Tomatoes are packed with nutrients. They have various health benefits and are good for the skin and heart, and help with weight loss. Research has pointed out that including tomatoes in our diet can help regulate blood pressure and maintain our body’s blood glucose level. It also has properties that can fight against cancer cells.
If you wonder if a tomato is a fruit or a vegetable, the answer would be the former. However, you will have to do a little bit of digging to get your facts right. Botanically, a tomato is a fruit as it contains the fleshy eatable part and also the seed. However, in the US, the Supreme Court, on May 10, 1893, decided to label it as a vegetable. Whether it is a fruit or a vegetable, the fact remains that it is a highly nutritional and sought after food item. Today, tomato is in the top five list of most sold vegetables in the US only behind potato, onions, and lettuce.
There are over ten thousand tomato species with varied colors ranging from red, yellow, purple, and even pink. They are easy to grow, and a couple of tomato plants can yield you enough fruits, which would last you for a year.
The only downfall of tomato fruit is that they decay quickly. At room temperature, it would last for only about seven to ten days. No matter how much you harvest, you will be able to savor this delicious fruit for only a week or two.
The solution to its brief shelf life is to Can it. By canning a whole tomato, the shelf life increases from seven to ten days to fifteen months. By processing it, you can have a bit of summer during the cold winter months.
The canning process is simple and easy. You can follow the boiling water bath canning method to preserve your tomatoes. If you don’t know how to can tomatoes, follow these steps.
What is the water bath canning method?
It is a canning method where you have to boil the ingredient filled jar to sterilize it. The duration of heating the jar will depend on the food item you are canning. It is a method used to Can acidic food with a pH level under or equal to 4.6.
How to can tomatoes
Since tomatoes are acidic food, you can use the water bath canning method. Here are the steps you can follow to successfully can tomatoes.
How to prepare the jars and tomatoes for the canning process
Wash the jar and tomatoes thoroughly to clean away any dirt. Remove the decayed tomatoes. You would want to add blemish-free tomatoes.
It is not recommended to sterilize the jar. Keep in mind that if the heating process lasts more than ten minutes, you would not need to sterilize the jar. Many people make the mistake of putting jars in the oven. It is risky, and the thermal shock would break the glass as the oven produces dry heat. If you insist on sterilizing, then you can use warm soapy water to wash the container. After washing it, you can use warm water to rinse it. Make sure that the bottle is not wet when you are filling it in with the tomatoes.
How to peel the whole tomatoes
To peel the tomatoes, you would need to nick the tip. An ‘X’ would do the job. You can even slice the top so that the tomatoes would slip off when they are blanched.
You will need to add some water to the pot and bring it to a boil. After this, you can drop the tomatoes in and wait for two to three minutes. Once you see that the skin can be peeled off, remove the tomatoes and wait for it to cool down. You can even place them into a bowl of ice or cold water to cool it off.
After the tomatoes cool off, you can peel the skin and continue with the next step.
How to pack and can the tomatoes
- If you are using lemon, you would want to add a tablespoon of concentrated lemon per pint. You would need to add two tablespoons of 5 percent vinegar or a quarter of a teaspoon for citric acid. For a quart, the amount of acid you add would double.
- You can now fill the jar with the peeled tomatoes. Make sure that you leave some space from the top. About half or a quarter of an inch would be enough.
- Run a knife along the side to let air bubbles out of the jar.
- Thoroughly wipe the rims of the jar before putting the lid on.
How to process the can
- In the water bath canner, slowly start placing the jars. The water in the canner should rise a few inches higher than the jar. The water can be about one or two inches higher.
- Cover the pot and let the water boil. The entire heating process would take around 40-50 minutes. If you live at a higher altitude, you would want to boil the water a little longer, about 60-80 minutes.
- Once the sterilizing process is complete, you can remove the jars. Allow it to cool for a while to kill the microbes that you might find in the food. Take care not to refrigerate it as soon as you take it out of the hot boiling water. The instant change in the temperature could lead to a thermal shock shattering the jar.
- Though tomatoes are botanically a fruit and are acidic, the pH level falls at 4.3 and 4.9. It is good to treat it as non-acidic food and add some acid during the canning process.
- Frosting causes the acid level to drop. It is best to use fresh tomatoes if you want to can them.
- Be aware of your location’s altitude so that you can get the right level of temperature.
- Read here for expiration information
By now, you must have learned how to can tomatoes. When done right, canning can increase the shelf life of any food item. It would not only preserve your food but also give a unique flavor to it.