It's rare to find a fruit or vegetable in a market when the variety is out of season. Tomatoes, for example, are at their best in Italy in the late spring and early summer. Most of the tomatoes in Italian markets come from Sicily, where the hot and sunny climate produces fruits bursting with flavor. When tomatoes are at their peak, Italians make great batches of passato al pomodoro (fresh bottled tomato sauce) to stockpile in their larders during the winter months when tomatoes and other vegetables are no longer in season.
You might think about getting the best tomatoes you can so you too can preserve the bounty of the seasonal produce and create a well-stocked pantry. See below for my tips on canning and preserving.
- Canning in huge quantities can seem like a daunting task. Start with smaller batches - even six or eight pints of sauce will go a long way toward making at least a few of your meals feel fresh and summery in the wintertime.
- Be sure not to use any jars with chips or cracks, as this can lead to bacteria.
- Make sure to sterilize the jars completely. Start by washing the jars, lids, and bands with hot, soapy water. Next, completely submerge the jars in boiling water for 10 minutes. Remove with tongs.
- Do not use any butter or fats when canning, unless specified in a tested recipe. These ingredients don't store well and tend to have a higher rate of spoilage.
- Do not thicken with starches, flour, or add rice, barley, or pasta to canned products. These items will absorb liquid quickly and slow the way the food heats, resulting in under-processed and possibly unsafe food.
- Don't use jars larger than specified in a recipe, as excess air could make the food unsafe.
- For more tips, see Ball's website.