(or freezing if you’d like)
Here’s the thing about tomatoes: In summer, you’ve got too many of them; in winter, you’re desperate for them. So, do what our grandmothers and their grandmothers did – can them. Or do what we do – freeze them. Either way, now is the time to prepare the cooler season’s favorites featuring, quite literally, the fruit of your summer labor.
For the past few years, I’ve canned stewed tomatoes with green pepper and onion to use in chili, spaghetti sauce, and other soups and stews through fall and winter. Practical and fulfilling, canning also brings warm memories of my grandmas. I use their jars, wooden spoons, teaspoons and canner. Utilizing their tools in my kitchen washes away the years and brings a lot of happy to my heart.
Here’s a basic list of what you’ll need to make stewed tomatoes:
- fresh tomatoes
- green pepper
- a little sugar (optional)
- a little lemon juice (if water bath canning – not necessary if freezing)
- your grandma’s wooden spoon (really, any will do)
Peeling the tomatoes: wash your tomatoes, turn them over, and slice an “x” over the bottom center. Prepare a pot of boiling water, and fill a bowl of ice and water. With a spoon, put tomatoes in the boiling water for about 45 seconds. Remove them, and immediately place in the ice water.
Prepare to be amazed. The peels will slide right off.
Preparing the ingredients: I prefer to remove seeds from the tomatoes, so I do that while I break them into smaller pieces and then place them in the pan. Then, chop the green pepper and onion into small pieces. I’m kind of a thrower-inner when it comes to cooking, so add what you like. Some like a lot of onion, some like to add some salt; there’s no wrong way.
Stovetop Cooking: Cook the vegetables over low to medium heat until fully cooked. For flavor, I add a bit of sugar to the mixture (like a tablespoon or two), but that’s totally optional. If I plan to can the tomatoes using a bath canner, I add one tablespoon of lemon juice per quart. The lemon juice brings acidity to the right (and safe) level. If freezing, skip the juice.
Canning: Place the hot tomatoes into hot jars. Leave half-inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean with paper towel, and cover. Place filled jars into the bath canner making sure they are covered with at least one inch of water. Keep water boiling. Process pints for 40 minutes and quarts for 45 minutes.
Removing Jars: Remove jars carefully (they’re super hot) – I love my jar tongs! – and set them on the countertop to cool. One by one, you’ll hear the tops pop, meaning the jars are properly sealed. It’s music, I’m telling you.
Freezing: If you don’t have a lot of time or the canning supplies, just grab some freezer bags and fill with a designated amount of the cooled tomatoes. Look up your favorite recipes and plan accordingly. I like to freeze in 2 or 4 cup batches. Lay the bag flat, smooth out the air bubbles, and throw in the freezer.
And that’s all there is to it. Enjoy. Reap the harvest while it’s plentiful, and you will bask in its goodness, thinking on warmer days past and to come.
Melissa Bronson loves authenticity, her fanny pack, digging in dirt, sharp pencils, and watching her Father’s hand spin Life in and around her. Oh, and words. She loves words. She is mother to four daughters, wife, sister, daughter and friend. You can find her blog at mdbronson.com.