Saturday we processed our annual 100 pounds of tomatoes, a project we undertake each year with both excitement and trepidation. While we thrill at the idea of having a year's worth of home-canned tomatoes on hand, it is a project that is undeniably grueling.
So why do it? I'll put it this way: We used up the last quart of last year's tomatoes just three days before taking this project on. We haven't purchased a can of tomatoes in the store in nearly seven years.
We are fortunate to have access to beautiful San Marzano tomatoes from Mariquita Farm right now, and they're all we've canned over the past few years. They have the highest yield of flesh, thin skins and little in the way of seeds and internal good. Also, they have an intensely rich tomato flavor.
As we do every year, we have a strict method that keeps the process on the rails: To start, we core the tomatoes (made easier with a StemGem -- thanks, Sean!), then blanch and shock them in a cooler of ice water. Once shocked, the tomato skins slip off pretty easily, and we drop them and the seeds into the same colander as we left the cores. Be sure to save those bits and pieces!
We modified our process in a few ways this year. Courtesy of our friend and neighbor Philip, we used a Green Star Juice Extractor to puree the tomatoes rather than simply crushing. It added time, to be sure, but the results were worth it, with a smoother, more consistent puree that also seemed to reduce the amount of tomato water we end up with. Ultimately, from the pureed flesh alone, we canned 33 quarts. (Two jars unfortuantely failed, meaning we lost two quarts of puree to the canner. Dangit.)
In order to cook down the cores and such, as it was getting late on Saturday, we put them into pots and left them in a low oven overnight. That did successfully break down the flesh, but also generated a fair amount of tomato water that we kept separate. As there was still a good amount of flesh in the water, I ran it through a jelly bag, netting nearly another two quarts of puree.
Our feet hurt, our backs hurt and the kitchen looked like a still from Dexter, but it was worth it. In the end, we got just short of 38 quarts of gorgeous tomato puree. The remaining tomato water was cooked down and will also be canned, and we are currently drying off the skins and seeds for tomato powder. For the first time, we are netting 100% yield from our tomatoes. It feels good, and it's so satisfying to have a fully stocked pantry again.