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Cold-Pack Whole Tomatoes

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Special Note: Raw-packing tomatoes has been a great way to enjoy summer taste in the winter. But the power of the consumer has had an impact on preserving that calls for some changes. Some of the most popular garden varieties of tomatoes have been bred to be sweeter and less acidic - this makes for delicious fresh tomatoes, but brings many of them above the safe ph for high-acid preserving methods.

Here's an example of some garden tomato ph levels taken this summer:
Early girl 4.3
Aunt Ruby's German Green 4.1
Hillbilly 4.2
Russian 117 4.2
Ed's Millenium 4.0

In contrast, here are some acidic ph levels:
Meyer Lemon 2.4
Susan's Red Wine Vinegar 2.4
Commercial Red Wine Vinegar 2.4
Rice Wine Vinegar 2.5
White Vinegar 2.3

Many of the tomatoes that were tested could benefit from a little acid added to the mix before water bath processing (1/4 tsp citric acid or 1 Tbsp lemon juice per pint). If you don't like how the acid changes the flavor or have a very non-acid tomato (like Opalka) you're safest to pressure can, freeze or dry.

The USDA guidelines for processing requirements have also changed with regard to raw-pack tomatoes, calling for 85 minutes. Problem is, that tends to give you tomoato sauce by the time you're done. I've just switched to freezing my tomatoes and making ketchup.
Recipe below won Blue Ribbon and Best of Section 2000 Santa Clara County Fair and a ribbon in 1997 with 45 minute processing time.

Remove the core from the tomatoes (a tomato corer makes this much easier). Peel tomatoes by dipping them in boiling water and then dipping in ice water.

See instructions for preparing and filling jars.

Pack tomatoes in jars and press down to create enough juice to reach within 1/4 inch of the top of the jar. Add 1/2 teaspoon of salt per pint. Run a spatula or butter knife along the side of the jars to release any air. Place the jars in pot and add water to 1-2" above tops of jars.

Bring jars to a gentle boil and process 85 minutes. Remove from pot and set out to cool. Jars should be sealed within 12 hours.

 

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