09 September, 2008

Canning Stewed Tomatoes

Every year, Maryanne and I put in a garden. This year, we've had a lot of cloudy, rainy weather and the plants have been suffering for it. None of our pepper plants produced anything, for example, and our eggplants were overrun by some kind of grub that burrowed into the fruit and ruined most of them.

Our tomatoes struggled this year, too. We've had a great many tomatoes rot on the vines before being anywhere close to ripe, and now the plants are dying off almost a month early with greenies still clinging to them (conditions that are duplicated even on the commercial farms here in the Valley.)

Even with the less-than-ideal conditions, though, we're still loaded with a huge crop of tomatoes, because we always set enough plants to supply us with enough fruit to eat, can, and give away to our families. And as usual, almost all of the tomatoes have come ripe at the same time. When that happens, it's time to break out the jars and the canning kettles and get to work.

Throughout the fall and winter, our favorite meals are stews and soups that are often improved by a bit of tomato in the gravy or broth. We could simply buy cans of processed tomatoes, but homemade is much better and after all, we have a surplus right now that can be put up for later. Over the years, we've decided that stewed tomatoes fit our needs best of all.

Stewed Tomatoes

1 gallon tomatoes - peeled, cored, and chopped
1 cup chopped onion
1 cup chopped celery (including leaves if desired)
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup sugar

Place all ingredients in a heavy, non-reactive stockpot and bring to a simmer. Simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pack hot jars with prepared tomato mixture, leaving ½-inch headspace. Remove air bubbles from jars by slipping a knife along the inside of the jar. Wipe jar rims with a damp cloth or paper towel before capping. Process in a pressure canner: 15 minutes for pints, 20 minutes for quarts, at 10 pounds pressure.

Notes:
  1. You can vary the flavor of these tomatoes by adding herbs - for example, putting a few fresh basil leaves at the bottom of a jar before filling them gives the finished product a delicious flavor.
  2. Add a cup of chopped red or green peppers to the batch for more variety.
  3. To make spicy stewed tomatoes, drop a couple hot peppers into the bottom of each jar before filling.
  4. You may leave out the sugar if you like, but the small amount in this recipe enhances the natural flavor of the tomatoes and is not noticeable as a "sweet" flavor in the overall batch.


3 comments:

Michele said...

It was a very bad year for my tomatoes as well. Right now the plants are half dead with a ton of baby green tomatoes hanging on. I wish that I had the room to do some home canning, but my nonexistent apartment kitchen would not be up for the challenge. Thanks for reminding me of my childhood with your stewed tomatoes. My great grandfather would thicken them up and serve them over crushed saltine crackers. Pure comfort food!

Nate-n-Annie said...

Our toms aren't doing so well this year either. We had a late start, coupled by cooler than normal weather running into June so our vines started fruiting late. Now it's almost the middle of September and the fruits are starting to come in but the temps are dropping again! I don't think we're going to have many tomatoes to freeze as we did last year.

At least you got some canning in. Do you use them up before the next Summer?

Dave said...

Michele: My parents considered gardens and canning to be too much work - I got into it after my wife and I were married (her family had always done it.) My daughter will have plenty of childhood memories of slaving away in the garden and over a canning kettle, though! =)

Nate-n-Annie: I'm really frustrated this year with the garden. With ten tomato plants, I should be up to my knees in tomatoes right now, but the vines are nearly dead and we had half the yield we should have. But I did get fifteen pints put up (so far, might be a few more by the end of the week) and that should hold us through, oh, early March or so. After that, we just suffer for a few months.