Tomato time

I’ll keep this short, because it will look very like last year’s, which I didn’t even bother to blog, or the one before that or even the one before that.

Today canning buddy and I transformed a bushel of very ripe San Marzano tomatoes into 43 jars of crushed tomatoes. We started at 930, and we were done by early afternoon. But we were pretty damn efficient.

toms2A load of little lessons, some of which we learned before but forgot, and some of which are new:

  • Divide up the labor and keep a production line going. I took on the “clean” tasks: nicking the skin of the tomatoes so they would split more easily; putting them, in small batches, in boiling water; taking them out and cutting off the blossom end, plus bottling and managing the water bath. Canning buddy graciously did the messy stuff: peeling the tomatoes and chopping them very roughly, and wiping down the jars (and the kitchen).
  • Once we had a critical mass of tomatoes nicely bubbling away, we both stopped what we were doing, bottled that batch (adding a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice to each 500 ml jar) and started the waterbathing. Then we moved on to the next round of tomatoes.
  • Transfer lemon juice from bottle to small jug and measure from there. It’s far easier than trying to measure out a tablespoon of lemon juice from a squeezy bottle that wants to deliver either far too much or not quite enough.
  • Even with the production line, a huge chunk of the five-hour adventure consists of waiting for the jars to finish their 35-minute spell in the water bath. Make sure you have plenty to read.

San Marzano tomatoes cost 25 percent more than the Romas we’ve used in previous years (but still only $25 for a bushel). But Wikipedia tells me they are “considered by many chefs to be the best paste tomatoes in the world” so it has to be worth it. I still have a few jars from last year, so I could, in theory, do a taste test. I won’t.

I bought them on an out-of-town adventure, and they were both riper and smaller than the ones we used last year. And they also separated into pulp and juice more than I remember from previous years, which won’t make any difference by the time I’ve turned them into soups, sauces and stews. But I do have buyer’s regret at not grabbing a few bushels of other vegetables as well. I don’t think we could  have fitted more into the car, which already had two bikes and a load of other fruit and veg. But just look at all the different peppers, hot and mild, and drool.


And the tomatoes, of course. Should we have made sauce or jam as well?


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