Tuesday, August 23, 2011

First Canning Attempt

A few weekends ago I attempted to can tomatoes.  The farm let us pick as many tomatoes from the field as we could, so the hubs and I filled a grocery bag.  G gave me some large canning jars so I thought fresh packing tomatoes would be a great way to preserve them. 

My grandma gave me a Ball canning book last time she visited and I have only tried one jam recipe until now.  I had some pectin in the cupboard and a lot of blueberries and strawberries.  True to form for my learn by trial and error cooking- I discovered that jam has a lot of added sugar.  The recipe I found to use asked for 7 cups of sugar, and if I didn't want to sit and let the fruit reduce without pectin (I didn't- wanted to can in less than 2 hours), I would have to add that much sugar.  Another future option is low-sugar pectin, but boy was the pectin useful!  Last time I canned preserves it took me 45 minutes to cook down the fruit. 

The canning book is helpful, but I think supposes that you already know some key things, like the temperature preserves need to be to gel (not found anywhere in the book- thank goodness for google).  Canning tomatoes however has a two-page spread complete with drawings, and step by step directions that are pretty helpful. 

Basically, I put the jars and lids into the dishwasher and skinned the tomatoes.  Then I quartered them and packed them into a jar, topping it off with simmering water. 

Nothing about this was in the book though:

I did use used jars, but I did test them all and removed the ones with cracks- apparently I missed this one.  I came over and saw that the jar was floating, which depsite my canning novelty, I knew was wrong.  I grabbed the tongs and pushed it down, only to have it pop back up.  The next action was suprising, I pulled up the jar to investigate and all the tomatoes fell out into the pot!  This resulted in a slew of exclamations, mostly consisting of me repeating, "Oh no!  Oh no!" 

I scooped out the tomatoes into a bowl that later on became salsa, and let the rest of the jars just keep on cooking.  I think they turned out fine, though no one who has seen them has canned tomatoes before.  Anyone have thoughts as to the odd layering affect? Tips for future canning?

Aside from the busted jar and having to fish out the bottom from a pot of boiling water- it was relatively easy.  From start to finish it only took me about 2 1/2 hours, and boy was the dishwasher helpful!  And after getting the jars as a wonderful gift, the tomatoes as free surplus, a great cost-effective activity. 

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