Baby tomatoes

Baby tomatoes

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Canning Cookbook- The tomato paste debate

With an Italian chef in the house, tomato paste is simply a must have ingredient. We use a lot of it. We also can and grow our own tomatoes, and buy hundreds of pounds of canning tomatoes each year from a pick your own farm nearby. I'm sure you can see where this is leading to- why can't we make our own tomato paste?

Well, we CAN, with a few considerations. Depending on your comfort level when it comes to canning practices, you may not be as much of a rule-breaker as I am. There are a lot of people who think if it's not in the Blue Book, it's not ok to can, and that's perfectly fine if they want to live by that doctrine. But many experienced canners bend the rules a little when it comes to canning. We might tweak a recipe a bit or use a recipe from an "unapproved" source, like Gramma. Tomato paste is a great example. It once WAS in the Ball Blue Book but for whatever reason it was removed- perhaps a density issue, maybe because no two home cooks are ever going to get EXACTLY the same consistency. I'm not sure, but I do know that I've done a lot of research on this and have found that the Canadian canning authority, Bernardin, still has the recipe and directions in their canning book, and in the U.S. the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension shares the identical recipe and processing time. 

So with that in mind, I am going to get busy making tomato paste! Obviously this is where the type of tomato you want is very important. Romas or other paste tomatoes would be the best choice but other tomatoes will work also- the result will be a longer cook down time to reach that thick "paste" consistency and maybe, a slightly smaller yield. But we work with what we have, right?

This recipe is the exact same version as the Bernardin and University of Georgia Extension's and is not owned by me, nor created by me. It's a boiling water bath recipe and easy to follow instructions. It takes patience and small jars but is so worth the effort rather than commercially canned tomato paste.

Our ingredients are:

8 quarts peeled, cored chopped tomatoes (about 4 dozen large)  
1 1⁄2 cups chopped sweet red peppers (about 3)
2 bay leaves 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 clove garlic (optional)

The directions are:

Prepare 8-9 half pint or 4 oz jars only, lids, and rings. Sterilize the jars and keep them in the hot water till its time for processing. Make sure to fill your water bath canner and get the water to a simmer.  Prepare tomatoes by removing seeds and skins. 

In a large stainless steel pot, roaster, or crock pot (I prefer the roaster) combine first four ingredients and cook slowly 1 hour. Press through a fine sieve. Add garlic clove, if desired. Continue cooking slowly until thick enough to round up on a spoon, at least  2 1⁄2 hours. Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Remove garlic clove and bay leaves. 

On a dishtowel place your hot jars and using your funnel, ladle to fill to 1/4" headspace.  Remove air bubbles and refill to the proper headspace with the mixture if necessary. Taking a clean paper towel wet it with warm water and wipe the rims of the jars removing any food particles that would interfere with a good seal. Fix the lids and rings to the tops of each of the jars and turn to seal just "finger tight". 

Make sure your rack is on the bottom of the canner and place the jars in the water bath making sure that the water covers each of the jars by 1 to 2 inches. Add hot water to the canner if it doesn't measure up. Cover the pot and turn up the heat under the canner and wait for the water to start boiling. Once the water has come to a boil start your timer for 45 minutes. When complete turn off the heat and remove the cover and let the jars sit for another few minutes. Remove the jars and place them back on the dishtowel in a place that they will sit overnight to cool. Do not touch or move them till the next morning.

Some time in the next hour your jars will be making a "pinging" or "popping" noise. That is the glass cooling and the reaction of the lids being sucked into the jar for proper sealing. Some recipes may take overnight to seal. Check your lids and reprocess or freeze any jars that did not seal.

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