August. I have such mixed emotions for this time of year. I love it because it's summer, I can enjoy the great outdoors, go hiking and camping, and have tons of fresh produce at my disposal. Yet I hate it because it also always means an endless stream of fresh produce coming in that I need to somehow eat or preserve for the winter. I HATE wasting anything and my Type A personality won't let me anyway so it's exhausting. Don't get me wrong, I absolutely love canning but when there is a stack of five 20 pound boxes of tomatoes sitting on my table and my feet already feel like I pounded the bottoms with a hammer repeatedly it gets tiresome.
So this year I said I'm not doing it. No way, no how am I canning anything. A friend and I canned over 400 pounds of tomatoes together last summer while we were both on maternity leave and somehow we actually have quite a few jars left so I don't need to. And I am just so busy this year with everything else in my life. Yet last week my husband walks in from our garden with 7 pounds of tomatoes. All ripe and ready to be used. So what do I do? I immediately say "Oh cool, I think I am going to make some tomato jam and I'll just freeze it.". That Saturday morning I start the jam and as I was letting it cook I had a nagging voice in the back of my head "C'mon, just can it. You know you want to". And then an hour later I was hauling the big old canning bath up from the basement along with jars, lids, and rings. (Me and that voice in my head have issues, I listen to it way more than I ever should)
Still I said, I am done! That was it, just needed to get it out of my system. Then that Sunday we run over to our local Costco to get some items we need around our house and as we were in the cooler grabbing a bag of carrots I see Organic Strawberries on sale for $3.99 per 2 lb package. I honestly didn't even think before grabbing 7 containers and throwing them in my cart. My husband says "What are you going to do with that?" and I say "Make strawberry jam". And so my Sunday afternoon again was filled with the steam of the canning bath. Guess there are some things you just can't get away from. It's truly addicting and I just love having these jars of goodness saved up for the winter. It feels so gratifying and it is also nice to know I can give my kids nutbutter and jam roll-ups with jam that I have made and kept the bad stuff out of.
Tomato jam was one of those things I stumbled upon last year in a magazine article. I think it may have been Mother Earth but unfortunately I can't find the original. It's like a glorious, grown up version of ketchup and is wonderful topped on a burger patty or smeared on some grain-free crackers. The picture below shows it on the Walnut Cracker recipe by Elana Amsterdam and I must say it was a quite delicious combination. I have included both the Tomato Jam recipe below for one small jar as well as a larger amount and instructions for canning it should you want to do that as well. This particular recipe only uses honey to sweeten it instead of sugar. The acidity is still enough to preserve it via the water bath canning method though.
Tomato Jam (one small jar)
Serves: Makes one 6 oz(180 mL) jar See below for the recipe for making 50 oz (1.5 L)
Prep Time: 10 min
Cook Time: 30 min
1 lb (450 g) Tomatoes, diced (skin on, with seeds)
1/4 Onion, diced
1/4 Lemon, juiced
1/4 Apple, diced finely
1 tbs (15 mL) Honey
1 tbs (15 mL) Apple Cider Vinegar
1/4 tsp (1.25 mL) Salt
1/8 tsp (1 mL) Coriander
1/8 tsp (1 mL) Cumin
1/8 tsp (1 mL) Allspice
1/8 tsp (1 mL) Ground Ginger
1. Put all of the ingredients into a large saucepan and bring to a boil.
2. Turn the heat down to a good simmer and stir occasionally, until the mixture has thickened.
3. Remove from heat and either use immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to a week.
Tomato Jam (large amount for Preserving)
Serves: Approximately 50 oz(1.5 L)
Note: Use jars the size you think you'll use regularly, like for a family of 4, a larger pint size (475 mL) jar might be appropriate, but for a family of 2 you might only want to use 4 oz (120 mL) jars.
Prep Time: 30 min
Cook Time: 4 hrs
7 lbs (3 kg) Tomatoes, diced (skin on, with seeds)
2 Onions, diced
2 Lemons, juiced
2 Apples, diced finely
3/4 cup (180 mL) Honey
1/2 cup (120 mL) Apple Cider Vinegar
2 tsp (10 mL) Salt
1.5 tsp (7.5 mL) Coriander
1 tsp (5 mL) Cumin
1 tsp (5 mL) Allspice
1 tsp (5 mL) Ground Ginger
1. Put all of the ingredients into a large stock pot and bring to a boil.
2. Turn the heat down to a good simmer and stir occasionally, until the mixture has thickened. This will probably be between 2-3 hours, but you can speed the process up by actually pouring half of your mixture into another stockpot. If you don't like how chunky the consistency is at the end, take an immersion blender and smooth it up a bit.
To can the jam, you need the following equipment (this is for Ball Jars):
Clean Jars (see note above)
Canning Bath Stockpot or a very large stockpot
Clean Dish Cloths
Small frying pan/sauce pan
Spoon or Ladle
While your jam is simmering, gather all the supplies you need. Fill the canning bath with water and set it on the stove over medium/high heat to get the water boiling. Check your jars for any cracks or chips and discard any that are not up to par (or just don't use them for this, you may still be able to use them for storing other things). Sterilize your jars either by putting them in a 200° F / 93° C oven for at least 15 minutes or by submerging the jars in the boiling water of the canning bath for at least 10 minutes. Keep the jars in whatever method you choose until you are ready to fill them.
Right before you are ready to fill your jars, put your lids into a small frying pan or sauce pan and fill with water to cover. Put this on your stove and heat over medium heat until small bubbles form. Do not let this boil. This is getting the glue on your lids ready to seal and if you let it boil it lessens the integrity of the seal.
Flatten out a clean dish towel on your counter and get your other tools ready to go. I like to have my rings nearby and the lid lifter by my stove. On my dish towel sits my funnel and jar lifter.
When the jam is ready to go into the jars, remove the jars from the sterilization method you are using and place them on the clean dish towel (make sure to pour out any water if using the canning bath method). Then place the funnel on a jar and bring the stock pot full of jam over to the area where you are filling the jars. Using a large spoon or ladle, spoon the jam into each jar, leaving 1/4 inch (6 mm) headspace at the top. This is space where nothing should be. Do not be tempted to leave more than this headspace at the top as microorganisms can be encouraged to grow if there is more space for air. Continue to fill all of your jars. If you finish filling your jars and one of them does not fill the entire jar up to the headspace allowance, put that jar aside. You will have to use it within the next week or so and refrigerate it as you cannot safely can it.
After you have filled your jars, take a butter knife and run it around the inside of the jar to get rid of air bubbles. Then take another clean dishtowel and wipe the rims of the jars. If there is any stubborn jam sticking to the rims feel free to wet the dishtowel and wipe again. Now using your lid lifter, remove a lid from the pan where it is sitting in the warm water. Without touching it with your hands, place it on top of a jar. Then you can gently tap the top of the lid to disengage the magnet from the lid. You just don't want to touch the underside of the lids to introduce bacteria. Take a ring that you should have nearby and secure it onto the jar. It should be tight but not super tight, whatever you can easily do using light force with your hands.
After you have done this with all of your jars, open up your canning bath (which should still be boiling) and set the jar rack in the upper position in the bath. Using your jar lifter, move the jars one at a time onto the jar rack, setting each one opposite of the one you just did. Once all of the jars are in the bath, lower the jar rack into the water. You should have at least 1-2 inches of water over the tops of your jars. If you don't, add more water.
Now you need to wait for the water to come back to a boil, and once it does, set your timer. The time varies depending on altitude, but for those at sea level it is 15 minutes. These are the times, if you are unsure of your exact altitude err on the side of the higher one as going longer will be safer than shorter:
Sea level to 1000 ft (304 meters)- 15 min
1001 ft (305 m) to 3000 ft (914 m) - 20 min
3001 ft (914.7 m) to 6000 ft (1.8 km) - 25 min
6001 ft (1.83 km) to 8000 ft (2.4 km) - 30 min
8001 ft (2.44 km) to 10000 ft (3 km) - 35 min
*these times are for this recipe only. Each recipe you can may have different timings based on the acidity of the contents and size of the jars
Once the alloted time is up, turn the canning bath off and remove the jars from the water. Place them on another clean towel set somewhere where you won't need to move them for at least 24 hours. As the jars cool and seal, you will hear what is one of my favorite sounds - the "ping" of the lid as it seals. Such a satisfying sound!
After 24 hours you can remove the rings and try lifting the lids off the jars. If they don't come off then you know you have a good seal. If you haven't gotten a good seal simply use the jam within the next week and store in the refrigerator. Store the sealed jars in a dark, cool place like your pantry or basement for up to a year.
For more information on canning see this great resource.
If you decide to start canning let me know- I'd love to see what others are doing!