Canning Tomatoes (in October!!)

I know!  I know!  It’s November now and people are not thinking about gardens, fresh tomatoes, and canning.  We just finished up Halloween and most people’s thoughts are turning to Thanksgiving, followed by Christmas.  But here I am, marching to the beat of my own drum, and writing a blog post about canning tomatoes. But I have a very good reason for this, and that is because I DID can tomatoes that were picked from our own yard just a couple of weeks ago — in October.  You see, I have a giant compost pile in our garden area behind our garage.  It’s not a bin, just a couple of large squares of land divided by a little fence-thing that I bought at Lowe’s.  My pile has to big because of the large amount yard waste we have, and I do not want to build a large container.  However, because it is out in the open, every year it grows lots of weeds. This year, I thought I would outsmart the pile and put a large piece of black plastic over-top of it, which is held down by bricks.  When I wanted to add something to the pile, I simply picked up a brick and the plastic and threw it in.  But you can see from the picture below that the pile was smarter than me.  Since it couldn’t send weeds out the middle, it just grew them out of the 4 sides and over the top of the plastic instead!   Compost Pile At one point, I considered pulling all of the weeds out, but then I noticed that a lot of them were tomato plant volunteers, and so I left them.  I thought to myself, “I’ll just see what they do.”  And this is what they did (lol!).  Not only did they take over the pile, but they started growing tomatoes!  Lots and lots of small green tomatoes. Well, it was September and I’m in Virginia so September can still be kind of warm at times.  My husband and I thought these green tomatoes might have a chance of turning red, so we waited, and waited, and some of them did turn red.  But most of them didn’t.  Finally, our temperatures were dropping and so my husband sent my daughter outside with the challenge to pick as many of the green (or red) tomatoes as she could find. Green Tomatoes 3 And while she did not exactly go willingly (spiders, and snakes, and bees – oh my!), once she got to work she found that it was not as bad as it appeared to be.  And this is what she brought to me…several bowlfuls of little tomatoes! Green Tomatoes I think the original idea was that we would let them ripen up on the counter, but with so many…well, something else had to be done. Tomatoes So (with my one sister’s help) I looked into it a little bit and found that people do make things out of green tomatoes.  For example, some people apparently make jam using fruit flavored jello.  (Who would have ever thought!)  And some people make salsa.  But after the initial internet search I decided to look into my canning cookbook that I have, simply because when it comes to food safety and canning, I trust this book.  I learned that I could simply can the tomatoes themselves (the same way people can ripened tomatoes) for sauce or something, but I ultimately decided on a recipe for green tomato relish.  So I separated out all of the red ones (look how many did ripen out there…in September and October!).  (Oh, and see the one little banana pepper she found too!). Green Tomato Relish (cooking) I had to go to the store for the onions and bell peppers that the recipe also called for, but here it all is in the pot after being mixed up and boiled in vinegar and sugar for a bit. Pressure Canner This is where I had to figure some things out.  I have a giant pressure canner which I have never used the “pressure” part of (I’m a little scared to).   But shortly after we purchased this pot we needed a new stove and bought a glass-top.  The canner has etching on the bottom of it that could scratch the stove so I’ve been a little uncertain as to how I would do my future canning. Well, it just so happens, that for emergency purposes, this summer my husband decided to buy this double burner in case the power goes out (with the idea to run it off of the generator).  And it occurred to me that maybe I could just put the pot on it! It almost worked too.  You would think that giant pot would tip the burners over, but it did not.  It is full of water in this picture, and the burners were very stable.  But the problem was that the water would not come to a boil.  I waited over an hour, and it just would not. Green Tomato Relish Water Bath So what to do, what to do?  I pulled out my largest pot and set it on my stove, and boiled the jars in there.  They rattled something fierce when I was sanitizing the jars, and after a quick internet search I learned that if you do not have a rack that fits your pot you can put several of the jar rings in the bottom of your pot instead.  And it worked!  They did not rattle nearly so much during the canning process as they had before. Since the cooking pot was smaller than the canning pot, I was only able to fit four jars at a time.  Really it was no big deal though, because I only had seven jars total.  Two batches, and I was done. Green Tomato Relish Ta da!  “Pickled Green Tomato Relish.”  Here is the recipe in case anyone else out there ever finds themselves with tomato plants growing furiously out of their compost pile in October!  🙂

 Pickled Green Tomato Relish

from “Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving


10 lbs small hard green tomates

1-1/2 lbs red bell peppers

1-1/2 lbs green bell peppers

2 lbs onions

1/2 cup pickling or canning salt

1 qt water

4 cups sugar

1 qt vinegar (5%)

1/3 cup prepared yellow mustard

2 Tbsp cornstarch

Yield: 7-9 pints


Wash and coaresly grate or finely chop tomatoes, peppers, and onions.  Dissolve salt in water and pour over vegetables in large kettle.  Heat to boiling and simmer 5 minutes.  Drain in colander.  Return vegetables to kettle.  Heat to boiling and simmer 5 minutes.  Drain in colander.  Return vegetables to kettle.  Add sugar, vinegar, mustard, and cornstarch.  Stir to mix.  Heat to boil and simmer 5 minutes.  Fill steril pint jars with hot relish, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.  Adjust lids and process.

Process times for pint jars:

0-1,000 feet altitude:  5 minutes

1,001-6,000 feet altitude: 10 minutes

Above 6,000 feet altitude:  15 minutes

{note:  I cut this recipe in half}