My boyfriend’s “Nonna” – his Italian grandmother – grows and cans her own tomatoes and the resulting tomato sauce over fresh gnocchi is simply to die for. This year, my friend and I wanted to start canning our own tomatoes. I felt like I was preparing for the apocalypse, stocking my pantry with so many mason jars of canned goods! We didn’t have time to go and pick our own tomatoes, so we ordered two crates from the West End Food Co-Op a grocery store where you can order large quantities of produce from local farms.
For nine hours we slaved over 50 pounds of perfectly ripened, shiny red tomatoes, making homemade ketchup and 15 liters of canned tomatoes! I absolutely loved the homemade ketchup (featured below in the large jar). Homemade ketchup is a thinner consistency than store bought ketchup, but much tastier!
The canning process is very simple, we just had A LOT of tomatoes. I can’t wait to make to make fresh pasta sauce this fall! Now I just need to master making homemade gnocchi, and then I can recreate “Nonna’s” food at home.
Prep the jars in a water canner. Set them on a rack and fill with water until jars are covered and boil for at least 10 minutes. Keep hot until ready for use.
Place lids in hot water (not boiling) until ready for use.
Blanch tomatoes in a another pot of boiling water for 45 - 60 seconds. Immediately place in an ice cold water bath.
Remove skins (they should peel off easily - otherwise adjust blanching timing), remove stems and any bruised or discoloured areas.
Pack whole tomatoes into the hot mason jar, pressing them close together. Try not too pack them too tightly or too loosely, they should be comfortably placed together so that they're aren't any big gaps . Use a wooden chopstick to help pack the tomatoes and remove air bubbles.
Add two tablespoons of lemon juice, leaving 1/2 inch headspace from the top rim.
Wipe rim and carefully place down lid. Screw on the bands until they are just tight (do not overtighten).
Place jars in canner, ensuring the top of the jars are covered with an inch of water, and bring to a boil. Boil for 85 minutes.
Remove the jars without tilting and cool upright for one day.
Check seals (they should be curved downward, and when the band is removed you should be able to hold the jar by the edge of the lid).
Store in a dark, cool place.
Each mason jar holds 7-8 tomatoes each.
I prefer canning whole tomatoes with no added salt so that I leave my options open for when I decide to use them.