My thoughts were about the East Coast this past weekend as I watched images of hurricane Irene making her way from the Carolinas through New England. I worriedly followed her path on the weather radar and I tuned into news updates on my television. She looked like a pretty scary hurricane so I did the only thing that I could do, which was to pray.
But prayer seemed especially powerful this weekend, didn't it? I felt like my own prayer was just one little part of an enormous crowd of prayers. It felt like maybe a lot of people all over the world were praying together, and each of our little individual prayers combined to create something strong and good that each of us could hold on to.
Thank goodness that Irene showed a bit of mercy. It sounds like the general thought now is that "it could have been so much worse." I am left with some degree of relief, although my heart still goes out to the families that she devastated.Ironically, it was sunny and mild here in Ohio while Irene was assaulting the East Coast. A slightly cool breeze from the north smelled a bit like autumn and I had to keep reminding myself that it was only the end of August.
Tomatoes are coming in strong now, too, which also makes me feel like fall is right around the corner.
Luckily, canning tomatoes is a simple task that is nice to do while worrying and praying. So I canned tomatoes while I watched updates about Irene.And I would hazard a guess that I wasn't the only one poking around in the kitchen while worrying about Irene this past weekend.
I like to preserve tomatoes in a number of different ways... in home canned soups and chilies, as sauce, and salsa, and by drying them, and also by freezing them. But today I'm just writing about stuffing them into quart jars and processing them in boiling water. It's really easy and very rewarding.
First I pick, wash, peel, and quarter some tomatoes. Then I start simmering quart size jars in a big canning pot with a rack at the bottom of the pot.Then I remove the jars one at a time and pour a bit of lemon juice and salt in the bottom of each jar. I stuff the tomatoes down into the jar, pushing them and squishing them with a spoon so that every little space inside the jar is filled with smashed tomato and juice squeezed out from the tomatoes. Then I run a flexible spatula around the inside of the jar to make sure I've released any air pockets. I wipe the rim of the jar and place a lid that has been simmering in hot water onto the jar. I secure the lid with a screw on lid band. Then I put the jar back into the canner full of hot water.Once all the jars are full and in the canning pot I make sure that the jars are covered by a couple of inches of water and I bring the pot to a boil. Then I boil those jars for the amount of time required for my altitude. (My altitude here is a bit over 1000 feet so I boil these jars of tomatoes for 90 minutes.)
After the jars have boiled for the proper amount of time I turn off the heat and let them sit in the canner for a few minutes. Then I gently lift them out and set them on a towels I have spread out on my countertop. I leave those jars undisturbed on the counter for about a day. The next day I check to make sure that they all sealed and then I label them.Here's how the Ball company (who writes the Ball Blue Book and who makes Ball mason jars) explains this way of canning fresh tomatoes:
RAW-PACKED TOMATOES WITH NO ADDED LIQUID:
Packing tomatoes raw with no added liquid produces the most concentrated flavor. However, this method requires extended processing times to ensure the heat fully penetrates to the center of the jars.
You will need:
3 lb whole, halved or quartered tomatoes per quart jar
Bottled lemon juice or citric acid
(32 oz) quart or (16 oz) pint glass preserving jars with lids and bands
1.) PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) WASH tomatoes. Dip in boiling water 30 to 60 seconds or until skins start to loosen and crack. Immediately dip in cold water. Slip off skins. Remove cores and any bruised or discolored portions. Leave whole, halve or quarter.
3.) ADD 2 Tbsp bottled lemon juice or 1/2 tsp citric acid to each hot quart jar. Add 1 Tbsp bottled lemon juice or 1/4 tsp citric acid to each hot pint jar.
4.) PACK raw tomatoes into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Press tomatoes into the jar until the spaces between them fill with juice leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart jar, 1/2 teaspoon to each pint jar, if desired. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding tomatoes. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
5.) PROCESS filled jars in a boiling water canner for 85 minutes for both pints and quarts, adjusting processing time for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.
For more information about canning, including how to determine your altitude adjustment, please refer to The National Center for Home Food Preservation.