“It is a great time to start a tomato canning tradition.” So begins an article from the Washington Post by Cathy Barrow, in a tone so optimistic it might make you forget your own struggles to grow backyard tomatoes worthy of canning. (It’s hard not to see the precision attacks by armies of stink bugs as anything but personal.) Luckily, Barrow alternatively suggests purchasing the beautiful farmers market tomatoes in this year’s abundant and high-quality harvest, then canning the remainder to enjoy in your cooking all year long. Though there are many articles out there about canning, this one is suffused with the joy and satisfaction of a job well done: “Tomato preservation is a task best shared with family or friends,” Barrow writes, “but if working on your own, you will still end the day in a kind of exhausted glory and with a pantry full of summer’s bounty.”
The walkthrough starts with a list of some of the best varieties of tomatoes for canning, which is anything meaty, with smaller seed sacks. (If you choose a more watery variety of tomato, that could impact the richness of the flavors once preserved.) This is also a great way to use tomatoes that you might not otherwise use for snacking or BLTs, because you can simply cut out the bruises and spots before adding imperfect tomatoes to the canning assembly line. And it is indeed an assembly line, requiring a setup of pots, pans, and messy prep stations. Barrow explains it this way:
I crush, smash, tear and combine the pulpy and watery tomato meat until it’s a cohesive, chunky mixture, then begin cooking those crushed tomatoes — about a quart at a time — as I continue peeling, seeding and tearing the rest. Essentially, I’m a one-person band concurrently banging the cymbal, playing the harmonica and fiddling. This is the big work of tomato canning and shouldn’t be rushed.
If that doesn’t make this end-of-summer kitchen project sound appealing, I don’t know what will. The whole article is worth a read, with the warning that it might leave you with the itch to start putting up tomatoes with the fervor of a true homesteader. (If you’re not into all of that, though, just buy the good stuff.)