I love canning, but even I was intimidated by preserving tomatoes.
So recently I bought 50 pounds of plum tomatoes at the farmers market to try to tackle my fears.
Mainly, I was daunted by the amount of work involved. Canning is already a hot sweaty business with that huge pot of boiling water steaming up the kitchen. With tomatoes, it’s worse because you have to drop the fruit in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute to remove the skin. That just increases the sweatiness factor by 10. And it’s not like you can get away with only processing 5 pounds. With tomatoes, if you are going to do all that work, it’s better to can 10, 20 or 30 pounds.
So first, I checked in with a couple of experts to find out if there are easier ways.
Sarah Page is the culinary marketing manager at Jarden Home Brands, which makes the popular Ball canning jars. Jarden has recently updated its go-to canning cookbook, “The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving.”
Page’s take-home advice: Roast the tomatoes instead of blanching them. The skins slip off easily and, Page notes, roasting helps concentrate the flavor. I found several recipes that take advantage of this method: a roasted tomato marinara sauce; a charred tomato, pepper and onion salsa, and oil-packed slow-roasted tomatoes that can be stashed in the refrigerator.
Then I talked to Domenica Marchetti, who has written a number of Italian cookbooks and has a new one, “Preserving Italy.” Her advice: Do as the Italians do. “When people do this in Italy, the whole family gets involved. It becomes an event,” Marchetti said. The picking of the tomatoes, the preparation and the processing are all done outside.
While I didn’t rope my family into the task, I did lug my canning pot into the yard to heat up on a turkey fryer base. With the canning pot outside and only roasting, broiling and a little simmering happening in the kitchen, it barely got steamy.
I only have 2 pounds of tomatoes left from that 50-pound box. Imagine what I could do if I got some friends or family involved? □