I Say Tomato…

It may still be 108 degrees here in Dallas, but fall is definitely in the air. That means Sundays on the couch watching football, butternut squash soup, apple cider, and homemade chili (yes, most of my love for fall stems from food). Let me tell you – I love chili. Sprinkled with cheddar cheese. Leftover. On hotdogs. With a peanut butter sandwich. With grilled cheese. With a cold Oktoberfest beer. Pretty much anyway you serve it, I love chili.

My mom makes the best chili I know. It’s super easy and only gets better with time (chili is way better the second day). Basically, you brown burger (usually venison growing up) and onions, then dump in beans, home canned tomato juice, and Mom’s secret chili seasoning. It’s the home canned tomato juice that makes the difference. So, knowing that cooler temperatures and football season are only a few weeks away (!) I decided it was time to venture into the realm of home canning.

My poor tomato plants have sadly fried in this Texas heat (despite daily watering), so Saturday morning the hubs and I headed down to the Dallas Farmers market. Reusable shopping bags in hand, we perused the stalls and sampled everything from cantaloupe and homemade tamales to Texas peaches and local honey (which was so delicious we had to buy a bottle).

When we had sampled basically everything the vendors had to offer, we found a local farmer willing to sell us a box of her most ripe tomatoes.

The tomatoes were still dirty from the field so we washed each one and inspected them for any bug/wormies that we didn’t want in our juice.

Once the tomatoes were all washed, we ended up with a pile like this.

The hubs and I then cut the tomatoes into small pieces that would fit through my new juicer (a wedding gift… we have such great family and friends!).

We ended with two huge bowls of tomato parts. We didn’t have to worry about peeling or seeding because the juicer takes care of all that.

Then came the fun part. Our Kitchen Aid juicer attaches to our mixer. The tomatoes are fed into the hopper in the top and an auger forces the fruit through a cone strainer. The juice come out the holes, and the seeds and skin fall out the end.

Once the juice bowl was full, we transferred it to a waiting pan to heat. The juice needs to almost reach a boil (actually boiling can create “off” flavors, or so my mom says) and you’ll want to stir occasionally as the pulp tends to settle and scorch (and yes, that’s the hubs helping out in the picture below).

While the juice is heating, we prepped our jars. They need to be sterilized (we ran ours on the high temp wash in the dishwasher), along with the rings, funnel, and ladle used to fill them. We added one teaspoon of canning salt to each jar to help preserve the juice.

We ladled the hot juice into the jars, filling them halfway up the threads. Filling them to the top or underfilling them can cause the juice to spoil. We were also sure to wipe any spilled juice from the top lip of the jars. Any residue left here can keep the lids from sealing (again, more spoilage).

We heated the lids in hot water to activate the sealing ring, then placed them on the jars with tongs (fingers = potential bacteria = spoilage) and screwed the rings on.

Typically, we would have then put our jars into a hot water canner to seal them. Instead, we placed them in our dishwasher and ran them on the high temp pots and pans cycle. This is an old trick that both our families use to seal the jars without the hassle of a using a canner.  [EDIT: There are some who say that dishwasher canning isn’t as safe as using a traditional bath canner. This is true if you don’t have your water turned up hot enough. If you plan on using your dishwasher, make sure your water is hot. If in doubt, go with the traditional way. We’re in no way professionals] It works great for us because we don’t own a canner. Yet. I have plans. Big plans. But more on that later.

45 minutes later and Viola! Ten quarts of chili ready home canned tomato juice.

Our costs were:

$20 for the tomatoes
$8 for the jars and lids (the jars and rings can be reused indefinitely)
$3 for canning salt (we only used 10 teaspoons out of a 1 lb bag, so we have plenty for future use)

for a grand total of $35 dollars. Yes, you can buy tens cans of store bought tomato juice for waaaay less than $35. Next year however, I’ll have my own tomato plants, won’t have the jar cost (only new lids) or the salt. And really, when you taste chili made with homemade juice, it’s worth every penny!

Have you ever canned anything at home? Do you have any time saving tricks (like using the dishwasher) to make canning easier? What reminds you of fall?


7 thoughts on “I Say Tomato…

  1. Pingback: A Homemade Christmas, Part II « Little House. Big Heart.

  2. Pingback: Thursday Dilemma: Growing Pains « Little House. Big Heart.

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