Tasty Tomatoes

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The fresh taste of tomatoes, just off the vine and still warm from the sun…what a delicious summer flavor. Tomatoes from the garden are the vegetable I miss most when I have to resort to grocery stores tomatoes. Store bought tomatoes are often not very flavorful and are somewhat anemic in color in comparison to the deep red shade of fresh. Tomato sandwiches, cherry tomatoes in salads or just by the handful, homemade salsa and sauces, local tomatoes are a real treat!

Summer is the time of year to take advantage of locally grown seasonal tomatoes. Not only do they taste better fresh, the local supply make it a great time to purchase some at a reasonable price and preserve for later use.

Tomato varieties have been produced to be less acidic than in past years, resulting in changes for tomato processing procedures. One of the biggest adjustments is the recommendation to add acid to tomatoes and tomato products. If processing tomatoes with citric acid or lemon juice added is not part of your tomato canning procedures, you need to update your canning information. The acidification process for tomatoes, as provided by the National Center for Home Food Preservation is as follows:

Acidification: To ensure safe acidiy in whole, crushed, or juiced tomatoes, add two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice or 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid per quart of tomatoes. For pints, use one tablespoon bottled lemon juice or 1/3 teaspoon citric acid. Acid can be added directly to the jars before filling with product. Add sugar to offset acid taste, if desired. Four tablespoons of a 5 percent acidity vinegar per quart may be used instead of lemon juice or citric acid. However, vinegar may cause undesirable flavor changes.

If a procedure from the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning for canning tomatoes offers both boiling water and pressure canning options, all steps in the preparation (“Procedures”) are still required even if the pressure canning option is selected. This includes acidification. Both boiling water and pressure canning are recommended processing methods with different time/temperature combinations calculated for specific products. Make sure to follow the instructions.

Salsa is one of the most popular condiments made with tomatoes. It is fine to create your own favorite salsa recipe if you are going to enjoy it fresh. If you would like to can salsa for future use, it is important to select a recipe which has been tested to ensure safety.

For the most up to date instructions, call the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Alleghany County Center at 336-372-5597 or visit the National Center for Home Food Preservation.