My first attempt at canning tomatoes is a success

It’s a chilly, grey November day, and summer tomatoes are long gone.

But thanks to a recent day spent in the kitchen, I’m making spaghetti sauce tonight from local, late summer tomatoes.

John and I began hosting monthly spaghetti suppers in September last year, and making homemade sauce is one of my jobs for the night. I’ve experimented with various canned tomatoes and honed my recipe (based very loosely on the foundation of Frankie’s). Though my technique improves with practice, spaghetti nights in the summer, when tomatoes are at their tasty peak, feature some of the most delicious sauce.

Since I love eating local and supporting local farms, I decided to try canning tomatoes at the end of this year’s harvest. I’ve tried pickling once before and it worked, but I’m still a rookie with this whole operation.

I rolled my neighbor’s shopping cart to farmers market and bought 50 pounds of tomatoes. That’s five fully loaded plastic grocery bags of tomatoes. According to the Ball canning recipe, about three pounds of tomatoes go into each quart, so I bought two dozen canning jars and figured I’d have several leftover.

tomatoes in cart

This is 50 pounds of tomatoes, grown by Phillips Farms in New Jersey, just rolled home from farmers market.

My friend Sara, also a canning novice, came over to share in the project. She smashed tomatoes into jars while I managed the boiling water bath that sterilizes and seals the jars.

Washing the tomatoes to get them ready for canning

Washing the tomatoes to get them ready for canning

Before canning, you have to boil the tomatoes for a few minutes, called blanching, to peel the skin off. They also have to be cored.

Before canning, you have to boil the tomatoes for a few minutes, called blanching, to peel the skin off. They also have to be cored.

My canning pot can fit six quart jars at a time. Once they're filled, they sit in boiling water for 45 minutes to sterilize and seal.

My canning pot can fit six quart jars at a time. Once they’re filled, they sit in boiling water for 45 minutes to sterilize and seal.

Here’s the math: I spent $80 on tomatoes and about $32 on canning jars to end up with 23 quarts, which makes them just under $5 each in materials. That’s not counting all day of my time or several hours of help from Sara.

But it’s hard to put a price on the feeling of opening a jar of local tomatoes that I wheeled home from farmers market myself, and making homemade spaghetti sauce with tomatoes I know include nothing but salt, lemon juice and love.

The final product: 23 quarts of home-canned tomatoes

The final product: 23 quarts of home-canned tomatoes

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Categories: food and drink, home and family

Tags: , , , ,

2 replies

  1. That looks awesome! And of course, you can amortize the cost of the canning jars when you reuse them.

    • It’s true. I’d need to buy new lids, as those are one-time use only, so then at $80 on tomatoes and $5 on lids, materials costs would be under $4 for each quart, assuming I get 23 quarts again.

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