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How to preserve tomatoes so you can enjoy them all year

by CATHY BARROW New York Times News Service on September 22, 2013 2:00 AM

If I had to choose only one food to preserve, it would be tomatoes. The unquestionable stars of the summer, they need little more than a trusted recipe to go from jar to dinner.

But wait: Rather than focusing on the drudgery, I sometimes plan a party, gathering friends and family with promises of food and drink.

Many hands make quick work of the mountain of tomatoes. And knowing there will be tomatoes on the shelf in the dark days of winter? That alone makes the day worthwhile.

I will heat up the kitchen and make a mess each weekend from now until the tomato vines are killed by frost.

The jars I put up will hold the flavors of sunny afternoons when I need them in January.

PRESERVED CRUSHED TOMATOES

Time: 3 hours, plus 12 hours’ cooling

Yield: 4 to 5 quarts or 8 to 10 pints

8 pounds ripe firm red tomatoes (10 to 12, depending on size)

Lemon juice, bottled lemon juice or citric acid

Salt (kosher, pickling or fine sea salt only), optional

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut an X in the base of each tomato. Gently drop tomatoes into water. When they bob to the surface, remove and place in an ice bath.

Put a rack in a large stockpot or line pot with a folded kitchen towel, then fill it with water and bring to a boil.

Add quart or pint jars and boil for 10 minutes. Jars may be left in warm water until ready to fill. Alternatively, sterilize jars by running them through a dishwasher cycle, keeping them warm in the machine.

Place canning rings in a small saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and add flat lids to soften their rubber gaskets. Rings and lids may be left in water until jars are filled.

Peel and core tomatoes and scoop out gel and seeds. With your hands, tear and crush tomatoes into a large nonreactive pot.

After adding a few tomatoes, bring them to a brisk boil, crushing further with a potato masher or the back of a large spoon. (This will keep tomatoes and juice from separating in the jar.)

Continue to add crushed tomatoes, maintaining a bubbling, brisk boil.

When they are all added, boil for 5 minutes.

Ladle hot tomatoes into warm jars, leaving a little more than 1/2 inch head space to accommodate lemon juice.

If using citric acid, fill to 1/2 inch head space.

Into every quart jar, add 2 tablespoons lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon citric acid. For pints, use 1 tablespoon lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon citric acid. If using salt, add 1 teaspoon to each quart or 1/2 teaspoon to each pint.

Wipe jar rims clean with a damp towel. Place lids on jars, screw on rings and lower jars upright into the pot of boiling water.

Return to a full boil and process for 45 minutes for quarts or 35 minutes for pints. If there are both in the pot, process for the longer time. Transfer jars to a folded towel and cool for 12 hours. Jars will ping as they seal.

Once cool, test seals by removing rings and lifting jars by their flat lids. If a seal has formed, lids will stay tight.

Unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used within a week or reprocessed.

Rings and jars may be reused, but a new flat lid must be used each time.

PRESERVED TOMATO PURÉE

Time: 3 hours, plus 12 hours’ cooling

Yield: 3 quarts or 6 pints

8 pounds firm, ripe, red tomatoes (about 10 to 12, depending on size)

Lemon juice, bottled lemon juice or citric acid

Salt (kosher, pickling or fine sea salt only), optional

1. Peel, core and roughly chop tomatoes. Put in a large nonreactive pot, cover and simmer 10 minutes. Purée through medium disc of a food mill to remove skins and most seeds.

2. Put a rack in a large stockpot or line pot with a folded kitchen towel, then fill with water and bring to a boil. Add quart or pint jars and boil 10 minutes. Jars may be left in warm water until ready to fill. Alternatively, sterilize jars by running them through a dishwasher cycle, keeping them warm in the machine.

3. Place canning rings in small saucepan, cover with water and bring to a boil. Turn off heat and add flat lids to soften rubber gaskets. Rings and lids may be left in water until jars are filled.

4. Bring purée to a boil, then down to a sturdy simmer and cook to reduce by one third, about 30 minutes. Ladle hot purée into warm jars, leaving a little more than 1/2 inch head space to accommodate lemon juice. If using citric acid, fill to 1/2 inch head space.

5. Into every quart jar, add 2 tablespoons lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon citric acid. For pints, use one tablespoon lemon juice or 1/4 teaspoon citric acid. If using salt, add 1 teaspoon to each quart or 1/2 teaspoon to each pint jar.

6. Wipe jar rims clean with a damp towel. Place lids on jars, screw on rings and lower jars upright into pot of boiling water. Return to a full boil and process for 45 minutes for quarts or 35 minutes for pints. If there are mixed sizes, process for the longer time. Transfer jars to a folded towel and let cool for 12 hours. Jars will ping as they seal.

7. Once cool, test the seals by removing rings and lifting jars by their flat lids. If a lid releases, the seal has not formed. Unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used within one week or reprocessed. Rings and jars may be reused, but a new flat lid must be used each time.

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