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Thread: canning tomatoes

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    canning tomatoes

    I forgot to put lemon juice in my stewed tomatoes, is that gonna be a problem?

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    Moderator CM's Avatar
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    I've canned many jars of tomatoes without using lemon juice (actually, I rarely use lemon juice - I prefer red wine vinegar). Sometimes I add a 1/4 tsp. of ascorbic acid to jars of whole tomatoes.

    I'm not advocating the omission of an acidifier such as lemon juice or vinegar, but I doubt that it will be a problem if you processed the tomatoes in a boiling water bath. If you're concerned, mark them and use these jars sooner than your other jars.

    The reason that lemon juice is recommended in tomato juice is because newer varieties of tomatoes can be (but are not always) lower in acid, especially some hybrid varieties. Another reason is that sometimes the tomatoes used are over-ripe or left to ripen on dead vines. Tomatoes that ripen on vines that are dead or ripen for a long time after being picked (ie not canned right away after being picked from live vines) have a tendency to be less acidic.

    If you used standard or heirloom varieties of tomatoes that were picked from live vines, this is less likely to be an issue.

    The way I most often can tomatoes is pureed, seasoned with basil, garlic and red wine vinegar, sometimes a little red wine, and simmered until thickened. I then process them in a pressure canner because it's the easiest way and it allows me to add chopped onions, bits of pepper, etc.

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    Moderator CM's Avatar
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    And I forgot to mention - you can always re-process the tomatoes within 24 hours, too.

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    I didn't one time and they blew up like bombs in the basement. Didn't water process or add the acid. glass and tomato every where. so take the time to reprocess or wrap them in plastic grocery bags in case they explode. Did I scare you yet!

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    Yellow and orange tomatoes have a lower acid content and shouldn't be processed like red tomatoes. I can't remember if they need more than just added acidty or only canned with a pressure cooker.

    For fresh eating, if red tomatoes bother you, there is an option. Orange and yellow tomatoes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by KarenB View Post
    I didn't one time and they blew up like bombs in the basement. Didn't water process or add the acid. glass and tomato every where. so take the time to reprocess or wrap them in plastic grocery bags in case they explode. Did I scare you yet!
    Karen, I'm curious, did you leave the rings tightened on the jars? If you remove the rings and the food inside the jars ferments due to inadequate processing, then the lids are likely to be forced off before the jar would explode.

    Adding acid to canned tomatoes is a practice that has its origins in the past 20 or so years due to some new lower-acid varieties of tomatoes. My mom and grandmother never even heard of adding lemon juice to their tomatoes and never had any problems; they probably didn't grow too many hybrid or lower acid tomatoes in their gardens. either. Not all tomatoes grown today are of the -4.6 or less pH variety (most are probably not, those that are lower in acidity are likely borderline).

    An acidifier is added as a precaution (just in case) for those who aren't able/willing to do a pH test and don't know what variety of tomatoes they're canning. (For example, Jet Star is a tomato which comes with a recommendation from the seed hybridizer that lemon juice be added when canning). As long as whatever it is you're canning has a pH of 4.6 or less, it's safe to can it in a boiling water bath with nothing added (no lemon juice, no ascorbic acid, etc).

    I've only ever had a jar break once over many years of canning and thousands of jars (it broke in the pressure canner during processing - it probably had a hairline crack to start with). And I've used many of the old "collector" style jars with rubber rings and glass lids, too, but more often my jars are the newer ones. I use Ball jars most often, but I'm also an antique jar collector!

    Use home canning jars rather than saved jars from store-bought foods because they're engineered to better withstand higher pressures and shocks that are possible with home canning. Don't bang jars around (it weakens them), don't wash them with metal utensils (it scratches them and causes weak points) and don't remove them from the canner too soon before they've had a chance to cool slightly. Don't remove the pressure canner lid until the pressure has come down naturally for at least 20-30 minutes (depending upon the size of your canner). Don't subject the jars to temperature extremes. Cool the jars in a place that's free from draft and don't put them on a cold surface without some protection (like a rubber or silicone mat or towel). Don't disturb them for 24 hours, then wash and gently remove the rings. Store the jars in a cool, dark place where there won't be any chance they might freeze (even tin cans explode when subjected to freezing temperatures).

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    This happened over 30 years ago and the rings were finger tight. My first attempt. I'm wondering if the the tomatoes were affected by temp. rain. acid level. Stored in a cool dark basement. Ball with screw tops.

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    You mentioned that you didn't process the jars in a boiling water bath and you left the rings on. The tomatoes probably fermented in the jars (a boiling water bath kills enzymes that can later cause fermentation in storage). With the rings tightened on there was no way for the gases to escape the jars by forcing off the lid; the pressure build-up might cause them to explode. It's similar to a cork in a bottle of champagne.

    Ball recommends removing jar rings before storing the jars - that gives the ones with a poor seal the opportunity to fail in a visible way and it can help to prevent fermenting jars from remaining sealed under pressure.

    There are other factors beside inadequate processing that can cause fermentation. Sometimes, especially when canning whole tomatoes, you might miss a single tomato that may have gone bad from the inside out. Also, I know that some people cut the blemished spots off and use the rest of the tomato when making sauce, but that's another thing that can contaminate the entire batch and isn't a good practice. Or it's possible that the tomatoes were overly ripe, too.

    Lemon juice doesn't stop fermentation - it ensures that tomato varieties with a borderline pH are more likely to be below a 4.6 pH to qualify them for processing in a boiling water bath. Anything above a pH of 4.6 should only be processed in a pressure canner.

    You can get 100 pH test strips on amazon for around $20.00 which might be a good investment if you do a good deal of water bath canning.

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    Ya, I know this now! Back then, new bride living the romantic notion of being a homecook but no one told me it could be dangerous! Now I make my own tomato sauce base. I cook then put through the food processor then strain. I can't stand seeds in my sauce. Then process. Much better results. Yesterday I harvested my first apple crop. I have 9 trees and 3 are ready. Hope the neighbours like apples. Not one last year. This year a bumper crop and the healthiest they have been. Very little black spot on them. Haven't been sprayed since I moved in 14 years ago. I'm going to make apple butter, pie filling, and sauce. Any other suggestions?

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    Apple jelly or use apples and their skins to make the pectin base for other jellies so you won't need to add pectin. Apple jelly is a good base for mint jelly, too, if you have fresh mint. I like to make an apple pie filling with raisins, and a little ginger and cinnamon, too.

    Apples shrink more than most other fruits and they'll have a tendency to float in the jars if you don't steam or boil them for a few minutes (3-5) then pack them in hot syrup. If you cut, pare and brine them in a 2 percent salt solution (about 1 tbsp to 1 quart water) for 30-90 minutes, some of the oxygen will be depleted and more Vitamin C is retained. (I rinse them very briefly in cold water after the brining).

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