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    Canning Tomatoes from your Home Garden

    After all the work you put into your garden, you don't want any of it to go to waste. Sharing is nice, but when your neighbors run the other way when you arrive on their doorstep bearing zucchini or yet another bushel of pole beans, it might be time to think about preserving your garden produce by home canning it.

    Preserving your own food reduces exposure to chemicals, pesticides, and preservatives, and, if you preserve foods at their peak of ripeness, they provide better nutritional advantage.

    Safety is imperative, however, in home canning because if sterilizing, heating, and sealing aren't done correctly, bacteria such as botulism can cause deadly food poisoning.

    For first-time canners, tomatoes are a good vegetable to begin with, because their naturally high acidity prevents the growth of dangerous bacteria, and they're easy to can, particularly by the water bath method.

    As you become more comfortable and knowledgeable with the canning process, you may choose to can all kinds of fruits and vegetables: pears, peaches, beans, pickles, corn, and much more.

     

    FIRST, ASSEMBLE THE FOLLOWING EQUIPMENT:

    • 1 bushel of freshly picked tomatoes (will yield 21 to 24 quarts)
    • A water bath canner that holds 7 quart jars
    • Several large pans, such as a roaster and an 8-quart or larger pot
    • Canning jars with rings and new lids
    • Tongs
    • Jar lifter
    • Clean white cloth for wiping tops of filled jars
    • Net bag (You can make your own by cutting net about 20 inches long by 26 inches wide. Fold down the center and sew down one side and across the bottom. This makes a 20-inch long by 13-inch wide net bag.)
    • Clean dish towels and pot holders
    • Canning salt (do not use iodized salt)
     

    STEP BY STEP:

    1. Wash jars, rings, and lids in hot, soapy water. Sterilize jars by placing three or four at a time in a large pot of boiling water for three minutes. Carefully lift out with tongs and a potholder. Set upside down on clean dish towels.
    2. Place about a peck of tomatoes (about 1/4 bushel) in the sink and wash off dust and dirt.
    3. Put about 10 tomatoes into the net bag. Dip into an 8-quart pot of boiling water, scalding for 25 seconds. Lift out and deposit tomatoes in one side of your clean kitchen sink, or in a large pan. Continue this process until all tomatoes are scalded.