In my side yard I have three main tomato plants– two heirloom plants that make 1 pound 7 ounce tomatoes, and one Roma tomato plant– plus a few scattered tomato plants that planted themselves and don’t do quite as well. I went out to pick some of the bountiful harvest and ended up with a giant bowl of over 12 pounds of tomatoes (with more on the plant still!):
My husband and I have been eating various tomato salads, salsas and sauces until we turn red in the face. We’ve given tomatoes to the neighbors. We’ve brought tomato salads to friends’ houses. It was finally time for this novice canner to put up some of the tomato harvest to be used for when there are no more tomato plants on the side yard and we need canned tomatoes. What better way to have organic, chemical free canned tomatoes?

For anyone who has never canned before: Try it. It’s actually remarkably easy and I did all the jars below without a canning pot but still using the water bath method. Which is to say, you can wing it as long as you have jars, lids and rings. From about 10 pounds of tomatoes (I didn’t use all the ones above) I ended up with about nine pints of diced tomatoes. Unfortunately, these beefsteak type tomatoes are very watery and so my “diced tomatoes” which I hot packed (boiled first) are essentially tomato sauce. It will still be great for soups, stews, sauces, chilis and more.As I filled some of the jars I added a few basil leaves from the garden. I’m thinking it will be great as pizza sauce!? I referenced this whole peeled tomato method from Food in Jars but didn’t peel or seed my tomatoes and did a hot pack (boiled first and then again once in the jars) after adding a tablespoon of fresh lemon juice to each jar before filling.

This day of canning also included a Hot Pepper Relish (with bell peppers and jalapenos) and a limoncello jelly I’ll share soon. If you follow on Facebook, you know that after making relish, jelly and diced tomatoes/sauce I’ve since made cold packed whole tomatoes (using the Romas) and was very successful with the final product.

The cold pack method is much better at maintaining the structure of the tomatoes so I may opt to do this in the future. I feel good that I now have 13 pint jars and one quart jar of tomatoes for use this winter! The moral of the story is that there are so many ways to preserve the summer bounty and the knowledge of canning has opened up a whole new world to me. Instead of feeling like we have to eat tomatoes like maniacs (which, okay, we still do) I can now save some effectively for later.

Tell me, do you have a favorite canned product? Do you love grandma’s jams and jellies or do you wait for a jar of dilly beans each year? Are you a fan of the hot pepper relish with cream cheese and crackers at gatherings?