What to Do When Your Garden Produces Too Many Tomatoes

It’s the peak of summer and the sun is relentless. Here in the South, yesterday’s afternoon thunderstorm was one for the books, and pools aren’t quite as refreshing as they were just a few weeks back. Basically, no matter where you live this time of the year, we’re all really just trying to beat the heat.


But, there’s one thing that probably isn’t suffering: your garden. In fact, it’s likely thriving this time of the year, so much so that you may be at capacity.


Are your neighbors turning down your homegrown tomatoes? Are your coworkers sick of them too? What’s a novice gardener to do with so much produce? Can, can, and can some more. If you’re swimming in tomatoes, bust out your canning supplies and get to work! Here’s how to can whole, peeled tomatoes straight from your garden.



1. Gather, Clean & Prepare

After picking the ripest tomatoes from your backyard garden, run them under fresh water to wash off any extra dirt. Slice off the ends (optional) and any impurities. Then, to help the skins come off easily, cut an X on the bottom of each tomato using a sharp knife.


Helpful Hint: Slightly over 2 pounds of peeled, whole tomatoes will fill 1 quart. If you’re canning with pints, 1-1.5 pounds should do the trick.



2. Blanch

Blanching is the most effective way to remove the skin from a tomato. To blanch, heat a pot of water to boiling. While this is going on, create an ice bath in a bowl large enough to accommodate your tomatoes.



Once the water is boiling, carefully place your tomatoes in the pot. After a minute has passed, quickly transport the tomatoes to the ice bath until they’re cool enough to touch.



Peeling the skins off should be easy now! Use the X you cut at the bottom of the tomato to slide the skin off and compost/dispose of accordingly. 


Put all the peeled, whole tomatoes on a clean surface. 



3. Sanitize

When canning, it’s vitally important to work with sanitized materials. So bring a pot (or two) of water to boil.



Sanitize your glass jars and lids separately to help avoid contamination. In addition, I always suggest sanitizing anything else that may come into contact with your tomatoes, including slotted spoons, measuring spoons, tongs, etc.


All canning gear must remain in the boiling water for at least 10 minutes.



4. Fill

Once everything is properly sanitized, remove every item from the boiling water and set them aside. Then, fill your jars to the top with the peeled tomatoes.



Add 2 tablespoons of concentrated lemon juice to a quart jar (1 tablespoon for a pint) and then fill the jar with freshly-boiled water, stopping when the water is about one-half to three-quarters of an inch from the top. Salt is optional depending on your taste preference.



Place lids on the jars and secure tightly.


NOTE: When water bath canning, it is extremely important to make sure your tomatoes are preserved with enough acid (the concentrated lemon juice mentioned above). Do not can other vegetables using this method. Many vegetables require a pressure canner to be safe to eat when stored. Unsure about what vegetables are low-acid? Click here to learn more about safe canning practices.


5. Heat & Enjoy

You’re in the home stretch!


The last step is to boil your canned tomatoes. For pints, you must boil each can for 35-40 minutes, while quarts need at least 45 minutes.



While you’re waiting, pour yourself a glass of wine, sit back, and relax. After all, you just spent a whole lot of time in a steamy kitchen. You deserve it!



Every once in a while, go and check to ensure your water is still boiling. After the time’s up, remove the jars from the boiling water using a jar lifter or strong tongs.


Then, simply set the jars aside. Over the next few minutes, the jar lids will vacuum seal.



Since you hand pollinated, composted, and did everything in your power to ensure a bountiful harvest, it’s time to celebrate.


When you’re ready, simply remove the lid from your jar and enjoy your freshly packed tomatoes. Use your tomatoes while entertaining friends in your dining room or eat ‘em straight from the jar. Canned produce also makes a great present, whether it’s for a housewarming party or during the holidays.


Before you go, a word of caution: If by any chance, a jar doesn’t vacuum seal properly, it’s best to consume it right away. Better safe than sorry.


What other garden goodies do you can? Let us know your favorites!


Images used with permission, courtesy of Tina Jepson and www.dreamstime.com

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