the bottom and pour in three quarts of water. You want to get your water hot and then keep it warm, but you do not want it to boil.
As for your jars and seals, you want to make sure they are clean. You can wash them in a dishwasher or hand-wash in the sink with hot, soapy water. If you hand-wash, make sure to rinse thoroughly. You do not need to sterilize jars when pressure canning.
You’ll also want to keep the jars hot until you’re ready to use them. To do this, place them upside down in a pot with a few inches of water. Bring to boil. Turn off or remove from heat, but leave the jars upside down in the water. This will keep them hot until you are ready to fill them.
For keeping the seals hot, follow a similar process to the jars. Place them in a pot with a few inches of water. Bring to boil, then remove from heat, leaving seals in the water until you are ready to use them.
Preparing and Stewing Your Tomatoes
Chop your onions and peppers and/or celery and set aside.
Get a large pot of water boiling. You can use a blancher for ease of removal, but a simple pot and tongs or pot and spoon combo will work just as well.
As an optional step, use a paring knife to slash a shallow X on the bottom of each tomato before placing them in the boiling water for 30 seconds. Half a minute in the boiling water should be enough for the skins to split on their own, but the shallow X’s can help speed this process, making the loose skins easier to remove.
Continue boiling batches of tomatoes for 30 seconds until all tomatoes are done. When removing from the boiling water, place the tomatoes in cold water. You can use a separate tub or pot on your counter, or just fill your sink with cold water. The cold water will stop the cooking process and make the tomatoes safer to handle.
Remove the skins from the tomatoes, then core and quarter them. Depending on your preference, you can remove the seeds and/or cut the tomatoes into smaller pieces.
Combine the tomatoes with the other vegetables in a large pot. Add salt and sugar. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so nothing sticks to the bottom or sides and burns.
Canning Your Stewed Tomatoes
Use your funnel to fill your jars, leaving ½ inch at the top — this is called the head space. Then run a small rubber, not metal, spatula around the inside of the jar to remove air bubbles. Wipe the rims of your jars clean. Place seals and rings on your jars.
With that done, you are ready to begin the last part of the canning process: pressure canning.
Due to the risk of botulism, it is extremely important to follow accurate, up-to-date instructions when canning goods at home. The USDA offers a complete guide to home canning. It is highly recommended to follow that guide. If you need additional instructions or have questions, take them to a reputable source, like your state’s Cooperative Extension Service.
Home canning is a wonderful, time-honored, frugal practice that will yield safe, delicious results when done correctly. By using this preparatory guide and then deferring to the USDA’s instructions, you and your family can safely enjoy the fruits of your garden, no matter the season.