There is no fruit so versatile as a tomato fresh from the vine. Canning the surplus further expands its versatility to hearty winter dishes, sauces, soups, and juice.
You will need canning jars (inspect for cracks and roughness on rim), screw bands and sealing lids, a canning funnel, a jar lifter and water bath canner with rack, food mill (for puree).
Wash jars, lids and rings in soapy water. Rinse well. Bring to a simmer in a pot of water maintaining a simmer until ready to fill. Do not boil.
For all of the following instructions, add 2 TBSP lemon juice to each quart jar (1 TBSP / pint).
For whole or cut tomatoes: Submerge clean tomatoes in boiling water for 30 – 60 seconds or until the skins begin to crack. Immerse for a few seconds in cold water. Drain. Cut out stem. Slip off the skins. Cut as desired.
There are two methods for filling jars. For hot pack, cover tomatoes in a pot of water. Simmer for 5 minutes. Ladle into jars. For cold pack, place tomatoes into jars. For either method, top off jars with hot water, leaving head space as above.
For tomato puree: Core and quarter the unpeeled tomatoes. Simmer over medium heat for 22 minutes. Adjust heat as needed to prevent burning. Press tomatoes through a food mill or cone strainer to remove skins and seeds. Fill jars with hot puree, leaving head space.
The canning process:
Fill your canner (with rack) about 1/2 full of water for pints and adjust for quarts so water will be 1 above jars. Bring to and maintain a simmer. Set a kettle to boil in case you need extra water.
Run a knife up and down the edge of the jar to release trapped air bubbles. Wipe the jar rim with a clean damp cloth, add lid and turn the screw band on just until you feel resistance. Use tongs to lower jar into the simmering canner. Repeat as needed.
Add boiling water to canner if needed to cover jars by at least 1” water. Cover.
Bring to a boil and maintain a steady but gentle boil - 45 minutes for quarts or 40 minutes for pints. Remove jars to a towel, leaving at least an inch of space between them. Let cool for 12 – 24 hours. You may hear the popping sound as they seal. Check each jar by removing the band and pressing on the center of the lid. A sealed jar lid has no flex to it and you can't lift it off.
Refrigerate or freeze any unsealed jars. Store sealed jars in a cool, dark place. When the north wind blows, put a pot of soup or chili on to simmer and be enjoy the delicious pleasure of preserving your bounteous harvest.
Note: For more information on canning tomatoes, visit https://go.uvm.edu/canning-tomatoes.