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How do you start canning?
by Frank Belcastro
There are different ways to can fruits and vegetables. I use the method I learned from my mother, which she learned from her mother, and so on down the line. Because I have apple trees and tomato vines, I do a lot of canning of tomatoes and apples right from the source.
Pick the tomatoes, wash them thoroughly, and then slice them into 2-4 pieces (half or quarter). Place them into a large pot. Cook them down to a boil so they get really soft and juicy – this could take about 3.5 hours. Then you take the tomatoes and squeeze them with whatever method you have handy. You can use primitive hand cranks or electric models. I use the hand crank. With this device, the skin and seeds are separated from the juice. I take the juice out and let it cook for hours to thicken it. Another option is to strain it through cheesecloth, dispose of the water and you are left with a thick puree or sauce. You can then add the puree back to the juice to get it a little thinner and let it cook. Either way, this is the point when I add the spices. I use oregano, basil and other items from my garden. I also will add some salt for flavor. Heat it to a just boil…that’s when it’s ready to jar.
Canning apples is basically the same thing. You wash, cut and boil them in a pot with just a little water at the bottom of the pot to avoid scorching, and let them cook. They will soften immediately. Stir occasionally – skins and all. Cook them until they’re good and soft for at least a half hour to an hour. Then you have to run them through a straining system. This separates the seeds and skin from the sauce. All seeds and skin can be used for compost or animal feed.
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To get ready for jarring, I boil my bottles to make sure they are clean and sterilized. You can start to fill them with your apple and tomato sauce. You need to make sure your sauce is good and hot when you put it into the sterilized jars. Fill the jars and place your lids on. Let them cool at room temperature.
When you seal the lids, as it cools, it causes a negative pressure inside the bottle so it sucks the lid on tight, sealing the rubber seal. As the lids tighten, you’ll hear the lids start to snap. This should keep out all contamination for a year or so. The final touch is to make sure all the lids have sunken-in, concave to show they sealed.
If you want, you could immerse the jars in boiling water to sterilize them again. This is not necessary with tomato and apple sauces because it’s hot when you put them in.
If there are any that haven’t sealed simply use the tomato sauce within a day or so. If the lids don’t seal properly, it will spoil.