Canning tomatoes…again

Roommate call: We have a room in our downstairs apartment that is opening up November 1. Perfect for a nice couple who likes music, ghettos, and goats. $725/month Contact me if you might be interested: novellacarpenter at gmail dot com

Original post:

God, I love a rainstorm paired with a day of roasting and canning tomatoes. Especially after a few days of traveling.  


The day before I left for a reading in Madison, Wisconsin (for a report on that, see Farm City News), Bill and I went to Ned and Ryan’s farm, Blue House Farm in Pescadero, to glean our annual crop of dry-farmed Early Girls. For the past three years now we make the hour drive south, pick unsold fruit, then can it up for next year. It’s a gift to our future selves, future selves which will be cold and snotty in the winter, tomato-less in the spring, and food snobbish when it comes to store-bought, tinned tomatoes.  

Of course, it took us all day to pick the tomatoes. Blue House had suffered from late-blight, just as so many other farms around the country. Late blight is a fungus that can kill the entire plant, capable of hitting when the fruit is big and full of promise. The fields were filled with ravaged, dead tomato plants, two acres-worth. Some of the fruit looked okay–red, shiny–until you turned it upside down and saw the strange wrinkled pattern that marks blight. Some were green and black, covered with warts. In year’s past, these dry-farmed beauties were the best tomatoes I’ve ever had. So seeing the carnage of such deliciousness was supremely heart-breaking. All that work to plant, then stake and tie so many tomatoes. My poor farmer friends! Poor blighted farmers everywhere!

Lucky for gleaners, though. About one tomato in 20 were totally fine. It was too much work (and probably too depressing) for Ned and Ryan to salvage these, so Bill and I walked down all the aisles of tomatoes, pausing to check each one, picking the good, abandoning the bad. As we walked down the rows and rows, we could hear fruit thudding to the earth on their own accord. 

Still: happy day for these salvaged tomatoes! We took five buckets filled with yummy red tomatoes. You might never guess at the blight that had affected their siblings. Because the picking took so long, Bill and I didn’t start canning until 8pm. I had a flight to catch at 8am the next day, so I just stayed up all night, canning 50 jars of lusciousness to last all winter. Luckily, there were some unripe, greenish/orange tomatoes left over. When I came back from Madison five days later, they were ready.


Since I had more time, I remembered what I learned last year: roasting them makes them even more incredibly delicious! So on this crazy windy, stormy day where everything is wet and tousled, I’m roasting tomatoes (added bonus that this then heats my house), canning them in the pressure canner, and I’ll be thanking farmers Ned and Ryan for their crop all winter and spring long. And next visit, I’ll be sure to bring them a jar of the good, roasted stuff. 



Wash and cut tomatoes in half, place cut side down on baking sheet (noticed glass pans work better), drizzle with olive oil. put in oven at 300 degrees. bake until collapsed and slightly brown on top. meantime, sterilize glass wide-mouth quart jars, either in the oven or microwave with some water in them. let the tomatoes cool slightly then add hot tomatoes to hot jar (if the tomatoes are too hot, the jar will crack). meanwhile also sterilize lids in boiling water. place a lid on each quart jar then screw the lid on with the collar (aka the other part of the lid–doesn’t have to be sterilized). if you have a pressure canner, process the tomatoes at 11 pounds of pressure/250 degrees for 20 minutes. If you have a water bath canner, you might need to add 1 tb lemon juice to be on the safe side and get the acid balance right. Process under 2 inches of boiling water for about an hour. Once the jars are done processing, take them out of the water and line them up where they can remain undisturbed for 12 hours (this is so they seal correctly). Store in a dark place. Caveats: i never peel or seed my tomatoes because i’m lazy and i think they taste better intact (i’m probably wrong). Freezing tomatoes is a great way to go, so don’t feel bad if you don’t want to can!

17 responses to “Canning tomatoes…again

  1. Do you have a special way of roasting the tomatoes? And afterwards, do you have to do anything special before you can them? Reading your post has inspired me to learn more about canning. Your jars are beautiful.

  2. In spite of the hurry because of your flight, the idea of “shopping the aisles” and rescuing the good tomatoes from the blight makes me envious.
    This year a friend planted five tomato plants and gave me 4-5 buckets of tomatoes. I roasted them in the broiler, put them in a bowl and picked out the stems/skins, and then froze them in batches. I don’t have the equipment for canning, but pulling them out of the freezer during the deep MN winter will make me so happy!

  3. Can you do a how to post on how to can tomatoes? I am paranoid to do it without clear instructions because I thought you had to add some sort of acid or boil them or something to make it so they don’t go bad. I don’t have a pressure canner, just a big boiling pot that I have so far used to make jam. I buy dry farmed tomatoes from the farmer’s market, scald them, peel them, cut them up and freeze them in vacuum sealed bags. But I would love to can them in jars- much more earth friendly than the plastic vacuum sealed bags. I also want to make tomato/marinara sauce and can it, but I need a good recipe and good instructions.

    LOVED your book! Our book club read it.


  4. My first thought this morning as we awoke to the wonderful promise of a rainy day was that it was perfect weather for canning tomato sauce 🙂 So we spent the day peeling, and squishing and stirring the last of our tomatoes ….most of which had spent the preceeding weeks in the freezer. We are SO looking forward to Fall.

    Just finished your book….LOVED it!!!!

  5. I read that the late blight epidemic of 2009 was perhaps due to home gardeners buying tomato plants from large single source stores (Lowe’s, Kmart, Home Depot etc.) that sold a huge amount of the same type of tomato all across the country, quite possibly with blight spores. Since blight is wind-borne, infected tomatoes were shipped out all around the country and sneezed! So sad… yet another reason to diversify and buy locally.

    At least they were not all lost, and looks like you saved yourselves a right nice lookin bunch of canned ‘maters.

    Also loved your book, keep it up! Yoohoo!

  6. Novella, Thanks for the recipe, will try it tonight with my last batch of tomatoes. I too got hit with blight–not a pretty sight. My heart goes out to all farmers too.
    Happy roommate finding.

  7. I always worry about using olive oil when canning. I’m totally paranoid of botulism. How much oil do you use and have you ever had problems with the jars going off?

  8. I’m with Heidi, I’m scared to can ANYthhing with oil in it, especially since I don’t have a pressure canner.

    I tried roasting them withOUT the OO and canned them (see my link, above) and the product tasted darn good before I canned them. I haven’t cracked one open yet to see how it is after processing, but considering I roasted the pureed tomatoes for 14 hours, I think the taste will remain largely unchanged.

  9. Jessica et al, maybe try re-reading the recipe?!? She’s actually extremely detailed in her instructions, both for water-bath and pressure canning. And FYI, botulinium toxin presence in a jar has nothing to do with olive oil. If the acid balance is right you will not have a problem. That’s exactly what Novella said. Why don’t you all buy a canning book if you have so many doubts about her process?

  10. Jeepers, Tara! First we DON’T need a book because Novella is extremely detailed, then we DO need a book because we have doubts? What is so wrong with discussing and trying to gain a better understanding?

    Anyway. I have yet to come across a canning recipe for water bath canning that INCLUDES oil. Gotta be a good reason for that. I’m just sayin’.

  11. welp, i literally just finished reading your book. thought you’d like to know it’s been added to the Bellevue Public Library’s collection where i work, way out in Nebraska. even before i finished reading it i was already suggesting it to patrons. i’d just like to say hat’s off to you for getting a librarian to read again.

  12. ghosttownfarm

    now i’m paranoid… that’s why i pressure canned the roasted tomatoes–it gets really hot in that bitch. i googled the oo question and it says that the oo might shield the botch, so i guess don’t add it (not necessary really) when you roast your tomatoes. but what about those people who make canned tomato sauce with olive oil? final analysis: this is why i never include recipes.

    thanks clair, drew, maureen, and jessica for your kind words about farm city! spread the word–it makes a real nice winter solstice gift…

  13. Novella-
    I tried once to find a definitive answer on the whole OO in water bath canning and the best I got was an email (which I have since discarded) from SOMEone (I don’t remember who) at someplace like the Ball company or somesuch who said something along the lines of “FDA guidelines advise blah blah blah…”

    Which leads me to believe you probably CAN do it, but there isn’t a way to measure acidity, etc. to ensure that you DO have the right balance. Kinda like a doctor telling a pregnant lady it’s OK to drink “a little” wine, y’know? 😉

    So, until I get a pressure canner (and I have to find more time to CAN before I can justify it), I’m just stayin’ away from OO.

    Thanks for such a wonderful and inspiring book. I’m just a few hours away from Austin and have dratted visitors from the SF Bay Area of all places on the 31st, otherwise I’d be at your class in a heartbeat.

  14. Thanks for the great book – I laughed out loud in parts. Looking forward to coming to your reading/signing tonight at 18 Reasons. And thanks for sharing your sister’s blog. You guys rock!

  15. Hey Novella-
    I’d love to learn more about dry farming tomatoes. I did a web search (this post came up – after I’d already read it) but I can’t seem to find anything else. Any links you can point me to?

  16. Pingback: Pluck and Feather » Tomatoes, Pressure Cookers, & Turkeys

  17. ghosttownfarm

    hey daniela!!
    it’s not widely available info. the only reason i know about it is because some farmers in pescadero told me what they do…basically build up compost, then after fruit set, stop watering them. they’ll dig in deep and the tomatoes will be very flavorful. you’ll get about a 2/3 yield compared to watering…

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