Preserving tomatoes regardless of quantity


20 Sep Preserving tomatoes regardless of quantity

How to preserve tomatoes regardless of quantity –

Clearly, my tomatoes aren’t getting enough love. When my back was turned, they  produced and produced and produced — to the point they toppled over and smothered the Swiss chard. Lying on the ground, they continued the fight. Not only did they produce more fruit, they romped all over the basil and trampled what was going to be fennel. Injuries to either party be damned. See the red tomato in the middle? It split its side in an effort to work its way to my kitchen door. In my defense the zucchini was rather distracting — all 302 pounds of it. Plus I am a bit busy working on my book.

When I finally ventured out to the jungle garden, I was met by eager orange, red and yellow tomatoes. They practically leapt into my arms. The poor watermelon just lay there and whimpered. Shush now. All in good time. All in good time.

How to perserve tomatoes regardless of quantity –

How to preserve tomatoes regardless of quantity –

Once inside, instead of rejoicing in the harvest,  I glowered at my multi-coloured dilemma. This armful of tomatoes would be mush by the time the next round was ripe. How was I ever going to deal with them all?Tomatoes from your garden mature in waves. They don’t ripen all at once and arrive in a lovely big bushel like at the Farmer’s Market.

As I stood pondering the fate of my tomatoes and my sanity, my sister walked in. She took one look at the panicky tomatoes and their even more panicky gardener and offered a solution one of her clients uses. Apparently, preserving tomatoes doesn’t have to take all day or large quantities. You core the unpeeled tomatoes, smush them into a sterilized jar, seal them, plunge the jars into a boiling water bath until the skins peel off, then shove them on a shelf.

It sounded easy. Far too easy.

So,I did a bit of digging. And sure enough there’s a term for this practice. According to Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, it’s called “Raw-Packed Tomatoes with No Added Liquid”. I call it “Smushed Tomatoes in a Jar.” Take your pick.

In Ball’s  version, you peel the tomatoes, but other than that the smush-seal-boil technique is almost the same. Because tomatoes are on the cusp of safe acidity, Ball adds a bit of lemon juice (or citric acid if you can find it) to each jar. The quantity of tomatoes required? That’s up to you. Got lots of tomatoes, fill lots of jars. Only have a few? Do a jar or two. I had enough to fill five jars. As the tomatoes come in, I’ll add a few more to the shelf.

With any luck, I won’t have to buy a single tin of tomatoes all winter. And maybe, just maybe, my tomatoes will give the green peppers a fighting change.

Raw-Packed Tomatoes with No Added Liquid
Recipe type: Preserves
Cuisine: Preserves
Prep / inactive time: 
Cook / active time: 
Total time: 
Serves: As many jars as you like.
Packing tomatoes raw with no added liquid produces the most concentrated tomato flavour. Tempting as it may be, don't cut back on the processing time. For safety, you need to ensure the heat fully penetrates all the way to the centre of the jars.
  • Tomatoes
  • Bottled lemon juice* (1 tablespoon for pint / 500 mL jars, 2 tablespoons for quart / 1 litre jars)
  • Salt, optional (1/2 teaspoon for pint / 500 mL jars, 1 teaspoon for quart / 1 litre jars)
  1. Prepare canner, jars and lids. See notes section for link to detailed instructions.
  2. Working in small batches, immerse tomatoes in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until the skins start to loosen or crack. Immediately plunge the tomato into a bowl of cold water and slip the skins off. Remove cores and any bruised or discoloured portions that become apparent after blanching. Leave whole, halved or quarter.
  3. Before packing each jar of raw tomatoes, add the required amount of lemon juice or citric acid to the hot jar. Then add the salt, if using.
  4. Pack raw tomatoes into prepared jars to within a generous ½ inch of the top of the jar. Press the tomatoes into the jar until the spaces between them fill with juice, leaving ½ inch of headspace. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding more tomatoes. Wipe the rim. Centre the lid on the jar. Screw band down until you meet resistance, then increase to finger-tight.
  5. Place the jars in the canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water. Bring to a boil and process pint jars for 85 minutes. Remove canner lid. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.
This recipe is not recommended for jars bigger than a quart/litre. Each quart/litre jar holds about 3 pounds of tomatoes.

* Instead of bottled lemon juice, you can use citric acid, but I found it nearly impossible to locate, despite going to the canning section of many stores. If using citric acid, use ¼ teaspoon for pint/500 mL jars or ½ teaspoon for quart/1 litre jars. [Update: A reader tells me you can buy citric acid at The Bulk Barn.]

New to canning? Balls has detailed instructions, complete with videos, on how to get started.

Related Post

  • Robin S
    Posted at 12:19h, 20 September Reply

    “For instance, if you are following a canning guide that’s from 1983 or before, you may not be aware that the raw-pack, boiling-water-bath method — commonly used over the past several decades — is no longer considered safe for tomatoes.”

    Read more:

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 13:40h, 20 September Reply

      You’re right to point out that many of the old methods are no longer considered safe. However, this book is a new release from 2012 and produced by Ball. The method is safe because of the following changes to the old practice: Acid is added to each jar and the jars are boiled for almost 90 minutes.

      Given the updated recipe, I recommend this method without hesitation.

  • Robin S
    Posted at 13:59h, 20 September Reply

    Ok–good to know. I’m a newer canner and get paranoid about these things. :-)

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 17:13h, 20 September Reply

      You’re smart to be cautious. My mom used to seal jam with paraffin — a method that was actually dangerous. But everyone did that back then.

      The Ball book has a short section at the back called “The Art and Science of Home Food Preserving” that explains the basics. This might help you. But then any really good book on preserves will. I also recommend We Sure Can by Sarah B. Hood. She has an excellent section on how to tell when the jam is set. It’s aimed at beginners and has lots of information about food safety, as well.

      Happy canning!

  • Robin S
    Posted at 17:15h, 20 September Reply

    Thanks so much Charmian! I love your blog.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 19:48h, 20 September Reply

      You’re most welcome, Robin. And thanks for the kind words. I’m so glad you took the time to comment. I’m sure others were wondering the same thing.

  • Amy P
    Posted at 18:47h, 20 September Reply

    I like your choice of name, smushed tomatoes. We too had too many tomatoes, and at one point had 5 bushels sitting on the kitchen floor. I started canning cherry tomatoes, popping them briefly in hot water to soften them. Some I popped the peels, others, no. Then into jars with some fennel, with thyme and onion, or with basil and garlic. Hot pack, and boil for 90. They look beautiful on the pantry shelf. The name we used – pomodorini.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 19:47h, 20 September Reply

      Amy, I’m sure your fennel, thyme and onion version was amazing. It never occurred to me to preserve cherry tomatoes, but why not? I’m new to this technique and will try adding herbs the next go round. I can’t wait to preserve the yellow tomatoes. And the orange ones? They’re like candy.

      Love the name “pomodorini”. It’s so much more elegant than my nomenclature.

  • Manisha
    Posted at 03:39h, 21 September Reply

    Thanks for this post! I usually do a raw pack but add boiling water. No matter what I do, I’ve had over 50% of my jars leak liquid even if I let them sit in the canner for 5 minutes after the processing is done. The seal is just fine though. But it still irks me. So I’m going to do this no liquid raw pack tomorrow! Thanks again!

    As for citric acid crystals, you will find them at an Indian grocery store.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 11:25h, 21 September Reply

      I haven’t had a leak. Do you remove air bubbles and leave 1/2 inch headroom? The trick to these is to REALLY, REALLY smush the tomatoes into the jar so they release their own juices. Hope this does the trick for you.

      And thanks very much for the tip on where to get citric acid crystals. I had no idea the Indian grocery store would stock them.

      • Manisha
        Posted at 17:37h, 01 October Reply

        You’re welcome! We use citric acid crystals in several savory dishes to which liquid cannot be added.

        And, yes, I’ve been doing everything by the book as far as head space, removing bubbles, etc is concerned. The tomatoes I used were so juicy that even with hot pack with water, I hardly needed to top it off with hot water. Initially I thought it was because I was smooshing too many tomatoes into a jar! I canned about 10-15lbs using your method and while they still leaked a tad, the seal is intact. Food in Jars had a post that said not to worry about siphonage. As did Eugenia Bone in this article from Denver Post:

        • Charmian Christie
          Posted at 20:46h, 02 October Reply

          Good to know! I have Eugenia Bone’s book and love it. “Siphonage” sounds so technical but I like it. So much more sophisticated than a sloppy sounding “spill.”

          Thanks for the update!!

  • Marijke
    Posted at 09:50h, 21 September Reply

    *Now* I read this, after cooking every single type of tomato sauce known to mankind so I wouldn’t waste any tomatoes. Sigh.

    I don’t have a garden anymore since I moved to a second floor flat/condo, but I may just buy some so I can can some with the herbs suggested above.

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 11:28h, 21 September Reply

      That’s Murphy at work for you. But as a lover of tomato sauce, I can’t say I think it’s a bad thing. This method will work well with tomatoes from the Farmers’ Market. If only you had access to a good one :-)

      I’d love to hear how yours turn out with some herbs thrown in. My next batch will have basil and garlic — all from my garden.

  • Jill Silverman Hough
    Posted at 11:28h, 21 September Reply

    Love how prolific your garden/jungle is being, if overwhelming. Better than the alternative, right?

    I did a few canning recipes for Bon Appetit a few years back, and some also called for bottled lemon juice, and the editors asked me why. After some digging, I found out, and you and your readers might be interested: it’s because bottled lemon juice has a predictable acidity, so you know you’re appropriately affecting the pH of whatever you’re canning. With fresh lemon juice, acidity can vary, so all bets are off!

    Happy tomato season, Charmian. XOXOX

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 14:22h, 21 September Reply

      Wow! Thanks so much for explaining this. I did wonder at the time but was so busy batting the produce I didn’t have time to question why fresh lemon juice (which has a superior flavour) wasn’t being used.

  • Lisa MacColl
    Posted at 17:28h, 28 September Reply

    I made 3 litres of smushed tomatoes today. They have sealed correctly but the tomatoes are on the top and the liquid is on the bottom. One of the jars has settled back together but the other two are still separated. Do you think they are safe?

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 14:27h, 30 September Reply

      Was the liquid inside bubbling when you removed the jars after 90 minutes of boiling? If so, you should be fine. It’s the heat that’s important. And the acid from the lemon juice or citric acid. Plus, if your seals are tight, you should be fine.

  • Lisa MacColl
    Posted at 17:31h, 28 September Reply

    And mom did the paraffin jam seal too, and sterilized the bottles by baking in the oven at 250F. It’s a wonder any of us made it to adulthood!

    • Charmian Christie
      Posted at 14:30h, 30 September Reply

      My mom boiled the jars, but she used baby food jars and reused their lids. It wasn’t the proper seal like the mason jars they sell today. Every once is a while we’d open a jar, split the paraffin wax and find mould. We’d toss that jar but it does make me wonder how I survived childhood. On the other hand, perhaps this kind of thing contributed to my healthy immune system. :-) Not about to test that theory with paraffin-wax seals.

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