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: