Crushed Tomatoes

    Select firm, regular shaped, ripe tomatoes that have no blemishes, bruises or cracks. When selecting your tomatoes, keep in mind that tomatoes that feel heavy for their size will be the juiciest. For best results, use vine ripened tomatoes, not tomatoes from dead or frost-killed vines.

    For best results, we blanche the tomatoes till the skins just start to crack, then remove them from the water and allow them to drain for about five minutes.

    Now, there’s all matter of ways to crush your tomatoes once they’ve been blanched. We use an electric machine that is made specifically for canning tomatoes. If you’re going to be doing this regularly, then it’s a worthwhile investment, but they do have manual machines as well, and failing that, peeling and quartering them for canning (see last September’s column) will work too then you can just put them through your food processor for use in your recipes.

    We usually pass the tomatoes through the crusher twice. Now let me explain how we do this. The crusher has two output ends, one end from which the crushed tomatoes pour out and the other end for the seeds and skins. Usually, the first pass yields seeds and skins with quite a bit of pulp, so we put these through the crusher again and mix them thoroughly into the fist “virgin” pressing so we get a uniform consistency. Season generously with salt and pour into sterilized jars into which you have already placed generous amounts of fresh basil or marjoram. Seal to finger tightness and set aside. Once you’ve completed the process with all your tomatoes, place the jars in your canner and process in a boiling water bath for forty-five minutes AFTER the water has reached a boil. Remove the jars from the canning water, turn them upside down and allow them to cool for 24 hours. Once they’ve cooled, flip them over, check seals and store in a cool dark place.

    Now at our house, this is a weekend affair. We usually make it a group effort with one or two of my girlfriends and I doing all our tomato canning for the next year, usually the September long weekend. The kids all get involved too. There’ve been times when we’ve done as many as 15 bushels of tomatoes in a weekend. I think this year we’re looking at probably at least that, perhaps even more. We get on average about 13 qt jars to each bushel so when we do our boiling water bath, we’re outside using drums over propane burners. It’s fun. We make it a family affair, everyone pitches in and everyone loves having the fruits of their labour throughout the winter.

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