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Canning Tomatoes

Ever heard of the 100-mile diet? The idea is that everything you eat comes from within a 100-mile radius of your home. i.e. You're a locavore. You eat local. Yup, easy if you live in Mumbai. A tad harder when you're weathering a Montreal winter. Or is it?
Actually, it need not be. Sure you can't expect to have fresh strawberries in March, but you CAN get around the problem (har!). Sorry, I couldn't resist. I'm talking about canning produce while it's bountiful and fresh (and cheap) in the summer and then having it "on tap" as it were during the cold months.

Stephanie Robertson, professional canning maven and the brains behind Lady Tartine, shares her tips and recipes.


* As many tomatoes as you wish to can
* Lemon juice ( 2 tablespoons per 1 litre jar)

What to do
1. Figure out how many 1 litre Masson jars you're going to need and put the glass parts in the oven (which is off and cool). THEN set oven to 270 degrees F. Heat for 10 minutes. This is important because it allows the jars to warm up gradually and vastly reduces the risk of breakage.
2. Next, put the lids in hot but not boiling water for at least 5 minutes. This will soften up the seal and allow each lid to stick properly.
3. Clean the tomatoes and make a shallow "X"-shaped incision at the bottom of each fruit. This will with step 4.
4. Remove skins of all tomatoes by dipping them in boiling water for 1 minute. The skin will come right off.
5. Then put the tomatoes in a big stainless steel pot, and cover with water. Bring to a boil and boil gently for 5 minutes.
6. Pour the lemon juice in a hot jar, and put tomatoes in-- don't be afraid to smoosh them gently. Keep going until they're about 2 cm from the top.
7. Add enough cooking liquid to cover up to 1 cm from top of jar, and put lid on. This little space is called the "headpace" and is VITAL! It's where the warmed up air will contract and form the sterile seal. Without this seal, bacteria and molds will get in and party.
8. Repeat with remaining tomatoes. Then, in a large canning pot with a built in rack, sterilize jars for 45 minutes at a rolling boil. The idea is to make sure there's enough water to submerge the jars completely. I like to have about 2 inches of water above the level of the jars.
9. After you're done sterilizing, let the water cool naturally. Only then remove the jars. KEEP THEM UPRIGHT!
10. Check that lids are curved downward, and that they don't move at all when you press them.
11. store in a cool dark place.

That's it! You're done. Store your canned tomatoes in a cool dark place.

From the expert :
* To prevent burning your fingers when peeling tomatoes, wear a clean pair of rubber dishwashing gloves!
* If you don’t have enough tomatoes to fill a litre jar at the end, just put remaining tomatoes in a cool clean jar, and refrigerate. Consume within a week.
* If you find that your lid "bounces" a bit when you press it (meaning your seal didn't "take"), you can simply reprocess your jar in your canning pot. If you do this right away, you should still be able to save the can.


Sometimes bad things happen to good people and despite having followed all the steps, you'll pop open a can 4 months later and discover that it smells/looks/tastes a little off. If this happens, immediately toss the preserves. Spoilt preserves can be fatal (or make you so sick you wish you were dead), so when it doubt, throw it out!

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Comments (1)

Gen Lussier


Hi Geeta, thanks for doing a segment on this. I think it's important for people to know that such a thing as local eating can exist...even in montreal! With some foresight, we can enjoy fruits and vegetables from 100 miles right into the winter. I am vegan and I have found local sources for beans and nuts, but am still looking for a source of human-grade soy beans. Any ideas? Thanks!

Geeta says: Hmmm... local soybeans. I haven't been able to find anything during a quick search. Am looking into it-- but I suspect they might be as elusive as local bananas. Your best bet (as I'm sure you know) is either fair trade or directly traded beans. If you find something before I do, I'd love to hear from you. Thanks for writing in!

Posted June 2, 2009 09:26 AM

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