I haven’t canned anything tomato-related for about two years. I decided to remedy that by purchasing a bushel of tomatoes from our co-op and enlisting my mom to come over on a Saturday to help out. Here’s what I learned.
You may have heard the trick of blanching tomatoes to make it easier to remove the skins. Well, my co-worker let me borrow her sauce maker. “It’s so much easier than blanching them!” she promised. Here’s a photo of something similar on Amazon.com:
My mom came over at about 10 AM. I decided to do a double batch of pizza sauce so I weighed and washed 24 pounds of tomatoes, both from my garden and the co-op. I assembled the machine and started cranking. Wow, that was a lot of work! The trick, we discovered, was to cut the tomatoes into smaller pieces than quarters and it goes through a lot easier. It’s pretty nifty, the tomato guts go through the spout into a bowl and the seeds and skins come out another little spout.
It was pretty messy – the plastic tray that guides the guts kept coming off – I could not figure out how to get it on. Also it was leaking for some reason. Nevertheless, it did the job. My mom swore that her way – the blanching – was easier, so the next day I decided to see for myself.
I was staring at more than half a bushel of tomatoes to use up and looked through all of my canning/food preservation books to try to find something easy. I didn’t feel like trying out the pressure canner and my freezer space is at a premium right now, so I decided the easiest thing to do would be to make barbecue sauce and ketchup as that seemed to need the least amount of time in the canner. Plus, I was not going to spend all this time pureeing tomatoes and then try to make something out of it later.
There are two reasons I decided not to use the machine: One, I wanted to see if it had saved any time over blanching. Two, I did not feel like trying to clean it again. Tomato guts do not want to come out of the little steel mesh very easily.
So I found myself boiling and dipping and peeling another 24 pounds of tomatoes.
The Verdict: About halfway through the batch, I was up to my elbows in tomato guts and skins. My feet hurt. I was all sweaty from standing over the boiling water. I was using a tomato corer to get the core off the top and had cut myself a bit. I wondered why the heck we spend time canning things we can get at the store for 99 cents on sale. I cursed God for making tomatoes with skins in the first place. I decided that neither way really saved any time. I ran out of jars and ended up freezing half of the barbecue sauce. By 10:30 PM I had tomato guts, water, and bloody-looking towels EVERYWHERE.
I cooked and cooked and it never did quite get to a regular ketchup consistency. I’m guessing they add some sort of thickener in the store-bought stuff. I was getting frustrated when I decided to just try a spoonful.
A delicious aroma hit my nose as I lifted the watery stuff to my lips. The taste? Incredible. The recipe? Coming later this week . . .
I decided right then that even though it makes no financial sense to can tomato products, and there are no easy short cuts whether you use a machine or the old fashioned boiling water method to skin them, there’s something special about the final product.