Juicy, ripe tomatoes, what is there not to love and enjoy?
Those who garden wait anxiously for that first ripe tomato to pick and savor. Tomatoes come in many varieties; there are actually supposed to be 10,000.
For the best flavor, allow them to ripen on the vine before picking. Though you may prefer a chilled tomato, they should be stored at room temperature for the best flavor and to avoid a mealy texture. Storing them stem-side down will give a longer storage life. Once tomatoes are cut into, they should be stored in the refrigerator for the purpose of food safety.
Many people would like to preserve their abundant crop of tomatoes for future use. If you wish to can them, be sure to follow the current USDA recommendations. The addition of lemon juice or citric acid is required in all canned tomatoes to raise the acidity level. These guidelines are in place to prevent botulism, a potentially deadly foodborne illness. The processing time is also longer than many people think. If processing in the water bath canner and using the method of packing the raw peeled tomatoes into the jars, pressing them down tightly to create their own juice, the processing time is 95 minutes at the altitude of 3001 to 4000 feet (Billings is 3153 ft.)
You can save time by processing them in a pressure canner. For the correct recommendations for your area, contact your local extension agent. For all the current USDA recommendations on food preservation, go to one of the following website -- http://nchfp.uga.edu
At the end of the summer you may have green tomatoes you would like to use. The following recipe is one I have used with much success.
Spicy Pickled Green Tomatoes (Makes 6 pints):
(From Better Homes & Gardens Special Interest Publication—“Canning”)
3 pounds green tomatoes
½ cup seeded, chopped red sweet peppers (1 small)
¼ cup seeded, finely chopped fresh jalapeno chili peppers (4 medium)
4 ½ cups white vinegar
3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons mustard seed
5 teaspoons whole black peppercorns
2 teaspoons celery seeds
Wash and core tomatoes. Cut tomatoes into ¼ inch thick slices; should have 12 cups tomatoes. In a large bowl, combine the tomatoes, onion slices, sweet pepper, and chili peppers.
In a large stainless steel, enamel or nonstick saucepan, combine remaining ingredients. Bring to boiling, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat.
Pack tomato mixture into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Pour hot vinegar mixture over tomato mixture in jars, maintaining the 1/2–inch headspace. Wipe jar rims; adjust lids.
Process in a boiling water canner for 15 minutes. Adjust for altitude. Remove jars from canner; cool on racks.