Tomato plants produce an abundant harvest in many gardens. Can the excess and enjoy your home-grown tomatoes all year long. Whether you enjoy whole tomatoes, sauces or soups, canning provides an efficient method of preserving and storing tomatoes. Using the proper equipment helps ensure the safety of your canned tomatoes while also easing some of the labour involved in the process.
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Use either a waterbath or pressure canner, depending on what the recipe instructions indicate. A large stock pot works well for waterbath canning, but this method can be used only with highly acidic foods. While tomatoes are normally high-acid, additions to recipes -- such as in a spaghetti sauce -- may lower the acid level. Low-acid foods must be canned in a pressure canner to ensure that any illness-causing bacteria is destroyed. Pressure canners have either a dial gauge or a weighted gauge on top that indicates when the proper amount of pressure has built up inside the canner. These gauges require yearly calibration, which ensures the canner is working properly.
Jars and Lids
Canning jars come in a variety of sizes, but pint-sized jars work well for most tomato products. Use jars made for canning, as reused jars from mayonnaise and similar products may break in the canner. Jar rings hold the lid in place and are reusable, but only new lids should be used. The lids have a rubber seal that adheres only once. Once the jar is filled with the tomatoes, set the jar lid on top so the seal is in contact with the glass rim of the jar. Screw a ring on to hold the lid in place.
Special tongs, called jar lifters, allow you to lift the canned tomatoes from the canner without danger of burns or dropping the jars. The tongs are covered in protective rubber and are wide enough to fit around the neck of the jar securely once opened. Canning lids must be held in hot water until you are ready to put them on the jar to ensure sterility. A magnetic lid lifter allows you to retrieve the lids and put them in place without burning your fingers.
Tomatoes must be heated before they are poured in the jars and canned. Wide mouth funnels prevent spillage of the hot tomatoes, allowing you to avoid injury and a mess. While funnels for canning are sold, any large-mouth funnel works well.
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