Preserving Tomatoes

This year’s tomato crop was early and enormous. I have canned 48 pints, and there is another 36 on the vines. Here’s a photo essay on how I do it.


Wait until the tomatoes are fully ripe for best flavor. A couple of orange shoulders won’t ruin the batch, but when in doubt, wait another week.


Cut the stem ends off, then slice through the skin from end to end.


Prepare to blanch the tomatoes for 20 – 30 seconds each. You will need a second pan to transfer the hot tomatoes to cool and a slotted spoon to remove them from the water.


Drop a few at a time into rapidly boiling water, then give them a little stir. As soon as the skin starts to loosen, remove them to the second pan. Allow the water to return to a boil before adding the next batch.


Ripe tomato skins should easily peel off after a quick blanch.


When the tomatoes are all blanched and cooled, slip the fruit out of their skins,


Then crush them into a suitable bowl. You can leave them whole, or puree them, but I like the texture of a simple squish to cook with.



Meanwhile, put your canning jars in the dishwasher on a short or light soil cycle, then hold them warm when they are done.


Place the lids in a small pot over low heat to soften the seals. Don’t let them boil, or you will weaken the soft sealing ring.


Ladle the crushed tomatoes into the warm jars, using a small tool to poke the air pockets out. I fill the jars just to the bottom of the filling funnel. If you fill too full, the jars will likely break inside of the canning pot.


I add 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid to each pint. Some people use lemon juice, but I don’t like the flavor.


Place a warm lid on each filled jar, then screw the ring on snugly. Don’t tighten them too much. When the tomatoes get hot, the trapped air needs to be able to escape to create the vacuum that will eventually seal the jars.


Place the finished jars on the rack, and submerge them into the boiling canning pot. Cover the pot, and wait for the water to return to a boil.


When it does, (don’t be confused by the air bubbles that will start to escape from the jars as soon as they get hot) set the timer for 40 minutes. Wen the pot gets to a crazy boil, I reduce the heat so that it is just a steady rolling boil.


Remove the processed jars to a safe place to cool. You will hear the clink of the top sealing as they cool, and the centers will be indented. When they are completely cool, I remove the rings and wash and reuse them. I also wash the jars because they will be sticky from the tomato juice that escapes from the jars during processing.



After they cool, the tomato pulp will rise to the top. I give them a good shake, and everything goes back together.


Happy Canning!

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David Gingrass is a food and beverage operations professional with a career spanning more than three decades. His fascination with and love for food, wine and entertaining allows him to view his work as both a vocation and an avocation. Gingrass graduated from the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, New York then cooked in the Bay Area for two years before landing a job at Wolfgang Puck’s original Spago Restaurant in West Hollywood. There he learned to make the signature breads and sausages that he became known for at Postrio and Hawthorne Lane. He was soon promoted to kitchen manager and managed the operational and expense control aspects of Puck’s iconic restaurant for the next four years. Gingrass returned to San Francisco in 1989 when Puck tapped him and his then-wife Anne to open Postrio, Puck’s third restaurant and his first outside of Los Angeles. Postrio opened to rave reviews and soon became the #1 popular Bay Area restaurant in the prestigious Zagat survey. Five and a half years later, the opportunity to open a restaurant of his own presented itself. Hawthorne Lane opened in 1995 and was a San Francisco dining institution for over twelve years, catering to the likes of Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Mayor Willie Brown, James Carville, President Clinton and First Lady Hilary Clinton. He closed Hawthorne Lane at the end of its fifteen-year lease in 2009 to build a consulting practice for the hospitality industry, sharing his wealth of culinary and operational experiences with new and existing restaurants, assisting them to become successful and profitable.