Canned Diced Tomatoes

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Several people have told me that they’re afraid to can tomatoes. Whether it’s woes about water bath versus pressure canning or the lengthy process of boiling, blanching, peeling and dicing them, it’s not OK to let yourself be intimidated by a round, red object! Stand up to the tomato and say I WILL CAN YOU!

Okay, maybe you don’t need to do that. But if it makes you feel better, go with it.

I picked up yet another box of canning tomatoes at the farmer’s market, this one being 5lbs for 5 bucks. You just can’t beat that deal. My garden has produced a steady one tomato per day, so I added four small ones out of my garden to this collection.

What? I thought you hated tomatoes and only ate them in forms of ketchup??

It’s true – I’m not a big fan of these juicy, mushy things. Over the past 5 years the taste has started to grow on me, but I’m still not one to pick up a tomato and eat it as is. I’d rather add tomatoes and their juices to a pot of chili or pulverized and creamed in a soup. Therefore it seemed purposeful to dice them up and can with their juices so I can use them later in the one-pot taco mac or my chili cook-off I’m entering at work on Monday.

The recipe I used was straight out of Food in Jars with changes to the process and not so much the ingredients. You pretty much have to use tomatoes to make diced tomatoes, k? However, based on the available tools in my kitchen, some things had to be altered.

Canned Diced Tomatoes

Recipe from Food in Jars, process adapted

Makes 4-5 pints

Ingredients:

  • 6 lbs tomatoes, any kind and any size
  • Bottled lemon juice
First things first – in Food in Jars, she asks for you to sterilize your jars right off the bat. After reading through the recipe, I realized that I needed 35 minutes to cook down the tomatoes AFTER I blanched, peeled and diced them. It would take about 15-20 minutes to boil the water, prepare the ice bath and blanch the tomatoes in batches, so why the heck would I sterilize jars knowing that they have 55+ minutes to sit on the counter and cool? Jars need to be hot when you add piping hot food to them. Unless the author has some secret jar warmer I don’t know about (which could be putting them in the oven under 200 or something), work on the tomatoes first, jars second.
Core the tomatoes and slice a shallow X in the opposite end. Fill a large pot (5 qt or more) with water and bring to a boil. Fill a large bowl with water and ice and set aside.
Once the water is boiling, plop in 2 or 3 tomatoes for 1-2 minutes. It doesn’t take long for the hot water to work the peel off, so don’t let them sit too long or you’ll have a mushy tomato that is impossible to chop. I used a wide slotted fry-basket spoon to pull tomatoes out and drop them in the ice water. This stops the cooking process and keeps the tomatoes firm. Continue this process until all tomatoes have been blanched.
Post blanching
Grab a large baking sheet and set a smaller cutting board inside it. Grab a tomato and pull the peel off. Dice the tomato and then scrape the tomato and its juices back into the large pot that you blanched them in. The baking sheet will keep the juices from running all over the place and they can be easily thrown back into the pot.
Tomatoes post blanching
Bring the tomatoes to a boil and then simmer for 35 minutes. The tomatoes will cook down and the juices will thicken, leaving behind the perfect consistency.
While your tomatoes boil, sterilize your pint jars. Using a funnel, ladle the tomatoes into each jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Top with 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice and, with a chopstick or end of a wooden spoon, push tomatoes down into the jar to let out air bubbles and mix the lemon juice into the tomatoes.*
Tomatoes in jars
Wipe rims, top with lids and screw bands on until fingertip tight. Process in a boiling water bath for 35 minutes. This part kind of sucks because the steam billows out of the pot and the house gets super hot. I don’t have a lid for the pot I can food in, so the steam goes up and everywhere. The water will boil off, so you’ll need to add more to it through the process. To properly can, the water needs to be 2 inches above the tops of the jars.
*The Food in Jars recipe says to put lemon juice in the bottom of the jars and then top with tomatoes. I forgot to do this, so I added mine afterwards. You can certainly do it either way.
I had enough tomato mixture to can another pint, but since I knew I was making chili the next day I just threw them in a jar and put them in the refrigerator. Depending on the juice to flesh ratio of your tomatoes, you may have 5 pints instead of 4. Totally acceptable.
All four of my pints sealed (hooray!) so I plan on tackling the rotel-style tomatoes that Food in Jars suggests (9 lbs tomatoes, 9 jalapenos) or making a chili-ready style tomato. As long as they’re still cheap and available at the farmer’s market or my tomatoes start ripening in batches, I’ll go for it.
Canned diced tomatoes
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