Preserves – Crushed/Diced Tomatoes 2014 (and the saga of the broken jars)

So, remember last year when my crushed tomatoes wouldn’t seal, and I decided that I probably wouldn’t do home-canned crushed tomatoes again?
Well, I decided to try canning crushed/diced tomatoes again this year, after all and, while the jars sealed just fine (YAY!), I still wound up learning a Valueable Lesson about canning safety. Yeah, that.
Now, just so you know, this is my second time trying to post this. For reasons I can’t fathom, wordpress decided to eat the original so you’re getting the slightly ticked off “short version” here.
None the less, you still get a picture:

Unfortunately, this basically amounts to two winter dinners down the drain (or into the compost bin) since, despite the extremely clean breaks, I didn't want to risk getting glass in the food.

Unfortunately, this basically amounts to two winter dinners down the drain (or into the compost bin) since, despite the extremely clean breaks, I didn’t want to risk getting glass in the food.

They do say that they’re worth a thousand words, after all. 🙂
So, yeah. Y’know how, when you make cucumber pickles, the cukes go into the jars cold but you have to boil the canning solution? Turns out there’s a reason for that.
Prepping tomatoes for canning means cutting an “X” in their skins, blanching them (boiling them for about two minutes), and then dumping them into a sink full of COLD water to stop the cooking and to get the skins to split open. This makes them super-easy to peel (like taking off a glove, basically), but it also means that your tomatoes, when you chop them up and put them in their sterilized jars (which, by this point, have also cooled down), will be cold.
That matters.
As far as I can tell, I lost two cups worth of diced tomatoes (AKA: two week-day meals worth of veggies, dammit, but I’m not about to risk glass in my food, no matter how clean the breaks were) because the tomato mixture[1] boiled – as intended – and expanded faster than the glass containing it did. Most of my jars were fine, because they had enough “head room” (empty space at the top of the jar – think “just below where the ring sits, if that’s a help) to allow for the expansion. But two of my jars were a little too full to handle that from a cold starting point.
The plan for my remaining (as-yet-to-be-processed) two pints of diced tomatoes is to empty the jars into a sauce pan, boil the heck out of them, re-wash the jars, and then process everything from a HOT starting point rather than a cold one. This should keep my jars from breaking and should mean that I don’t loose any more dinners to foolish human error.
I’m just glad that my canning pot kept everything contained, that I only lost two one-cup jars (rather than, say, ten, which is how many I processed yesterday), and that the breaks were clean and happened in a contained environment rather than, for example, on the cooling rack where somebody could have been hurt.
That being said, I’m still glad that I did this. Now I know What Not To Do and I’ve learned that ~$12.50 worth of roma tomatoes will land me fourteen cups (so 3.5L) of diced tomatoes. This works out to about $0.36/100mL (as compared to the $0.74 per 100mL that I typically pay in the grocery store for those $2.29 310mL tins that I’m so fond of). Even allowing for the lost tomatoes (which I paid for, but can’t eat) that still works out to, like, $0.41/100mL… that’s still a WAY better price than the grocery store, and I know exactly what went into them and can flavour them as I’m inclined (E.G.: I’m toying with the idea of adding a little bit of cayenne pepper to my remaining two pints of tomatoes, just for the sake of variety – and also because pint-jars of tomatoes are more likely to wind up in chili than in pasta dishes, so why not?)… I think that’s a pretty good deal, and I’m definitely up for canning more tomatoes – both as sauce, in another month or so, and as diced tomatoes.
Based on typical use (which could go up, but let’s work with what we’ve got), for a nine-month supply of jarred tomato products, I would probably want to start with about 18 litres of diced, sauced, and salsa’d tomatoes (at least half of which would be diced) not counting the salsa and sauce that I’m apt to give away as gifts (Call it 20 litres – nice round number, easy to do math over).
Right now, I have:
3L diced tomatoes
1.25L tomato-peach salsa
Enough cores and skins (in the freezer, awaiting their turn) to make about 0.25L sauce.
So barely past the 25% mark on my “goal” accumulation of tomato products, in other words.
The thing is, I don’t expect to meet that particular goal this year, and I’m glad that I don’t have to. I’m glad (very, very glad) that I can rely on the grocery store shelves for those $2.29 tins when I run out of stuff I’ve put up myself.
But the goal, as I progress in all this, is to have a “Total Hippy Pantry” that can keep us fed without a lot of reliance on the grocery store for things other than, say, flour, sugar, and toilet paper. Food sovereignty for the win, and all that. 🙂
So, yes. I suspect that I’ll be hitting up Nicastro’s and/or the Glebe Metro for more roma tomatoes (and maybe some fabulous Ontario Garlic, which should be in the shops in short order) and putting up another 3.5 litres of diced tomatoes, some of-which will probably be done up with garlic/scapes, dried basil, and extra balsamic vinegar (“bruschetta salsa”) – though I’m hoping to wait on Dalkeith Tomatoes for my annual sauce cook-off.
…Hopefully I can manage it without breaking any jars this time. 😉
– Meliad the Birch Maiden.
[1] Each one-cup jar contains a tablespoon of white wine vinegar plus a quarter-teaspoon of granulated sugar – IMPORTANT! This gets the Ph acidic enough to be safely water-bath canned, without turning everything to Just Vinegar, Thanks – and then was topped up with a little store-bought tomato juice[2].
[2] I admit that I’m using the tomato juice as a canning liquid specifically to make up for the slight under-ripeness (and thus less-flavourful-ness) of roughtly half of my romas. Let that be a lesson to me: Buying more small tomatoes means probably getting a riper, and thus more flavourful, made-at-home product… one which would allow me to use salted boiling water as my canning liquid, if I wanted to do so – Handy!)

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