Friday, August 27, 2010

Using Gadgets to Can Tomatoes

I did something different this year when canning tomato sauce. I used my steam juicer and food strainer. Let me tell ya, it was so much easier.

My family uses tomatoes mostly in the form of sauce, specifically pasta sauce. So, I decided to can my tomatoes in sauce form this year. I was able to eliminate the need for a blanching bath for the tomatoes because I used my steam juicer.

Below you'll see the 4 out of 5 baskets of tomatoes I canned this year. Each basket has approx. 30 lbs of tomatoes in it. So, in all I canned 150 lbs of those little red jewels of love. :)

I want to introduce you to two new pieces of equipment that I used this year. Below is a picture of my steam juicer all set up to receive my bounty. I highly recommend owning one of these juicers and buy one that is stainless steel. They're a little more expensive, but well worth it in the long run.

Mine is a Mehu-Liisa steam juicer. It's about the most expensive one out there and the only reason I bought it is because it's made in Finland and I served a mission for my church in Finland. So, I chose to support their economy. Mehu Liisa means "more juice" in Finnish.

I just bought a juicer for my mom from Amazon for $120.xx which included shipping. I'm sure you could find it cheaper. I just chose not to search high and low for one.

So the concept of the steam juicer is that it is in three pieces. The bottom piece is filled with water and put on the heat source. As the water heats up it turns to steam which streams up through the middle piece and hits the tomatoes (or other fruit/veggies even chicken) sitting in the strainer basket. As the steam hits the produce, it naturally cooks the produce and draws out the juices which fall into the middle piece. The middle piece has a hole which tubing is hooked to for the juices to drain out. The cooked produce is in the strainer basket and the juices are collected outside of the steam juicer to be used or thrown away.
Below is the bottom piece and has water in it. I have let mine go dry a few too many times, thus the brown spots on it. Gotta stay on top of the water supply.
Here is the middle piece. Notice the hole in the middle where the steam is allowed to stream up to hit the strainer basket. The middle piece also catches the juices that fall from the cooked produce.
The top piece is the strainer basket. You'd be surprised how much produce can be put into this part. Plus as it cooks down, you can add more.
Here's a picture of Lucy washing a basket of tomatoes. My sink is large enough to actually fit an entire basket of them.
She washed them and I cut them into quarters and put them in the strainer basket.
Here you can see the tomato juice pouring out of the juicer into a pot. It's hot stuff.
Here are the tomatoes on their way to being cooked down.
I tried something else that worked really well too. I filled my huge roaster pan up with quartered tomatoes, onions and about 6 cloves of garlic and a hefty sprinkle of Italian seasoning. I put the whole thing in the oven at 400 degrees and roasted them. I went in and stirred them around a few times. It took a good 3-4 hours to cook them down but boy they sure did smell good.
Below is a picture of the roasted tomatoes, onions and garlic cooked down and ready for the food mill.
This is the food mill. You can do a google search for a Victorio strainer to see all the pieces and parts. Basically you have the hopper on top which feeds the produce into the strainer part. As you turn the handle it moves the produce straining out the peeling and seeds creating a perfectly pure sauce.
It's a bit of a mess but you can see the process. The sauce comes out the side and the peelings and seeds go out the back. I saved the peels and put them in the dehydrator. After they were dried, I put them in the food processor and turned them into a tomato powder. Now I can use them to make a paste or flavor a stew...etc.
Once the sauce is done, I fill add 2 tbl lemon juice to quarts, fill the jars with sauce, wipe rims, put on lids and rings and process them in a water bath canner. 40 min for quarts, 35 min for pints. (1 tbl of lemon juice for pints)

You can refer to my blog post for step by step instructions on how to can tomatoes using a blanching bath.

I ended up with 30 quarts of sauce, 23 quarts of tomato juice and the dehydrated peels. What a blessing to have such a wonderful bounty.