Tag Archive for canning

Storing Canning Jars

Canning jar storage is almost always an issue for home canners.  I’m not sure an ideal storage solution has ever been found for empty jars.
I store canning jars in an unfinished cellar in clear plastic tote tubs. The jars are stored without the bands.

Mason Jars Stored In Tubs

Mason Jars Stored In Clear Plastic Tubs With Lids

I keep the bands out of the cellar and away from any dampness. In the past when I did keep the bands in the cellar they rusted and pitted.




I like clear tubs for storing Mason jars because I can easily see what size jars are in the tub. I also  can  see approximately how many jars are in a tub. The tote tubs are fairly sturdy and can be carried, stacked and are easily washed.

The only downside to storing canning jars in the cellar is that I have to go down a set of rickety stairs into the cellar to retrieve the jars.
It wasn’t a problem when I was a young woman, but now that I’m getting older, I can only carry up half a laundry basket of jars at a time. In another 10 years or so I probably won’t be able to safely carry any jars up the cellar stairs.
Oh the perils of growing old on a homestead!

The Final Steps Of Skillful Home Canning

Lots of different types of home canned foods benefit from being wiped clean after the bands are removed from the jars and the seals are tested. And all home canned foods benefit from a date and labeling the contents.
Very often the outside of a home processed canning jar will be sticky or greasy. That’s because during the actual canning process most jars will vent a little allowing some of the contents of the jar to escape.
It’s one of the reasons that sometimes fluid is lost in a jar during processing and is the reason that it is important to maintain a proper “head space” for the particular food product that is being canned. Too much or too little head space can result in a loss of liquid and failure of the jar to seal.

Canning Peaches

Labeling Peaches Before Storage

After canning I always wipe my jars clean with warm soapy water and label and date them. A clean jar will not grow fuzzy mold in storage or attract rodents. Large rodents can and will take the lid off of a canning jar.
In a cool dark root cellar or basement, mold will often grow around the threads of a canning jar that is left sticky or dirty. Mold can make its way from the jar threads, to the rim of the jar, and under the lid and cause a lid to pop off and a seal to fail.

Labeling and dating the contents of a jar makes for an easy inventory and food storage rotation.

Not to mention that labeling helps to distinguish food that appear similar –  like cranberry sauce and cherry jam.



How to Can Grapefruit or Orange Sections

Home canning grapefruit or orange sections is easy. It results in a superior product when compared to commercially canned grapefruit or orange sections.
Canning grapefruit or orange sections yourself  is a cost-effective way to increase variety in your long-term food storage.

 Red Grapefruit Sections

Home Canned Red Grapefruit Sections

Grapefruit, oranges and other citrus fruits are considered to be high acid foods.  High acid foods are safely canned by using the water bath method of canning.




Grapefruit can be home canned in a jar alone. But orange sections will taste better if canned they are canned with equal parts of grapefruit sections in the jar.

HERE’S HOW TO DO IT
First gather and assemble the water bath canner, jars, lids, bands, canning funnel, lid lifter, jar lifter, large tea kettle, sauce pan and white sugar for making a light syrup.
Begin to heat the water bath canner. Wash the canning jars and bands in hot soapy water and rinse well. Keep the jars hot.
Simmer the canning lids and keep them warm. Do not allow them to boil.
Wash and rinse the grapefruit in warm soapy water and rinse well.
Next the grapefruit or oranges need to be peeled. When canning oranges or grapefruit sections it’s important that all of the white and fibrous parts of the grapefruit and the seeds be removed.




Only the “heart” of the citrus sections should be used that’s because the white stuff on the grapefruit is bitter and pulpy when canned.

Grapefruit

Grapefruit Sections Being Prepared For Home Canning

When peeling large quantities of citrus fruit for canning I use a special serrated sandwich knife and a smaller paring knife.

I first make a cut in the rind and then proceed around the entire fruit until it has been peeled.

Easy Grapefruit Preparation

Cutting The Peel From A Grapefruit

I then use a small paring knife to free the individual wedges or sections.

Grapefruit Sections are Separated

Paring Knife Is Used To Separate Sections

Once all the sections are removed I squeeze out the empty fruit. The video below will help to more clearly illustrate the process.

There are a couple of different ways to fill canning jars with grapefruit.
Some recipes call for heating the grapefruit sections in light sugar syrup.
Others suggest filling the jars with cold grapefruit sections and then pouring heated light syrup over the sections.
Still others use heated orange juice or heated grapefruit juice poured over the grapefruit sections.

I usually pack cold grapefruit sections into a jar and use the juice that was made by squeezing the grapefruit when I peeled it. If I need more liquid I will pour a small amount of heated light syrup over the sections to achieve a 1/2″ head space.
To make light syrup for canning:
Dissolve 1 ½ cups of cane sugar into 6 cups of water. Heat the sugar and water stirring until the syrup is very hot and all the sugar is dissolved.

Add the grapefruit or orange sections into a clean hot jar. Next pour grapefruit juice, orange juice or light syrup to within a 1/2″ of the rim.

Remove all air pockets or air bubbles with a non-metallic object. Wipe the rim of the jar with a clean wet cloth and apply a hot simmered lid.
Apply the band to the jar.

One by one as the jars are filled they are placed into the hot water bath canner on the stove.

Once all the jars have been filled and placed in the canner turn up the heat to bring the water in the canner to a full rolling boil.
This may take a while if the fruit was cold packed. It is normal for the water in a water bath canner to lose some heat while new jars are being added. It may take some time for the heat to build back up and the water begin to boil.

Processing time is counted from the time the water in the canner comes to a full boil. Once the water begins to boil put the lid on the water bath canner and adjust the heat if necessary to maintain a gentle boil.

Processing time for pints and quarts of grapefruit or orange sections in a water bath canner is:

  • 10 minutes  for altitudes of 1,000ft. sea level or less.
  • 15 minutes for altitudes between 1,000 ft – 6,000 ft.
  • 20 minutes for altitudes above 6,000 ft sea level

Once processing time is complete the jars are removed from the canner and allowed to cool undisturbed for 8 to 12 hours.

When the jars are completely cooled the bands are removed. Check the seals and wiped the jars clean with a damp cloth. Label and store in a dark cool location.

The 20 pounds of grapefruit will yield approximately 6 quarts or 12 pints.
Home canned citrus will store about 12-15 months before any noticeable loss of flavor or color. For best taste chill canned grapefruit or orange sections at least overnight before opening and serving. Enjoy!



The Home Canning Of Rabbit, Chicken & Small Game

Home canning meat, chicken, rabbit or small game can help families economically achieve sensible food storage goals. Raising a part of your own food is not complicated and a good amount of food can be produced yourself whether you live on a small town lot or in the suburbs.




Chickens and rabbits are usually the first meat animals that a new small holder or garden farmer will acquire. They are small animals and easily managed. Both animals are a good fit with backyard gardens. I’m surprised that more people don’t keep them. Rabbits and chickens require less daily care than 1 or 2 neurotic house cats.

Meat Chicken

Cornish X Rock Meat Chicken

While not all towns or municipalities permit keeping chickens, many people find a way to raise rabbits for food. Fact is your neighbors do not need to know that the rabbits in your basement or garage are for food and are not pets. Rabbits reproduce very quickly and can be harvested with little trouble several times in a year. By canning rabbit you can meet some of your food storage goals.

Meat Rabbit

A California Giant Meat Rabbit

For the most part, rabbit and chicken recipes are interchangeable except a rabbit has less fat than a chicken. Keep that in mind for recipes when you are cooking a fresh rabbit. Like chicken, if you cook rabbit too fast the meat can end up tough and stringy. Except for frying, try to use the slower methods when cooking rabbit. When using canned rabbit or chicken you don’t have to worry about tough meat. That’s because the meat was already pressured cooked and is very tender and moist. Canned chicken or rabbit on the pantry shelf is a tremendous time saver. I use canned chicken or rabbit in salads, casseroles, barbecue, in white gravies and sauces;  over biscuits and in any recipe that calls for cooked chicken. Chicken pot pie is one of my favorites as is rabbit stew. You can interchange rabbit and chicken in recipes. So a recipe for chicken soup becomes rabbit soup. White chili made with rabbit or chicken is very good and is easily canned. Pick any recipe that calls for chicken and use rabbit instead. The variations in recipes are endless and depend only upon the cook’s imagination and ingenuity.

Chicken Salad

Chicken Salad Made From Home Canned Chicken

There are a couple of different ways to home can chicken, rabbit or small game. You have a choice between the “hot pack “and the “raw/cold pack methods”, and a choice between “bone-in” and “bone-out”. I think best way to can backyard butchered rabbit or chicken is with the hot pack, bone-out method. Hot pack  bone-out produces a product that is ready to use right off the pantry shelf with liquid for gravy or sauce. It is the method that I most often use when I can whole rabbits or a whole chicken. When leaving the bone in the favor of the meat is just a bit stronger. I don’t notice it too much with rabbit but it is noticeable with chicken or squirrel.
The difference in flavor is not a bad difference – just different. To me it’s like the difference between mild, white meat chicken and really dark meat chicken. In certain recipes I don’t care for the stronger flavor from the bone-in method.

Bone-In Chicken

Canned Bone-In Chicken

The bone-in method is most often used in canning chicken, rabbit, squirrel and other small game animals where it may be too much trouble to remove the bones or when extended refrigeration is lacking. Canned meat is a quick and convenient food, but when I’m in a hurry I want to just open the jar, drain it and dump it. I’d rather do the work of boning while I’m canning and not later when I’m in hurry and cooking.
But no matter which method is chosen canning meat with the bone-in or bone-out is a pretty simple affair.
EQUIPMENT
You’ll need a good working pressure canner, canning jars, lids, a jar lifter, hot mitts and the usual kitchen equipment that you’d need for canning.

I find that wide mouth jars work best when canning meat. I try to can all my meat in wide mouth jars if I have enough available to me. That’s because wide mouth jars are easier to fill, empty and clean.
A wide mouth jar is easier to pack and this is especially important when canning meat with the bone left in it.
When bone-in chicken or rabbit is being packed into a canning jar, often you’ll have to fiddle with the pieces and sometimes rearrange them so they fit in jar without wasting too much space in the jar.
No sense packing just one chicken leg into a quart jar, when you actually could have fit a chicken leg, another thigh and two wings in the jar.

Also wide mouth jars are easier to clean after they’ve been used. Sometimes the inside of a jar becomes coated with bits of cooked meat and that makes the jar hard to scrub out even with a bottle brush. With a wide mouth jar it’s much easier to put your hand inside the jar and scrub it clean.
Meat sometimes will pack into a solid, dense mass when canned. With a wide mouth jar removing the meat is much easier. With a regular mouth jar it can be a real struggle to get the meat out of the jar.

YIELD

The number of jars that any given amount of meat will yield varies with the manner and method by which the jars were packed. The size of the meat pieces, whether or not a raw or hot pack was used; and or whether or not the bone was left in will be factors that determine jar yield and outcome. As a general rule of thumb, allow 2 to 2 ½ pounds of boneless meat per quart. When canning bone in chicken or rabbit, plan to allow for between 2 ½ to 4 ½ pounds of meat per quart. The bone is heavier than you’d think

A WORD ABOUT GIBLETS
If you are processing a large batch of rabbits or chickens and want to can the heart, livers or gizzards, set them aside to be canned in separate jars.
It’s also a good idea to can the livers in their own jar because the liver taste will transfer to the other giblets.
I always save the livers, kidneys, hearts and other bits when processing harvested animals. Even if I don’t eat those parts, my dogs and cats will. To my way of thinking it’s a sin to waste any part of an animal if another animal can use it.

HOT PACK METHOD

FOR CANNING CHICKEN, RABBIT or SMALL GAME WITH BONE IN or BONE OUT

BONE-IN METHOD

Cut the rabbit, chicken or squirrel into pieces that will fit inside the jar. Trim off any fat. You probably won’t have any fat on a rabbit but you will on a chicken,duck,raccoon and turkey. Place the raw pieces into a pan and cover with water or any hot broth of your choosing. The broth can be seasoned. But I would caution you to go easy on the spices and seasoning. Canning will intensify some flavors and not for the good.
Place a lid on the pan and cook the rabbit or chicken over medium heat until the meat just loses its pink color when cut at the meatier parts.

Par Cooked Chicken

Par-Cooked Chicken For Hot Pack Method Of Canning

Pack the chicken or rabbit loosely into a hot jar leaving a 1” head space.Place the big pieces in the center of the jar and fit the smaller pieces around it.

Fitting Chicken In

Fitting Chicken In Canning Jar

Add salt if you like:
½ Teaspoon for pints
1 Teaspoon for quarts
Cover the rabbit or chicken with boiling hot broth and maintain the 1″ head space in the jar.

Pouring Broth Over Chicken Pieces

Pouring Hot Broth Over Chicken Pieces

Wipe the rim of the jar.This is especially important with fatty poultry and some fall harvested small game animals.With rabbit or squirrel it isn’t usually a problem unless you added some type of fat in the broth. Grease on the rim of the jar may prevent a seal. Apply a lid and band to the jar.

Wipe Rim

Wipe Grease Off The Rim Of The Jar

BONE-OUT METHOD
Partially cook the animal just like the above. Remove the pieces from the broth until they are cool enough to handle. Pick the meat from the bones and discard the skin from the chicken (unless you want to can it separately for pets). Pack the hot/warm meat into hot jars, add salt if you like and cover the meat with broth leaving a 1″ head space. Wipe the rim and apply a lid and band.

PROCESSING & TIMING FOR BONE-IN MEAT
You will notice that the processing time for bone in meat is less than that of bone out. It is not a mistake.
This is because it takes less time for the inner core of the jar to reach 240°F when the bones are present. Bone out meat packs solid whereas bone in meat does not. Whether you use the raw or hot pack method for bone in meat the processing time is the same. Process jars at 10 pounds of pressure (240°F.) in a pressure canner for altitudes at 1000 ft. sea level or less.
You will need to adjust pressure accordingly for higher altitudes depending on the type of pressure canner system you are using.

The Amount Of Pressure Required To Reach 240° F

Sea Level-2,000 ft. 11 lb.
2,001-4,000 ft. 12 lb.
4,001-6,000 ft. 13 lb.
6,001-8,000 ft. 14 lb.
8,001-10,000 ft. 15 lb.

PROCESSING TIME FOR BONE-IN HOT PACK
Pints – 65 Minutes
Quarts – 75 Minutes

PROCESSING TIME FOR BONE-OUT HOT PACK
Process jars at 10 pounds of pressure (240°F.) in a pressure canner for altitudes at 1000 ft. sea level or less.Processing time for bone-out is:
Pints – 75 Minutes
Quarts – 90 Minutes
You will need to adjust  pressure accordingly if you live much above 1000 ft. of sea level depending on the type of pressure canner you are using. When processing time is complete, remove the canner from the heat and allow the pressure to return to normal on its own. Don’t hurry the cooling or you may prevent jars from sealing or have a loss of liquid in the jars.



When pressure has returned to normal inside the canner, remove the jars. Place the jars on a dry towel or wooden board well out-of-the-way of drafts and allow the jars to cool undisturbed for 8 – 12 hrs.
After jars have cooled remove the bands and check the seals. Wipe the outside of the jar if it has become greasy.
Label, date, and store the jars in a cool, dry location out of direct sunlight.

RAW or COLD PACK BONE-OUT METHOD

For the most part, the raw/cold pack method of canning chicken or rabbit is identical to the hot pack method except you don’t pre-cook the meat or cover it with broth. This method is the preferred method for people who don’t have a source of home-grown chicken or rabbit.

Grocery Store Chicken

Grocery Store Chicken

During the fall months, boneless chicken breasts and thighs can often be found for a good price at the grocery store. Basically the raw pack method is just cold, raw boneless meat packed tightly into a canning jar, and then it’s processed in a pressure canner. It’s unbelievably simple. Learn to can it yourself and you’ll never have to pay outrageous prices for canned chicken again. Same for beef, pork, venison and fish.

RAW or COLD PACK METHOD
Cut the rabbit or chicken into jar size pieces and pack the pieces into a jar.
Add salt if you like:
½ Teaspoon for pints
1 Teaspoon for quarts

Leave a 1″ head space. Wipe the rim of the jar and apply the lid and band to the jar.

Jars Go Into Pressure Canner

Placing Filled Jars In Pressure Canner

Process jars at 10 pounds of pressure (240°F.) for altitudes at 1000ft. sea level or less. Don’t forget you may need an altitude adjustment.

The Amount Of Pressure Required To Reach 240° F

Sea Level-2,000 ft. 11 lb.
2,001-4,000 ft. 12 lb.
4,001-6,000 ft. 13 lb.
6,001-8,000 ft. 14 lb.
8,001-10,000 ft. 15 lb.

The processing time for all raw pack meat, poultry or fish is:
75 Minutes For Pints
90 Minutes For Quarts
Remove jars from the canner when processing time is complete.
Place the jars on a dry towel or wooden board well out-of-the-way of drafts and allow the jars to cool undisturbed for 8 – 12 hrs.
After jars have cooled remove the bands and check the seals. Wipe the outside jar if it has become greasy. Label the jars and store away from heat and direct sunlight.

  • The advantage to the raw pack method is that it is a time saver.
  • The advantage to the hot pack method is that there is plenty of broth to work with when you open the jar.

Choose whichever method you prefer according to the recipes you will use and your family’s food preferences.



Why A Canning Jar Lid Will Come Unsealed

A canning jar with a failed lid is something I’ll come across once in a blue moon. It’s a fairly rare occurrence and is always a rude surprise.
When I find a jar of home canned food in my pantry with a breached lid I dispose of the food carefully. Well out of the way of people or animals.

Unsealed Lid

A Failed Lid On A Jar Of Lentil Soup

After the offending jar is emptied, it’s thoroughly washed and then closely examined for nicks around the rim or hairline cracks. A Mason jar must be near perfect for a lid to make a good strong seal.

With a faulty jar the vacuum inside the jar is eventually breached and allows spoilage to occur. Bacteria and yeast will begin to grow inside a jar causing fermentation and gas. Sometimes the force of the gas will blow a lid off and sometimes knock the lid to the side of a jar.
Slime and  mold on top of any food product tells me that the jar has been opened for a while.

Failed Lid

The Lid Failed On This Jar

Usually if there is a sealing failure with a jar I’ll catch it with my “lift test” after the jars cool from processing.
My lift test consists of me lifting a jar about 2″ above a table or countertop by the rim of the lid. If the lid holds and doesn’t come loose the seal is good.

Lift Test

Testing A Jar Seal

There are many reasons for a faulty seal on home canned foods.

  • Sometimes jars will not seal properly if the rim of the jar is not wiped perfectly clean before the lid and band are applied.
  • Also if the one trip lids are not simmered long enough problems can occur. The red rubber lining on the lid must soften up a bit for a really strong seal. I simmer lids 3 -5 minutes.
  • If grease or some other material from the food product becomes forced under the lid while processing, many times the lid will not give a good seal. This past summer I had 4 or 5 quart jars of ham & bean soup, from 2 different batches, that gave that kind of trouble. Grease had been forced between the lids and rim of the jars and prevented sealing. When I get food that doesn’t seal or pass the “lift test” I simply freeze it. It’s too much trouble and a waste of LP gas or wood to re-process it.
  • Canning jars that have not been kept hot enough before packing or suffer inadequate processing time will sometimes cause a lid failure. This is especially true when processing cold pack food.
  • Sometimes there is an unseen hairline crack in the jar or a nick on the rim. This is I believe what happened to the jar of green beans above.
  • Often the reason will remain unknown and it can be a guessing game.




Easy Way To Peel & Section Grapefruit or Oranges

Please join me in my kitchen while I share the fastest and the easiest way to peel whole grapefruit or oranges for either home canning or fruit salad. The secret is in the serrated knife.
It’s the only method that I use when canning or freezing a large amount of citrus.

A Garden Planner For Home Food Preservation

With a bad economy at hand and garden planning just around the corner I thought a chart might be helpful to some folks looking for concrete direction.
The estimates given below are for the vegetable production and preservation needs for a family of 4 for approximately 300 days.




In practice the amount of food listed will probably last much longer and should extend into the following year’s growing season.
My figures are based upon my own experience, old cook books and some USDA and agricultural extension service recommendations from the 1950′s through the 1970′s.
You will notice that some figures don’t seem to correlate exactly. That’s my personal experience and intuition kicking in.
You may have to click on the table to make it large enough to read.

Garden Planner

A Garden Planner For Family Of 4

Quart and pint quantities are both listed for convenience. These quantities can be either frozen, home canned or dehydrated.
Please take into consideration that the needs of every family of 4 are not the same and that food needs are always changing.
Families with young children will not have the same requirements as families with growing teens.

In general terms a family of 4 will need approximately 600 – 725 quarts of vegetables for 300 – 365 days. This is based upon the assumption of 1/2 cup or 4 ounce serving size, with 4 servings per day. For home canning purposes and winter storage the rule of thumb is 80 quarts of fruits and vegetables per person. With 20 of those quarts being tomatoes. Again the amount will depend upon family habits and cooking preferences.
Amounts will also depend upon location. Families with a short growing season will need to store more than families with a long growing season.
It may seem like a lot of vegetables but it really isn’t. One large pot of homemade vegetable beef soup can use 4 – 5 quarts of vegetables alone. A large pot of chili can use 2 quarts of tomatoes.
White or Irish potatoes have also been included. This is based upon the premise that potatoes will be served 3 times a week. Some families will want more than that – some will want much less.
Cabbage has been included in the chart. The amounts listed are with freezing, sauerkraut and cold storage in mind. Tomatoes for tomato juice and tomato sauce have been included. I kept the tomatoes with the vegetables instead of fruits for simple convenience.
You will also note that some vegetables are not included in the chart. This is simply a reflection of personal and geographical food preference.

Example:
I only eat sweet potatoes occasionally and seldom eat turnips so I don’t grow them. If you like turnips or sweet potatoes or any other vegetable you will want to substitute one vegetable in the chart for another.
Take note that many vegetables like celery and onions will be cold stored, frozen or dehydrated for cooking at a later date. Vegetable quantities are based upon the assumption of cooking from scratch 3 times a day.
Also please note that vegetables that cannot be preserved – lettuce, radishes and such – have not been listed. Only vegetables that can be preserved have been charted.
There are many variables in gardening throughout the United States. The chart was written with my specific experience, growing location and skill set in mind.
Your vegetable garden may be more or less productive than mine, and you may be a more skilled or less skilled gardener than I am.
There is noted in the chart the per person foot row requirement of vegetables to be consumed throughout the active growing season.
The recommendations given are generous and will probably yield more food than can be eaten by the family in a reasonable amount of time. This is especially true for families with very small children.
Happy planning!



How To Store Home Canned Food

For best quality canned foods should be stored in a cool, dry location. Ideally storage temperatures should be between 50°F and 70°F. Canned foods should be protected from excessive heat, from freezing and from dampness. Heat causes food to rapidly lose quality.

Store Food

Home Canned Food

All home canned food should be stored well away from direct sunlight, hot pipes, heat ducts, gas or electric ranges and wood heat appliances.

Do not store food in an uninsulated attic. Freezing cold does not cause canned food to lose quality, but may damage the seal on a jar. Remember once a seal is damaged air enters a jar and spoilage begins. Also repeated freezing and thawing may soften food or make it mushy.
If food has to be stored in an unheated area, the jars can be placed in heavy boxes and covered with a clean wool blanket, a very heavy layer of newspaper or a Mylar blanket.
Never store food in a damp area, as dampness may corrode the metal jar lids and compromise the seal.



A Guide To Canning & Freezing Tomatoes

Most tomatoes are a high acid food and are safely process in a water bath canner. Some modern tomatoes should be processed with lemon juice to insure acidity.
Always select firm, red ripe tomatoes. Don’t use overripe tomatoes.





It’s important that the tomatoes not be too ripe because the acidity of tomatoes declines the riper they become. Also, extremely soft or too ripe tomatoes can turn into a mushy, overcooked mess during processing if you’re not careful.

Table Full Of tomatoes

2 Bushels Of Tomatoes

It’s my opinion that overripe tomatoes are much better suited for juice or for tomato sauce.
Here’s a short tutorial:

GET READY
Collect and assemble the jars, bands, lids, jar lifter, a non metallic bubble release tool, large bowls, knife, wooden spoon and the water bath canner.
Visually examine all jars and rims for cracks, nicks or sharp edges.

Check Jars

Examine Jar For Nicks or Cracks

Wash the jars and bands in hot soapy water. Dry the bands and set them aside. Keep the jars hot until ready to fill. I use a dishwasher for this, but you can use a sink or dish pan full of hot water, or pour boiling water into the jars and stand them in a sink or shallow pan until ready to use.

WASH THE TOMATOES

Prepare only one canner load of tomatoes at a time.
Getting the tomatoes ready for canning will take a bit of time depending upon the size of the jars and the size canner you intend to use.
The tomatoes should be washed in cool, soapy water and then rinsed to remove any garden dirt.
This can be done well ahead of time.

PEELING THE TOMATOES

The tomatoes will need to be peeled before they are canned.
Peeling tomatoes is a messy job but an easy one. It will take a bit of time. Try and coincide the heating of the water in the canner, the simmering of the jar lids and your usual canning routine for when you’ll be finished prepping the tomatoes. It may take some task juggling between preparing the tomatoes, filling and heating the water in the canner to get the timing just right.
The important thing is to have the water in the canner simmering hot at the time when you will be filling the jars.

Here’s how to peel and remove the skin from tomatoes:
To remove the skins from the tomatoes, place just a few at a time into a pot of rapidly boiling water.
Keep them in the pot until their skins begin to crack or split.

Skinning Tomatoes

Tomatoes Are Placed In Boiling Water To Remove The Skins

It usually takes between 1 – 3 minutes for the skin to split but sometimes it will take longer. After the skin splits on the tomatoes remove them from the boiling water and place them into a sink or very large bowl of cold water to cool down.

Cooling Tomatoes

Cooling Tomatoes In A Sink Full Of Cold Water

Peel the tomatoes and remove the core and any green parts.

Peeling Tomatoes

Peeling Skin From Tomatoes

Small tomatoes may be kept whole, but large tomatoes should be quartered or cut into smaller pieces so they will fit in the jar.
After the tomatoes have been prepared, and the lids have been simmered and the water in the canner is hot – it is time to fill the jars.
Salt is optional when canning tomatoes. The standard measure is 1 teaspoon for quarts and 1/2 teaspoon for pints. I use those amounts with my tomatoes.
For extra safety if you are unsure about the acidity of the tomatoes, add 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice per quart and 1 tablespoon bottle lemon juice per pint.

Filling A Jar

Filling A Quart Jar With Fresh Tomatoes

Fill a hot jar with tomatoes leaving a 1/2 inch head space.
It may be necessary to squeeze the tomatoes while filling the jars to release more juice from them.
The juice helps to achieve the proper head space. I have a small wooden masher that I use for this but a wooden spoon will work just fine.
Tomatoes tend to collect air pockets and bubbles in the jar and it’s very important to release them.
I do this by running a non metallic object or spatula down the sides of the jar.

Air Bubbles Are removed

Removing Air Bubbles From A Filled Jar

After the air bubbles have been released, wipe the rim and threads of the jar with a clean damp cloth.
When working with tomatoes extra care needs to be taken when cleaning the rim and threads.
It is very easy to miss a seed or small piece of tomato and if a seed gets between the rim of the jar and the lid, the jar will fail to seal.

Wiping Jar Rim

The Rim Of The Jar Must Be Wiped Perfectly Clean

After the jar rim and threads are perfectly clean apply the lid and the screw band. Don’t over tighten the band – finger tight is good.
Place the filled jar into the simmering canner to wait on the other jars.
Fill the rest of the jars and place them one at a time into the canner until the load is complete.

Tomatoes In A Canner

Jars Full Of Tomatoes In A Water Bath Canner

Now put the lid on the canner and turn up the heat so the water can begin to boil.
With water bath canning it is important that boiling water completely cover the jars by 1-2 inches.
If more water needs to be added to the canner make sure that it is boiling water and is poured along the sides of the canner and not directly over the jars.
Processing time is counted from the time the water begins to boil. A gentle but steady boil is what you’re trying for.
Processing time for tomatoes is 45 minutes for quarts and 35 minutes for pints for altitudes at 1000 ft. sea level or less. If your location is higher you will need to make an adjustment in processing time.

Removing Jar From Water Bath Canner

Removing A Jar Of Tomatoes From AWater Bath Canner

Once the processing time is complete remove the jars immediately from the canner and place them on a wooden board, thick towel or heavy newspaper to cool. Leave the jars undisturbed for 8 – 12 hrs. After the jars have cooled it is important to check the seal. Remove the screw band before checking the seal.
The seal is checked by gently lifting the jar by the lid or pushing down into the center of the lid.
The lid should be slightly concave and have no spring to it.
If the lid bounces up and down the jar has not sealed and the tomatoes should be frozen, reprocessed or eaten promptly.
Often the sides of the jars will be sticky and need to be wiped clean.
As with all home canned food, store your tomatoes in a cool dark place.



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Hints:
Every summer I manage to get a few jars of tomatoes that don’t seal.

Unsealed JAr

A Jar That Didn’t Seal Due To Food Getting Between Rim & Lid

Most often it is caused by seeds or bits of tomato being pushed up under the lid during processing.
Above is a jar that failed to seal. If you click on the picture you’ll notice that seeds and tomato stuff is on the lid and jar rim. No wonder it didn’t seal.
When I get one that doesn’t seal, I just freeze the tomatoes by emptying the jar into in a rigid container or freezer bag.

Into A Freezer Bag

Contents From A Jar Contents From A Jar That Didn’t Seal Being Saved In A Freezer Bag

Frozen tomatoes are wonderful in chili and in other dishes. Often tomatoes (and other fruits or vegetables) packed by the raw pack method, will tend to float in the canning jar. This is normal and no cause for concern.
Raw vegetables, fruits, meat and other foods are more dense when they are raw than when cooked.
When raw food is packed into a hot jar it doesn’t take up as much space.
The floating occurs because the vegetable cooks during processing and shrinkage occurs.
If I turn the jars pictured below is turned upside down, the tomatoes will reincorporate and there will be no floating or separation.

Floating Tomatoes

Tomatoes Flat In A Sealed Jar

Floating is overcome by heating or semi cooking the food product before it’s packed into the jar.
Heating food before filling the jars is called “hot pack” and many people prefer it when canning.
The advantages to hot pack is that you can fit more food into a jar and consequently don’t need as many jars.
This is good to know if you are short on jars.
However, if you heat or cook tomatoes before filling the jars they then to fall apart and are harder to handle.
Raw packing tomatoes results in a superior product and most people use it.

FREEZING TOMATOES
You can freeze tomatoes if you don’t care to be bothered with canning or don’t have the equipment.
Prepare the tomatoes exactly as if you were going to can them – wash,peel and core them.
But instead of canning them place them into freezer bags or rigid containers. Frozen tomatoes have a much fresher taste and make for an excellent cream of tomato soup.
When frozen tomatoes are defrosted there will be separation of the tomato flesh and liquid.
You can either pour off the liquid and have a dryer tomato product, or you can turn the freezer bag or container upside down a couple of times and the tomatoes will reincorporate.

Tomatoes To Be Frozen

Fresh Tomatoes For Freezing

I often freeze tomatoes at the beginning and at the end of the tomato season.
That’s because when tomatoes first come on in the garden there usually isn’t enough to make a full canner load. Same thing at the end of the season.
Freezing rather than canning tomatoes is a much more sensible and energy-saving option if you have just a few pounds of tomatoes to work with.

August Tomatoes

A Bumper Crop Of Tomatoes In August

How To Use A Steam Juicer

I have found that the easiest way to make juice for drinking or for jelly is with a steam juicer.
The first time I used one was when my neighbor offered me the use of his. After using it just one time I knew there was no going back to the old way of making juice.

A stream juicer is very low tech kitchen equipment.  It is simply a 4 piece pot.
The parts of the pots are:
A capped tube with a clamp. The clamp prevents the juice from flowing while it’s being extracted. The tube will begin to fill with hot juice as soon as the collection pan is filled 1″.



Steam Juicer Tube Clamp

The Clamp On The Tube Prevents Hot Juice From Flowing

There is a collection pan. Notice the little hole on the inside of the pan at about the “10 o’clock” position. That’s where the juice comes out and flows into the tube.

Collection Pan

The Juice Collection Pan

There is a colander basket which holds the fruit.

 Ready To Steam Juice

Grapes Ready To Steam Juice

Then there’s a lower pan for boiling water. The boiling makes the steam.

Lower Water Pan

Lower Water Pan of the Steam Juicer

And then there’s a lid. The whole rig looks a little like a whiskey still to me when it is assembled.

Steam Juicer In Kitchen

Steam Juicer Set Up In The Kitchen

The way that the steam juicer works is that the boiling water in the lower pan produces steam. That seam is driven into the fruit held in the colander basket located directly above to soften it. The juice then trickles down into a collection pan and is siphoned off into hot jars or pitcher via the tube.
I have found that jelly made from the juice is especially clear and sparkles. It works great for soft fruits like elderberries, strawberries, cranberries, raspberries and black berries. I’m sure other types of soft fruit will work but I have no direct experience using them.

HOW TO USE A STEAM JUICER

  • Fill the bottom part of the steam pan with water to about 1″ from the top. Be careful  about over filling. Because if you overfill sometimes the water will spit out of the bottom pan during a rapid boil.
  • Next place collection pan on top of the water pan.
  • Then place colander basket with fruit on top of the collection pan.
  • And lastly place the cover on the pan and turn on the heat to high.

It will take about 1 hour to 1 1/2 hours to steam all of the juice out of most fruit.  I’ve found that cranberries are very stingy about releasing their juice.
It is very important that the water does not boil dry in the lower pan. I try to check the lower pan every 30 minutes or so.
Take care to keep the siphon tube in a jar or container while the juice is being distilled. That’s because sometimes hot juice will trickle out if the tube hangs alongside the stove even with the clamp shut and the cap on. The juice that is collected is concentrated and can be canned immediately and processed by the water bath canning method.

 Juice Flows

Releasing the Clamp So That Juice Flows

I add about 1 cup of white sugar to every quart of juice. You can adjust the sweetness to your own tastes. It is really nice not to have to drink juice that is sweetened with corn syrup.
When I reconstitute the juice I add 1 quart of water to 1 quart of juice.
Chill and serve.