-I hate canning. It hurts my back, it's exhausting, it's time consuming (it always takes at least 90 minutes longer than I assume), and sweaty.
-My husband is unobservant and has always assumed I love canning because I do it all the time. Weirdo. I do laundry and clean the bathrooms all the time too, but I wouldn't call those things hobbies.
-It is almost always the best way to preserve excess food from your garden/you've urban harvested around the neighborhood.
-As far as I can tell, Troy and Jack don't plan to stop eating any time soon. Canning is also the cheapest way to preserve the garden bounty/gleamed fruit I find. This month I've canned 35 half pints, 19 pints, and 11 quarts of various things, and have spent a total of $10 on produce. Everything else came from my garden, or my urban harvesting.
-As much as I hate canning, I love the security and convenience of the output. There are few things that compare to walking down to your basement in January, to grab a jar of "fresh" peaches to eat.
-Canning is like childbirth - it sucks while you're going through it, but the product is worth all the trouble.
One of the first things I started canning many moons ago were diced tomatoes. These are perfect additions to soups, stews, and other dishes. Diced tomatoes are also an easy thing for new canners to tackle because you only need two things - tomatoes and an acid. Well jars, rings, and lids too, but you get the point.
Head's up, I was canning these at 10 pm the other night, so don't expect magic when you see the photos. I was tired, the light was awful, and I was busy watching/listening to The Godfather Part II on my laptop.
1) Start by washing your tomatoes.
|All from my garden. I'm kicking myself for not weighing these before canning them. But they made 6 pints.|
2) Remove the stem from the tomatoes. I use a strawberry huller that I found years ago at a restaurant supply store, but they're also available online. You can also just use a sharp paring knife. Set the hulled tomatoes aside.
3) Boil a pot of water, and prep a bowl of cold water with ice added.
4) Place the tomatoes in the water for about 30-60 seconds; until you see the skins slipping off.
5) Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water, and put them in the ice water. The skin should easily slip off afterwards.
6) Dice the tomatoes, and set aside.
7) Fill your hot and clean jars with 1 tblsp of bottled lemon juice (or 1/4 tsp citric acid) for pints, or 2 tblsp lemon juice (or 1/2 tsp citric acid) for quarts, the tomatoes, and use something (that red thing is from my foodmill) to gently squish them down so that they are in their own juices. Add more tomatoes until you have filled the jar, leaving 1/2 inches of head space (the space between the top of the food and the top of the jar).
8) Wipe the rims of the jars with a clean rag, and put a clean and sanitized lid on the jar, and tighten a ring over that.
9) Process. Processing times will vary depending on your canning method. These take a long time (85 minutes) in a boiling water canner, but only 25 minutes in my pressure canner. Always use a trusted guide for canning times. I am not a trusted guide. If you're new to the whole canning world, the library is a great source of canning books. Just make sure that the book you check out is new. If purchasing, most canners I know consider this the canning bible. I've been really enjoying the recipes from this book as well.
After removing the jars from the canner, put on a towel on the counter and let cool completely - about 12-24 hours. Tomatoes are made up of a ton of water, so you'll see a bunch of "tomato pee" in the jars. That's fine. The tomatoes usually sink down in the jar after they've cooled for a whole day.
Check the seal (push down on the lid. If it it doesn't move, it is sealed. If it moves, put that jar in the fridge and eat in the next few days), tighten the rings (if you store with rings), and store in a cool and dark place for up to 1 year.
Some dark and rainy afternoon (hey, it gets dark at 4:15 here in the winter) next February, these will be the perfect addition to arroz con pollo for a nice and warm dinner for my family. With a fire in our fireplace, and warm good food in our bellies, I'll probably say something dumb like "canning isn't that bad".
Oh, how soon we forget.