Thursday, January 23, 2014

The 2 Secrets To Canning Tomatoes The EASY Way

There are a LOT of awesome tomato products to can - tomato sauce, salsa, pizza sauce, tomato paste, stewed tomatoes, diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes, tomato juice.........  The list goes on and on!

And I've found that there are 2 tips to canning tomatoes that can really make the process a LOT easier.

Secret #1 - Freeze your tomatoes.

I learned this tip from my mother-in-law, and it makes such a HUGE difference!

Ok, why is freezing the tomatoes such a big deal?  For 2 reasons: It makes skinning your tomatoes WAY easier, and it thickens the tomatoes without having to boiling them all day.

Normally with any tomato product you want to can, the instructions start out by telling you to skin your tomatoes by dipping them a few at a time into boiling water and then shocking them in ice water.  This process takes FOREVER, and involves handling incredibly hot tomatoes.

When you freeze your tomatoes you make skinning the tomatoes approximately 1,000,000 times easier, because all you have to do is thaw your tomatoes and pull the skin off.  No boiling, shocking in ice water, or struggling to hold a burning hot tomato!!  It's also way faster.

Another benefit to freezing your tomatoes is that when you thaw them, you'll end up with a freezer bag of tomatoes floating in liquid.  That liquid is excess water you would normally need to boil off to thicken your tomato product.  Pour off the excess liquid (or keep it as a type of weak tomato juice / tomato stock - it's a great base for soups).  Now all you have to do is bring the tomatoes up to a boil and you're ready to go!

Also, if you happen to be growing your own tomatoes freezing them makes it much easier to store a big enough number of tomatoes to can in bigger batches.  You can also wait to can them when it's most convenient for you, instead of rushing to can them before the tomatoes start to go bad.

Secret #2 - Use Your Crockpot To Thicken Tomatoes Like A BOSS

Even when you freeze your tomatoes, some tomato products require extra thickening (tomato paste and pizza sauce leap to mind).

Normally recipe instructions tell you to simmer your tomatoes on the stove for hours, stirring constantly.  Sure, you end up with thicken tomatoes... but also arms that feel like they're about to fall off and a stove top so covered in tomatoes splatters it looks like tomato bomb had gone off in your kitchen.

The easier way is to dump your pureed tomatoes into your crockpot, wedge the lid open a crack with a spoon or chopstick, and walk away.  It doesn't splatter everywhere and you don't have to worry about it scorching on the bottom.  Score!

Easy & Delicious Homemade Pizza Sauce Recipe

Brown sugar
Spices of choice (classic options include oregano, basil, garlic, basil, red pepper flakes, parsley, etc)
Bottled lemon juice

Puree the tomatoes until they're smooth.  Dump them into your crockpot, and turn it on 'high'.  Walk away.

Your want the tomatoes to reduce by about 1/2 or even 2/3 (depending on how thick you want your sauce), and how long it will take depends on a lot of factors.  My crockpot was totally full, and it took about 24 hours to cook down 2/3 for a pretty thick consistency.

Once it's as thick as you want it, taste the plain tomatoes.  They probably taste a little flat and tart.  Add a sprinkle of salt and a spoonful of brown sugar at a time, and taste it again.  Keep going until it's where you want it.  Papa John's pizza (which I happen to LOVE) uses a sweeter sauce.  I would be conservative on adding the salt, since a lot of pizza topping can be pretty salty (pepperoni, sausage, olives, feta, anchovies, etc).  For my own batch of pizza sauce I added a few sprinkles of brown sugar, and also a dash of balsamic vinegar.  Yum!

Once the salt and sugar levels are good, add your spices of choice.  I added 1 small diced onion, 5 cloves of garlic, parsley, and basil.  Our family has people who are pretty sensitive to spicy food or I would have added a good dash of red pepper flakes, too.  I'll just put those on my individual slices of pizza ;-)

To can, I followed the Ball Blue Book instructions for tomato sauce that had also been cooked down by adding a 1/2 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice to each half pint jar and processing the jars for 35 minutes in a water-bath canner.

Ta-da!  Delicious pizza sauce, just the way you like it!

1 comment:

  1. You are absolutely a woman after my own heart! 1++ for your tomato canning tips. But I've not tried brown sugar and balsamic vinegar, which sounds super yummy. great post and great tips.