The mater question

So I get this email from my girlfriend asking if I use the hot-water-bath method or the pressure canner method to can my tomatoes and I tell her that I use the hot water bath.

And then a couple days later I get another email from her, this time asking if I do them raw pack or stewed.

I haven’t a clue, to be honest, but I don’t tell her that. In fact, I don’t tell her anything at all, preferring instead to let her think the reason I haven’t gotten around to answering her email is because I’m too busy, rather than the cold, hard truth which is that I’m avoiding the question since I don’t have a quick answer. I’m a good friend like that—skipping out when the going gets tough.

But I will now redeem myself by commencing to give a fully complete, well-rounded, all-encompassing (go redundancy!) answer to the Mater Question, as my girlfriend calls it, in the form of an entire (short) post. Maybe I’m not such a bad friend after all?

One more thing to enhance the confusion factor: I call these tomatoes “stewed” but I don’t actually stew them before canning, so maybe they’re not stewed. Does that mean I’m lying when I call these “stewed tomatoes?”

In any case, I think it’s an easy-peasy way to put up tomatoes.

But then again, maybe the rest of you have easier-peasier ways? If so, please enlighten me (and my girlfriend).

Stewed Tomatoes, Canned

High-acid (red) tomatoes, such as Big Boy, Better Boy, Roma, etc.

1. Wash the tomatoes.

2. Blanch the tomatoes, which means:

Fill a large kettle with four inches of water and bring it to a boil. Drop enough tomatoes into the kettle to cover the bottom of the pan.

Wait for thirty to sixty seconds, or until you see the tomato skins starting to split. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes from the boiling water to a colander.

Repeat the process (bringing the water back up to a boil between batches) until all the tomatoes have been blanched.

3. Remove the skins, which means:

Once the tomatoes are cool enough to touch, cut off their tops and any bad parts (use your sniffer to make sure you sliced all the yuck out—if you slice off a bad spot, make sure to rinse your knife before moving on to another tomato) and slip off the skins.

4. Chop the skinned and scalped tomatoes into the desired size. Some people (like my mother) just chunk in the peeled tomatoes, but I prefer to chop mine up into smaller pieces because they are easier to use this way (just pop the top and dump) and less offensive to children.

5. Fill your jars. At this point you get to decide what juice-tomato ratio you would like to have—for a more tomato-packed jar, leave out much of the tomato juice, and for a more juicy tomato-y jar, add less chunks and more juice. (That was probably way too obvious, but I felt compelled to say it anyway.)

6. Add salt—one teaspoon per quart and one-half teaspoon per pint—wipe the lip of the jar, put the lids on, and screw on the rings.

7. Process the jars of tomatoes in a hot water bath—ten minutes at a gentle boil.

About One Year Ago: So why did I marry him? Thirteen years and counting!


  • Anonymous

    I'm new to canning!! Might be a dumb question but I'm still a little confused so I'll ask anyway. Where do I get the tomato juice & how far do we fill them?

    • Jennifer Jo

      No dumb questions!

      When you cut up the tomatoes, they'll ooze lots of juice. By the time you're done chopping, you'll have a big bowl of soupy tomatoes. It's up to you whether you use the juice or not.

  • Anonymous

    That's a thought as I could never come up with a good use for it. I'll ponder on this a bit. Maybe I will and maybe I won't.

    Aunt V.

  • Jennifer Jo

    Wait, Auntie V! Do you still have that bottle of wine? Listen, go buy something cheap for the sauce and then bring the good bottle to the soiree and we can sip it while we lounge around flipping through magazines and chewing the fat. Okay?

  • Anonymous

    I only cook with good wine but I'd never cook with REALLY good wine. I might sip it while cooking, though.
    yum. wine.

  • Anonymous

    Grocery stores in Pa don't sell alcohol. They sell cooking wine and that's it. But you said that's inferior and as I like to use high quality ingredients I guess I'll use the bottle of expensive wine. As I ponder this I realize that it could be in the basement laying on it's side for the rest of my days and it is in my way.

    As for your comment about your mother chunking in the tomatoes, I remember canning tomatoes with Grandma Baer and she would stuff the whole big tomoto in the jar. She said it would fall to pieces when you go to cook with it anyway.

    Aunt V.

  • Jennifer Jo

    Yes, yes, that would be a very big crime! I am no wine expert, but I do know that much. However, there is no need for you to break your record streak—most grocery stores sell red wine, and even if they don't have a wine section, they usually sell cooking wines with the vinegars (you may want to go one step up from those, though, as they tend to be pretty blech).

  • Anonymous

    For the wine sauce, when we were in Europe our friends gave us a bottle of expensive red wine to bring back. Would it be a crime to use it in my sauce or should I break down and enter a wine store for the first time in my life and buy a bottle of the cheapest red wine available?

    Aunt V

  • Jennifer Jo

    I planted 12 Roma plants this year (and 12 plants of juice tomatoes) and even with the plants getting the blight kiss, I'm having extra to share. I just did pizza sauce and an oven-load of roasted tomatoes last night and I need to do another batch of wine sauce (and more roasted tomatoes, of course), but then I think I'll be done. The end is in sight!

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