I don’t have any luck growing tomatoes in the Fall, pretty much ever. Many of farms don’t even try, or just stick to cherry tomato varieties. So was excited to see these great looking San Marzano tomatoes at Engel Farms at HOPE Farmer’s Market this past Sunday. My hoarding instinct took over, and I snatched up maybe 8 pounds or so, for canning.
San Marzanos are a variety of plum tomato. Considered a “paste tomato” they are really great for canning. Each tomato has only 2 seed chambers, and thus more meat per fruit, and fewer seeds. This Italian heirloom* variety is known for low acidity, sweetness and is frequently used in sauces for pizza and pasta.
I did the score, blanch, ice bath and peel method today. I scored the stem end of each tomato, plopped them in batches into boiling water for about a minute, the removed them to a bowl of ice, so they wouldn’t continue cooking.
Once cooled, the skins peel off quite easily. Once peeled, I drained the pan they were in of the water that had accumulated on the bottom. Then I crushed them with my hands – the fun part!
There is no real method here, just squishing until they reached the consistency I was looking for. I like to can crushed tomatoes, because if you need a smoother sauce later, you can always use an immersion blender. Or, you might want more texture in a chili or pizza sauce. I also don’t season the tomatoes at this point, because I don’t know how I might use them later. You can always add, but you can’t take away. I do add a pinch of sea salt in each jar, and a tablespoon of lemon juice, to raise their borderline acidity to a safe level.
Once the now cooled tomatoes are crushed to my liking, back on the stove they go. You always want to put hot food into hot jars, to reduce the chance of bacteria growth. So, once these were heated and forming little volcanic eruptions, I pulled them off the stove, and funneled them in to their hot jars. The jars went back into their water bath for 45 minutes while I cleaned up the kitchen. And fortunately, all of the jars sealed.
What a nice way to spend a gloomy day! And I have something to show for my efforts. Canning always makes me feel as if I’ve accomplished something and I like that.
*A bit about the importance of preserving heirloom varieties. Heirloom varieties of all fruits and vegetables were once specifically chosen for certain characteristics, flavor, size, or a certain taste. There are literally hundreds of heirloom varieties of tomatoes. With the industrialization of agriculture, these heirloom varieties have been pushed aside for hybrids, (plants that have been cross bred) and genetically modified fruits and vegetables that can withstand drought, pests, disease, pesticides and tend to grow to a specific shape and size, tolerate time and travel, and to look uniform on the grocery store shelves. This monoculture is geared toward mass production, rather than flavor. Thankfully, many home gardeners and local farmers strive to keep these heirloom varieties around, so that they are not lost forever, to the tasteless, perfectly round, blemish free tomato we see lined up in rows upon at the grocery store.