Bumper Crop: Tomato!

Last summer I couldn’t get any of my tomatoes to ripen, and this summer we’ve got tomatoes out the wazoo. I’m not complaining, mind you, because there’s nothing better than fresh field tomatoes. But we can only eat them so quickly. I decided to put some up for the winter, and am super surprised at how easy it was.

I used what we’ve got: Roma, early girl, and big boy. I tried one batch with citric acid, at the suggestion of my friend Karla. And I tried one batch like Vivian Howard, with lemon juice, salt and sugar. Both were super easy, so I think I’ll stick with Vivian’s because we always have lemons, salt and sugar on hand. I borrowed a large 16 qt gumbo pot from some friends down the way, but am going to get one to have on hand. The process was the same either way, and because it uses a hot water bath rather than a pressure cooker, you can consider me a forthcoming regular practitioner of canning.

Sterilize your jars and lids, either in the dishwasher or in the pot where you’ll be canning. Wash your tomatoes, then score them on the bottom. Bring a pot of water to a boil, then submerge your tomatoes for 30 – 45 seconds (I typically put them the water, then roll them around a couple times with my strainer spoon) and shift them over to a water bath. Peel, core and then quarter them. Add the quarters to your sterilized jars — I filled them to the top and pressed just a bit to make sure they were nicely filled. Run a knife around the edge to make sure you get out any air pockets. Then sprinkle 1/4-tsp of the citric acid over the top — or, if you’re using Vivian’s recipe, add the lemon juice, salt and sugar to the bottom of the jar before you add the tomatoes. Screw on the lid and place them down into the hot water, making sure you’ve got an inch or two above the top of the jars. Karla said to keep them at a low, rolling boil for 75 minutes, which I did, and it worked. Use jar tongs to remove the jars, and place them on drying racks on the counter. Leave them for 12 hours, and then move them to the pantry. I like an easy recipe, and this was definitely easy.

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Behind the Scenes: Tomatoes

In this week’s Chatham News & Record, I talked about tomatoes. I’ve been reading Max Brooks’ latest novel, Devolution, which is why I mentioned I’d be willing to arm wrestle a sasquatch for the last tomato. That opinion stands yesterday, today and tomorrow … because even if the sasquatch eventually does me in, I’ll die happy with a belly full of tomato yumminess.

I also mentioned Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem. If you’re a child of the 70s and 80s, you know what I’m talking about. I grew up on an Army base in Germany, and we didn’t get the same shows in the mid-70s as American kids did in the states. I love Sesame Street, but didn’t see that until we got back state-side. Before that was the Electric Company, which I’m certain heavily contributed to my ADD. Because, HEY YOU GUYS!

But I digress … we’ll blame it on the Electric Company effect. Back to tomatoes! I always ask my community gardening experts about fertilizing and pest control, and Kathryn Robinson said, “Early on, I use an organic tomato plant fertilizer every few weeks.” She’s also the unicorn of farmers because the Japanese beetles in her garden “don’t seem to like the tomato plants.” 

If there are any tomato-whisperers out there, hit me up. I’m always looking for ways to improve my tomato game.

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