Appetizers

Dishing the news about the Sacramento area food scene

More tips on preserving tomatoes

07/23/2014 12:55 PM

07/23/2014 4:45 PM

An avalanche of home-grown tomatoes motivated me to get busy in the kitchen. Even though I’ve “put up” countless tomatoes, I still haul out the recipes and double-check the instructions.

So does Lillian Smith, a longtime UC master food preserver from Rio Linda.

“There are so many variables,” Smith said.

Take processing time, for example. “It depends on how you pack the tomatoes and the size,” Smith said. “They could be in the hot-water bath for 40 minutes at the least (for hot packed) up to 75 or 85 minutes (for raw pack).”

“Raw pack” takes so much time because the tomatoes are actually being cooked inside the jar. That kills bacteria as well as seals the jar.

Don’t be surprised by the amount of juice that collects at the bottom of the jar during processing. That’s normal, Smith said. Cooking makes the tomato solids rise to the top, pressing the juice down.

“Remember: It doesn’t have to look perfect,” Smith said. “There’s ‘show pack’ (for winning blue ribbons) and there’s ‘family pack’ (for what you serve your family). Most of the time, family pack is just fine.”

Here are more tips:

• For canning tomatoes and tomato-based products (such as salsa), use recipes created after 1988. That’s when the USDA changed its basic recommendations including processing times and those updates may not be reflected in earlier recipes.
• Start with sterilized jars, metal bands and lids. The jars can be washed in the dishwasher and kept there until ready for use. Or use the same large canning pot that you will use for the hot-water bath for boiling and sterilizing the jars. Boil the jars, bands and lids for 10 minutes, then keep them in the hot water until ready to use. After the jars are filled, return them to the kettle for processing. Because the water already is pretty warm, this saves energy; the water will return to boiling much faster. And it saves water.
• Low-acid yellow or orange tomatoes need the same amount of citric acid or bottled lemon juice as standard red tomatoes. Even though they taste sweeter, the pH level of Sun Gold, Lemon Boy and other popular light-skinned tomatoes is about the same as their red counterparts. To acidify them for canning, add to the jar 1/4 teaspoon citric acid or 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice per pint before adding the tomatoes.
• When removing air bubbles from jars, use a wooden chopstick, skewer or plastic utensil (not metal) as a “bubble freer.” Remember to poke holes through the tomatoes themselves to allow trapped air to escape.
• After the recommended processing time has been reached, remove the jars of tomatoes promptly from the hot-water bath. Use a jar lifter, a specialized tool that clamps around the top of the jar for easy removal. Don’t let the jars sit in the water, Smith said. “The lids can start seeping and you actually will lose your tight seal.”
• When you pull the hot jars out of the water, set them down on a towel. That catches the water off the jars as well as insulates the jars from a cold countertop.

For more recipes, tips and videos, click here. For the UC master food preserver’s free downloadable guide, “Tomatoes: Safe Methods to Store, Preserve and Enjoy,” click here.

About This Blog

Appetizers brings you the latest restaurant happenings, interesting tidbits on good food and events, and -- of course -- great specials and deals.

Regular contributors

Chris Macias
Food and wine
cmacias@sacbee.com
Twitter: @chris_macias

Allen Pierleoni
Counter Culture
apierleoni@sacbee.com
Twitter: @apierleonisacbe

Debbie Arrington
Food and cooking
darrington@sacbee.com
Twitter: @debarrington

Blair Anthony Robertson
Restaurant reviews
brobertson@sacbee.com
Twitter: @blarob

Key links

Dining reviews
Restaurant guide
Recipes
Mike Dunne's wine picks
Beer Run
Nosh Pit
Restaurant inspections
 

Join the Discussion

The Sacramento Bee is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere on the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Terms of Service