Recipe: diced tomatoes (canning)
More tomatoes? Yes, yes dammit. MOAR TOMATOES. What on earth did you think was going to happen with 77 pounds of tomatoes? We’re not kidding around here, because you know… winter is coming.
rain, mist, and temps in the 40s off my deck
Reports began to stream in Wednesday morning from the local Colorado ski hills – snow. A lovely dusting of white on the high peaks in some places with up to ten inches predicted for other places. Of course, the sun will return and the air will warm again, but the skiers and riders and general winter enthusiasts are rejoicing and hoping for a good (read: powdery) winter. Meanwhile, my parents are preparing to migrate back to warmer climes soon, so we met up for a delightful dinner at The Kitchen Upstairs.
my parents dig the boulder food scene
what’s left of the appetizers, because we ate them up
black pepper gnocchi with prosciutto and roasted plums
lamb meatballs on creamy polenta
pappardelle with pork
Unlike some places that continue to act like summer well into autumn, Colorado understands that it is time to move on. The fall colors are rolling about a week ahead of schedule and it’s crunch time for me – trying to can as much of the remaining summer produce as possible before I hit the road for the fall shoot. I feel like one of those pika in the mountains, scurrying about gathering foods for the winter. Ever read the book Frederick by Leo Lionni? It’s about a little mouse who sits in the sun all day while the rest of the mice are busy building stores for winter. Everyone is like, “Dude, you so lazy!” But come winter, Frederick unleashes his talent for awesome and everyone is all, “I totally get why you were such a slacker this summer!” I am not Frederick. I’m the other mice.
I met up with a couple of my gal pals, Wendy and Ellen of Helliemae’s Salt Caramels, for a massive tomato canning session at the Helliemae’s kitchen in Denver this week. You know you have good friends when they allow you to go all OCD on them in the kitchen. We processed almost 60 pounds of tomatoes for dice and sauce. So yeah, you get another tomato recipe because I’m seeing tomatoes in my sleep right now. It is tomato-fest. There will be more too, so if you’re a ‘mater-hater, then just come back on Monday…
organic slicing tomatoes (seconds)
some bottled lemon juice
and beautiful weck jars
Diced tomatoes are pretty straightforward. Core them, then turn them around and score them (shallow) with a small, sharp knife. Put an X on the base to facilitate peeling the skins off.
remove the core on the stem end
x marks the spot
it goes quickly
Before you attempt to peel the skins off, it helps to cook the tomatoes in boiling water for a minute or two. Then plunge the tomatoes into an ice water bath. If the skins didn’t start to pull back already, they’ll likely start once in the bath. Pull the skins off with your fingers. They should release easily, although I found a few stubborn spots that I skinned with my pairing knife. Then dice the naked tomatoes and put it all (seeds, juice, and tomatoes) in a large pot.
icy bath after boiling
Simmer the tomatoes down until the liquid has thickened to your desired consistency. This takes about a half hour and will go faster if you cook the tomatoes in a pot with a larger surface area (physics). Pour a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice into each of your prepared pint jars. If you are using smaller jars or larger jars, scale the amount of lemon juice accordingly (math). Now, I love fresh-squozen lemon juice as much as the next guy, but it’s important to use bottled lemon juice because the acidity is consistent whereas it can vary wildly from one lemon to the next. The lemon juice is added for the acidity and not flavor (chemistry).
cook it down
ladle the diced tomatoes into the jars
Process the jars accordingly and now you have diced tomatoes that will taste like summer in the dead of winter! I go through a lot of tomatoes for soups and stews and sauces. This will be the first year I’ll have canned my own. They are organic, they are in BPA-free jars, I know exactly what is in them, and the tomatoes were grown not more than 25 miles from my house. Gold star!
pints of diced tomatoes
Diced Tomatoes (Canned)
from Food in Jars by Marisa McClellan
6 lbs. (2.7 kg) Roma or paste tomatoes (I used organic slicing tomatoes)
1/4 cup (60 ml) bottled lemon juice, divided
Prepare the tomatoes: Set a large pot of water over high heat to boil. Core the tomatoes and score the bottom of each tomato with a shallow X. Get a large bowl and fill it with ice and water (ice water). When the water in the large pot comes to a boil, add some of the tomatoes and cook for 1-2 minutes. Fish the tomatoes out of the pot with a slotted spoon and immediately immerse them in the ice water bath to cool and to stop the cooking. When the water in the large pot returns to a boil, repeat with the next batch of tomatoes. As soon as the tomatoes have cooled enough to be picked up, start peeling the skins off (this should be easy). Large dice the tomatoes and place them in a large pot with all of the juices and seeds. Set the tomatoes on high heat and bring to a boil, then reduce and let simmer for 30-35 minutes, stirring on occasion until the liquids have thickened.
Notes: I have made this recipe using only Weck jars. The Weck site has some nice canning instructions if you are using their jars, which differ slightly from the standard instructions for canning with Ball-style jars. I canned 4 1-pint Weck jars from this recipe. Also, use bottled lemon juice rather than fresh lemon juice, because the acidity varies from lemon to lemon, but bottled juice has a more consistent acidity which is necessary for safety reasons in this recipe.
Canning the tomatoes: Ready the boiling water bath and the clean (washed with soap and water) jars you plan to use for canning. Check your jars and lids for nicks or cracks – don’t use them if they have any because it could jeopardize creating a good seal. If using standard Ball or similar style jars, it helps to put them in the pot you plan to use for canning and fill them (and the pot) with water, then bring to a boil. Keep the jars at a simmer (180°F) until they are ready to use. Place the lids in a small saucepan with enough water to cover them and set to a simmer over low heat (high heat can compromise the gummy seal material). If using Weck jars, you only need to sterilize your jars and glass lids if they will be processed for less than 10 minutes. Place the rubber rings in a small saucepan of water and bring to a boil for 2-3 minutes then leave them in the hot water until you are ready to use them.
Place 1 tablespoon of lemon juice in each pint jar. Fill each jar with hot diced tomatoes, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Gently tap the jars on a padded surface (the towel on your workplace is a good place) to dislodge any air pockets.
Use a cloth to wipe the rims clean and apply the lids and rings of the Ball-style jars to fingertip tight (just tightened with fingertips – not super tight). If using Weck jars, place the rubber rings on the glass lids and set them on the jars. Secure the lids with two canning clamps for each jar – 180° from each other (across from each other). Set the jars in your canning bath (either on a jar rack or a makeshift cooling rack – just be sure they are not set directly on the bottom of the pot) and check that there is at least 1-2 inches of water above the lids of the jars – if not, add more water. Once the pot has returned to a boil, process for 35 minutes if you are at an altitude of sea-level to 1,000 feet above sea level (asl). For 1,001 to 3,000 feet asl, add another 5 minutes to the 35 minute processing time. For 3,001 to 6,000 feet asl, add 10 minutes to the 35 minute processing time. For 6,001 to 8,000 feet asl, add another 15 minutes to the 35 minute processing time. And finally, for 8,001 to 10,000 feet asl (that’s me!) add an additional 20 minutes to the 35 minute processing time for a total of 55 minutes.
When the tomatoes are done processing, remove them from the canning bath and place them on a towel-lined countertop to let them cool. Don’t mess with them! For the metal lids, you may hear the “ping” of the seals forming as the center of the lid gets sucked down. There will be no pinging of the Weck lids, but you may notice the tongue of the rubber band pointing down (this is good). Let the jars cool for 24 hours. Remove the bands or clamps and lift the jar an inch or so off your work surface (carefully – in case the seal is bad and breaks) by the lid. If the seal is good, it should hold. If a seal fails, you can always reprocess the tomatoes in a clean jar with new lid (Ball) or new gasket (Weck)! Also, any jar with a bad seal can be stored in the refrigerator. Store the jars in a cool, dark location for up to a year (take the clamps and rings off).