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Many people are taking up gardening, and an excellent way to preserve the harvest is by canning. Canning is easier than you may think and can be a fun project for the entire family.
When food is exposed to air, it’s also exposed to bacteria that can cause the food to spoil. Boiling food in a glass canning jar kills bacteria that may have come in contact with the food and also creates an air-tight seal to prevent new bacteria from getting into the jar, allowing food to stay fresh and edible longer. Following are instructions for canning tomatoes, one of the most popular of home-canned foods, but many other fruits, vegetables and meats can be preserved following similar steps. To prepare for canning foods at home:
Inspect the jars for nicks, cracks, uneven rims or sharp edges that may prevent sealing or cause breakage. Also inspect the new canning lids to make sure they are free of dents. The seal should be even and complete, and the bands should fit tightly.
Wash the jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse well, dry the bands and set aside.
Heat the jars and lids in a saucepot of simmering water at 180°F. Don't boil the lids. Allow the jars and lids to remain in hot water until they’re ready for use, removing them one at a time as needed.
Fill the boiling water canner half full with hot water, elevate the rack in the canner and put the canner lid in place.
Heat the water in the canner to about 180°F, and maintain the temperature at a simmer until ready for processing.
Select fresh tomatoes at their peak of quality and flavor, free of cracks and spots. Prepare only enough foods for one canner load.
Wash the tomatoes and drain them.
Blanch the tomatoes to remove the skin.
Blanching is the process of boiling food then placing it in ice water to remove the skin. Place the tomatoes in the basket rack and lower into a large saucepot of boiling water. Boil the tomatoes 30 to 60 seconds or until skins start to crack. Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and immediately dunk them into ice water. Allow the tomatoes to cool in the ice water.
Remove the tomatoes from the ice water, then remove the skins and trim away any green areas and cut out the cores. Leave the tomatoes whole or cut them into halves or quarters.
Place the prepared tomatoes in a large saucepan, adding just enough water to cover them, and boil the tomatoes gently for five minutes.
Use a jar lifter to remove a canning jar and set it on a towel.
Add lemon juice and salt to each jar:
Carefully pack tomatoes into the hot jar, leaving about a ½ inch of space below the top rim.
Ladle boiling water or cooking liquid over the tomatoes in the jars, again leaving about a ½ inch of space below the top rim.
Once the jar is filled, slide a nonmetallic spatula between the tomatoes and jar, gently pressing back on the tomatoes to release trapped air bubbles. Repeat this procedure two or three times around the inside of the jar.
Wipe the rim and threads of the jar with a clean, damp cloth.
Remove the lid from the hot water and center it on the jar. Screw the band down evenly and firmly until it's fingertip tight.
As you fill each jar, set it onto the elevated rack in the boiling water canner.
Once all the jars are filled and placed onto the rack, lower the rack into the canner. The water level should be about 1 to 2 inches above the jars.
Place the lid on the canner and bring the water to a boil. Recommended processing time begins after the water comes to a rolling boil:
When processing time is complete, turn off the heat and carefully remove the canner lid.
Allow the canner to cool for five minutes before removing the jars and setting them upright, 1 to 2 inches apart, on a dry towel to cool.
Allow the jars to cool for 12 to 24 hours.
Once the jars have cooled, check the lids for a tight seal by pressing on the center of each lid. If the center is pulled down and doesn't flex up and down, remove the band and gently try to lift the lid off with your fingertips. If the lid doesn't flex and you can't easily lift it off, the lid has a good vacuum seal.
Wipe the lid and jar surface with a clean, damp cloth to remove any food particles or residue.
Label the jars with the product and date, then store in a cool, dry, dark place. Home-canned tomatoes typically are good for about a year.
*Time and Cost are estimated.