WDAY.com |

North Dakota's #1 news website 10,650,498 page views — March 2014

Published October 12, 2012, 12:00 AM

Prairie Fare: Canning tomatoes easier than most think

“Could you freeze the rest of the tomatoes tomorrow?” I asked my husband. I had filled a large box and a 5-gallon pail with large, ripe tomatoes. I also was packing to leave for a conference the next day.

By: Julie Garden-Robinson, INFORUM

“Could you freeze the rest of the tomatoes tomorrow?” I asked my husband.

I had filled a large box and a 5-gallon pail with large, ripe tomatoes. I also was packing to leave for a conference the next day.

“Have you looked in the freezer lately?” he responded.

I opened the upright chest freezer and was greeted by a wall of red tomatoes packed in every possible open space.

“OK, I see there’s no room. Do you want to try canning the tomatoes while I’m gone? You helped me make salsa, and canning plain tomatoes is easier,” I coaxed.

He just looked at me without saying a word. I think I chuckled, which probably wasn’t the right response. He probably thought I had somehow controlled the ripening of the tomatoes.

“After all that watering, do you want to waste the tomatoes? We can pick up some more quart jars, so you will use the tomatoes faster,” I added.

Appealing to his economical and efficient sides usually works.

“Oh, Ok, I’ll can them. Can you print the directions?” he asked.

I went to our computer and printed out one of our most popular NDSU Extension Service canning guides, “Canning and Freezing Tomatoes and Making Salsa” available at http://tinyurl.


“Be sure to add 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice to each quart of tomatoes and 1 tablespoon per pint. All tomatoes need added acid to be safely canned,” I noted.

“Is that written in the directions?” he asked.

“Yes, it’s right here,” I said.

A day later, when I was at my conference, I received a text message from him: “I’m canning tomatoes. How long do I boil the lids?”

I texted back: “Don’t boil the lids! Simmer them.”

In fact, I called him at this point.

If you boil the lids, the jars might not seal. You need to prepare the lids according to the directions, which usually involves simmering. You also need to process the jars in a boiling water bath or pressure canner for the recommended amount of time.

I didn’t receive any text messages for several hours. Then my cellphone indicated I had a new message.

The text said: “Finished 17 quarts of tomatoes.”

“Did they seal?” I texted back.

“All sealed,” he responded.

When I arrived home several days later, I saw the fruits of his labor all neatly arranged on our countertop. He went out to the garden the next day and gleaned the rest of the tomatoes: enough for 8 pints.

“Have you noticed all the ripe apples on the tree?” I asked, a bit tongue-in-cheek.

“Yes, I was thinking I could try making apple pie filling. I saw the pie filling canning guide on the NDSU website,” he responded.

I almost fell over.

We have a “Fruit Pie Fillings” guide at http://tinyurl.com/8kzj73a and a fruit canning guide at http://tinyurl.com/8szgtms.

So, we will be enjoying lots of tomato-based soup, stew, casseroles and other dishes made with our homegrown tomatoes this winter, perhaps served with an apple dessert.

Tomatoes can be used in a variety of ways, and we have many forms available to us. Tomatoes are low in calories and nutrient-rich. One half of a large tomato has 25 calories, 2 grams of fiber, 25 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin A and 30 percent of the daily recommendation for vitamin C.

Here’s a recipe courtesy of “Buying Kentucky Proud” that I picked up at the conference I was attending while my husband canned tomatoes. This recipe calls for fresh tomatoes. We might have a few fresh tomatoes left.

Tomato Basil Bruschetta

3 plum tomatoes, chopped

1/3 cup chopped onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

6 tablespoons olive oil (divided)

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil (or 1 teaspoon dried basil)

½ teaspoon dried oregano

¼ teaspoon salt

1/3 teaspoon ground pepper

1 16-ounce loaf of whole-wheat French bread cut into ½-inch slices

Preheat the oven broiler. Combine tomatoes, onion, garlic, red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, basil, oregano, salt and pepper. Set aside. Lightly brush both sides of bread slices with remaining olive oil and arrange on ungreased baking sheet.

Place baking sheet about 3 to 4 inches from the broiler and heat for two to three minutes on each side or until golden brown.

Top each slice with the tomato mixture, using a slotted spoon. Serve.

Makes 16 servings. Each serving has 140 calories, 5 g of fat, 19 g of carbohydrate, 4 g of protein and 250 mg of sodium.

Julie Garden-Robinson, Ph.D., R.D., L.R.D., is a North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist and professor in the Department of Health, Nutrition and Exercise Sciences.