CANNING TOMATOES

A long and demanding job that will pay off during the year when you open that preserves made with your hands and with a lot of love to season your favorite dishes.

{Image Attribution via Practical Self Reliance }

Buongiorno amici:

If Columbus hadn't discovered the Americas today, we wouldn't be eating tomatoes. However, it is a historical consideration of a large proportion because tomato is not only among the ten most consumed vegetables in the world, but it is precisely in Italy that it finds a per capita consumption among the highest ones, around 35 kg per year, about 60 pounds. Incidentally, the consumption occurs in Southern Italy, where most sauces use tomato as a base.

In 2020 the USA's fresh tomatoes per capita consumption amounted to 19.32 pounds and certainly climbing this year. 

A substance called lycopene enriches the tomatoes with bright red color and protects them from the sun's ultraviolet rays. In addition, it protects our cells from becoming damaged as we age, and our bodies require more protection. Tomatoes also have potassium, vitamins B and E, and other nutrients. Read more on tomatoes.

As our mothers teach us, and even before our grandmothers, people can seasonally preserve tomatoes by pureeing them. For many American-Italian families here in Rhode Island, canning tomatoes still dominates the post-summer food activity of choice. Children and parents gather together, reaffirming the sense of seasonal festivity while homaging ancient traditions. Thus, it is imperative to share food values, especially with the younger generation, who probably think that tomatoes in a jar belong to an Instagram video. 

In addition to being used raw, seasoned with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and basil, or cooked as for a rich ragu, the secret to having it at home all year round is to prepare it in time and cram it into the cool temperatures of a basement's cupboard. 

Whether peeled, pulp, concentrated, or pureed, its taste remains unmistakable in the execution of the Mediterranean diet and a source of inspiration for countless recipes. Still, pasta with homemade tomato puree remains the most authentic, timeless comfort food there is. 

While I am not sure you will tackle the ordeal, I can tell you that it may become more work than you had envisioned. There is a slogan that Italians use "good food and good shoes do not compromise." 

1) Wash purchase tomatoes with plenty of cold water and remove any unwanted bruises.

2) Cut, grind and filter the tomato puree.  

3) Cook tomato puree until boiling, plus 15 minutes.

4) Sterilize the jars and the lids.

5) Pour hot tomato liquid into jars and seal.

6) Boil-filled jars in a large stainless steel pot for 30 minutes on simmer. No rapid boiling is allowed.

7) Remove hot jars, and allow cooling before shelving.

Equipment you need

Extra-large stainless steel pot (two of them) 

Use one pot to sterilize the jars and the lids. It is the same pot you would use when making soups, stews, or meat sauces. The stainless steel coating ensures uniform cooking while retaining heat and humidity inside. In the second pot, you bring the filtered tomato puree to a boil. When the tomato reaches the boiling point, allow additional 15 minutes and then shut off the heat. Set aside.

Vegetable mill.

Depending on the pounds of tomato you intend to make into the puree, you can use two methods.

1) Use a vegetable mill with a mesh between fine and medium to be turned manually.

2) An electric tomato squeezer to save you the effort of getting your arms tired. 

You will also need a large metal bowl to collect the smooth and thick liquid before it goes on the fire.

You will need a sturdy sieve for filtering the tomato pulp, thus obtaining a smoother and velvety consistency. 

Set of glass jars.

At this point, take out your set to proceed to the last phase: bottling. Perhaps even before buying the tasty and top-quality tomatoes, you must organize yourself with glass jars for the preserving stage.

Sterilize jars.

It is essential to sterilize them before use, simply putting them in a pot full of water to boil. Sanitize the jars, dry them very well, and decant the tomato puree into them while still hot using a funnel and paying attention to leave 1-inch clearance from the edge. Close the sterilized caps well, obtaining the hermetic seal guaranteed by the classic "POP." You can now proceed to boil the jars in water, a method called "Bain-Marie." Allow cooling before storing in the pantry. A reasonably long and demanding job that will pay off during the year when you open that preserves made with your hands and with a lot of love to season your favorite dishes.

{Image Attribution via Shutterstock | REMO ARCARO}

Note: Please add two tablespoons of lemon juice for each quart of tomato passata (puree) for safety purposes. You can also use 5% white vinegar, about four tablespoons for each quart. Both will increase the acidity and the pH level, prohibiting the development of botulism. Add the lemon juice or the vinegar to the jars before pouring in the hot puree and seal.

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