Hello, steemians, and welcome to da garden, eh!
Yesterday was the start of canning season for me, I canned my first batch of tomatoes for the year. I had picked enough tomatoes to have a full batch for the canner, so it was time to get busy. I have my canning kitchen out in the back of the greenhouse so I don't have to steam up the house when I'm preparing food for canning and using the water bath canner.
This is my basic canning set up. I have a propane stove from a camper, and a large cast iron propane burner that I use for all the heating requirements. I had to replace the propane pressure regulator for the big burner this year. I have firebricks around the cast iron burner to help contain the heat and direct it up onto whatever pot is being used on it.
When you're doing any canning, the first thing you want to do is wash all of the jars that you're going to use. Clean jars are an important first step. Also, I inspect all the jars at this point for any damage and check the rim of each jar to make sure there are no chips or cracks. If there's a chip out out of the rim, the jar won't seal.
I use pint jars for most of my canning because I don't need the volume of a quart jar.
Washing the tomatoes off with cool water is the next step for me.
After that, I get all of my equipment set up to start preparing the tomatoes for canning.
For canning tomatoes, I start by peeling the skins off all the tomatoes. To do that, you need a pot of almost boiling water, and a pot of cold water. You put some of the tomatoes into the boiling water for long enough for the skins to cook and split, but no longer. You don't want to cook the entire tomato at this point. You then remove the tomatoes from the hot water and immediately put them into the pot of cold water to stop them from cooking any further. I use a big spoon with holes in it for removing the tomatoes from the hot water. I leave them in the cold water until they're cool enough to handle. Don't put too many tomatoes in the hot water at one time, just do them in amounts that you can handle. I pull the stems off the tomatoes before I put them in the hot water.
Once this is done, I take a small knife and cut out the part where the stem was and the skin usually peels right off with your fingers. This is usually where it starts to get a bit messy. I have a pot that I put the peeled tomatoes into until I've peeled all the tomatoes.
In this picture, you can see how the skins have split on these tomatoes. With paste tomatoes, sometimes the skins don't split, so you just have to guess if they're ready to peel.
I'm half done with the peeling here.
Once I'm done with peeling the tomatoes, I set up my big pot to warm up the jars in preparation for filling them. This pot used to be a pressure canner that I got at a flea market and cut down to use for this purpose since it was not in working condition. I use the wire jar holder from a water bath canner in the bottom to keep the jars off the bottom, that way the hot water is under the bottom of the jar. I have to put water in the jars to keep them from floating while I'm warming them up I dump the water out of the jar before I fill it with tomatoes. At this point, I'm only trying to warm the jars up, so I don't want the water to boil, I just want it fairly hot.
This is also when I start warming up the lids in hot water. That softens the sealing compound on the lid and helps the lid to seal better.
I fill the jars one at a time, using a canning funnel to help fill the jar without stuff going everywhere making a bigger mess than necessary. I cut up the tomatoes into chunks and drop them into the jar. When the jar is about half full, I'll push down on the tomatoes to get some juice in the bottom of the jar. I try to make sure all the spaces are full and that there's no air pockets at the bottom, then I continue filling the jar. I will also add a bit of the juice from the bottom of the pot full of tomatoes if it's necessary. When the jar is mostly full, I put in 1/2 teaspoon of canning salt and 1/4 teaspoon of powdered citric acid that's packaged for canning tomatoes. The citric acid is to make sure the acidity of the tomatoes is high enough to help preserve the tomatoes with the water bath canning method.
As I fill each jar, I put them back into the hot water pot to warm up the contents to prepare for putting them into the boiling water of the canner. Putting cold jars full of tomatoes into boiling water is a good way to break a jar and have a big mess in the canner. I will add a bit of tomato or juice to the top of the jar if necessary to bring the level up to the bottom of the neck of the jar.
I forgot to take a picture of filling a jar.
Here is the batch of 8 jars all full and heating up in the pot.
The next step is to wipe the jar rims and outer neck with a moist washrag or paper towel to make sure the rim is clean. If there's any food on the rim when you put the lid in place, it probably won't seal.
Then I put the lids and screw bands on, 1 jar at a time. I use a plastic rod with a magnet on the end to get the lid out of the hot water. These are available where ever canning supplies are sold. The water is too hot to stick my fingers into to fish out a lid.
Put the band over the top of the jar and lid and screw it down hand tight. You don't want to screw it down too tight, that could mess up the seal on the lid.
Here are the jars with the lids on, ready to be transferred to the water bath canner.
At this point, the water should already be boiling in the canner. I usually start the canner by putting hot water in it, filling it up about half way or a bit more, and then I put it on the burner to bring it to a boil before I start filling the jars. That way, it's usually ready by the time the jars are all ready.
The jars are all on the rack in the canner, ready to be lowered into the boiling water.
Once all the jars are on the rack, the rack is lowered into the boiling water to start the canning process. The water usually stops boiling when you lower the jars into it, but it comes back to a boil fairly quickly if you have enough heat on the canner. The water should be at least 1 inch over the top of the jars once they're in the canner. If there's not quite enough water in the canner, I'll dump some of the hot water from the jar warmer into the canner to bring the level up.
I put the lid on the canner and wait for it to start boiling again. once it starts to boil again, pint jars require 40 minutes in the boiling water. Once the canner has been boiling for at least 40 minutes, I shut off the heat and remove the lid of the canner. The canning book recommends waiting for 5 minutes after the end of the boiling period before you remove the jars from the canner. That gives the the jars time to cool slightly in the no longer boiling water.
I remove the jars one at a time from the canner using a jar lifter that's made for the purpose, and set them on a towel with a couple of inches of space between the jars. The cool more evenly that way. Do not mess with the lids or rings after you pull the jars from the canner until the jars have cooled off, that could mess up the seal on the jar.
Here's my jars, fresh out of the canner. Next to the jars are the jar lifter and the lid lifter with the magnet that I talked about earlier in this post.
If you're new to canning, I highly recommend getting a book on canning, it will have all the information that you need to know about water bath canning and pressure canning, along with many canning recipes for the various different foods including veggies, fruits, and meat. You can buy the book wherever canning supplies are sold. One of the more popular books is the Ball canning book, produced by the company that also produces jars, lids and a lot of other canning supplies.
That's all I have for this post, I hope you found it informative and interesting!
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