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Preserving the Harvest canning, drying, smoking, etc.

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Old 10/24/10, 09:31 AM
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: W. Massachusetts
Posts: 319
How many tomatoes to plan to can?

I've never canned before, but I'm gearing up to do it next year. I plan to focus on tomatoes to start with, though I'll try a few other things too.

To oversimplify the question, if I want to put up 50 quarts of tomato sauce for the year, how many tomato plants do I need to plant?

I know it's oversimplified, because it depends on the variety of tomato and how well the crop does and so on. But I gotta start somewhere I really don't know, 10 plants, 100 plants... ? A ballpark?
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Old 10/24/10, 09:46 AM
Join Date: Dec 2009
Location: tn
Posts: 95
It really depends if you are wanting to can all at once or over the entire summer. I always plant around 30 to 40 plants that way when they come in we have plenty to can with, eat, cull, feed the varmits and give away.
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Old 10/24/10, 10:05 AM
judylou's Avatar  
Join Date: Jun 2009
Location: Arkansas
Posts: 1,276
If you want to end up with 50 quarts of tomato sauce, which is a very impressive goal, then IMO you will need a MINIMUM of 50 very productive plants. 100 plants would increase your odds substantially given all the many variables that can affect production. So ultimately, the goal would be to plant as many tomato plants as you have room for and plan on using highly productive determinate varieties.

Keep in mind that an industry average, per plant production number is 10 lbs. depending on variety. Also that 'sauce', the juice from processed tomatoes, is cooked down by 1/2 before being canned.
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Old 10/24/10, 04:07 PM
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: W. Massachusetts
Posts: 319
Thanks, that's helpful! It was also helpful to know I set an ambitious goal. I will scale my expectations (hopes) back a little I don't mind starting slowly.
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Old 10/24/10, 05:03 PM
Phoebesmum's Avatar  
Join Date: Jan 2009
Location: Southern Indiana
Posts: 933
Keep in mind that tomato SAUCE takes far more tomatoes than diced tomatoes and even tomato juice.
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Old 10/24/10, 05:12 PM
Macybaby's Avatar
I love South Dakota
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: South Dakota
Posts: 5,317
this year I planted about 30 paste type tomatoes and about 20 regular tomatoes (assorted) and a couple of cherry/grape tomatoes.

Out of those plants I have put up
99 pints of chunked tomatoes
23 qts of whole tomatoes

I raw pack with no juice so those are both squished in as much as possible

I was picking every few days, and ran out of time a few times and also ended up with 175 lbs of cut up tomatoes in the freezer. I've since given half of those away. I also have 10 qts of frozen sauce that I didn't have time to can up.

I also put up 8 pints of cocktail sauce, 6 pints of ketchup and 37 pints of pizza sauce.

I have 7 qts and 6 pts of seasoned tomato sauce
14 qts and 6 pts of plain sauce
29 pints of spageitti sauce with meat
20 pts of BBQ sauce

For fun I made a batch of tomato basil jelly and hot tomato jelly

I also have 8 pts of dilled green cherry tomatoes, 18 pts of tomato apple chutney, 5 pts green tomato mincemeat and 12 pts of green tomato chutney.

Near the end I got tired of dealing with tomatoes and gave away at least 150 lbs of tomatoes. Then we got hit with a frost and this year I didn't even attempt to cover any plants.

In contrast, last year I planted almost as much, got hit with late blight and got about 10 tomatoes total. That is one reason I put up so much this year - I hate running out of tomatoes!

If you don't have jars or equipment, you may want to start looking around. It may be a little bit late, but some places still have some in stock and have been clearancing them out. You can also look at garage sales or wait until summer for pre-season sales on jars.

I'm addicted to canning.

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Old 10/24/10, 05:14 PM
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: W. Massachusetts
Posts: 319
That is indeed a good point. I will be canning only sauce, because I am the only one in the house that eats tomatoes in any form other than sauce (sigh). I dry tomatoes for my own eating - for example, if I have a spaghetti squash dish with vegetables, I'll just drop some dried tomatoes into my bowl only.

But there's no point in having diced tomatoes around here, since I'd be eating them by my lonesome... and as much as I like to cook, I hate to cook for myself.

So I'll be looking into good sauce varieties for my area. I think I'll end up with about 18 plants this year - a drop in the bucket for most of you, but a good start for me.
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Old 10/24/10, 06:54 PM
AverageJo's Avatar
Join Date: Sep 2010
Location: Northwestern Illinois
Posts: 1,399
Cathy.... All I can say is WOW!!! To have a garden with that many tomatoes... and then to put up that much from those tomatoes!!! I'm tired just reading all that. But, then again, I hear tomatoes have good years and then bad ones. Almost seems to be on some kind of cycle! Ok, now you've both inspired me. I guess I'll extend the garden and perhaps even Double my tomatoe plants... uhhh.... to 12? Ok, perhaps I'll be gutsy and triple it...
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Old 10/24/10, 08:55 PM
Join Date: Aug 2009
Location: Ohio
Posts: 222
I had 50 plants in, and would easily have dont 50 quarts from them, but the heat and drought here drastically reduced my numbers. Still probably put up 30 quarts of a variety of tomato stuff.
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Old 10/24/10, 11:46 PM
Join Date: Dec 2008
Location: North-Central Idaho
Posts: 495
I had almost no tomatoes. Late spring frost, then no rain, then early fall frost.
Novitiate Homesteader
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Old 10/25/10, 02:25 AM
Join Date: May 2002
Location: South Central Wisconsin
Posts: 14,801
It would be nice if one could predict the amount of production per plant. I could easily get 20 pounds of fruit off a certain plant but same plant may have to work hard to produce 5 pounds in another garden. If just for sauces, one should not be looking for something which makes a good slicer. Instead, look for a variety which is known more for production than taste. Many so-called paste types are short on taste but long on production. They are merely a base for the spices which convert them to the various sauces. This year, grew over 100 varieties and probably 25-30 could be called very productive. May not have all been red or pink but the type which will fill a grocery bag from a single picking off 2 plants. Few would be found for sale by any large seed company. Even the blue tomatoes proved to be much more than a novelty having both good taste and high production.

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Old 10/25/10, 07:33 AM
Laura Zone 5's Avatar  
Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Back home again, in Indiana!
Posts: 14,959
50 quarts
that's about what I can a year, for a a family of 5.
I start canning in September each year.
This year, I still have 5 quarts from LAST years harvest.
So 50 quarts gets a family of 5 through the year.

We eat a lot of spaghetti sauce. We make tomato sauce for pizza. Winter is chili. Those are the main uses for our tomatoes.

This year I planted Amish Paste.
They need room. They needed a tall trellis / staking.
They were getting munched on by some bug....(that was ticking me off).
Good flavor.
I didn't do well with the Amish Paste.

I had San Marzono's.
They need tall staking/trellis.
They have smaller fruit, but it is a richer denser flavor.
They were prolific. They were very disease resistant, no bugs.
They were planted in the same box as my sage, basil, and parsley.
Excellent flavor.
I will do a ton of san marzono's next year.

I had Rutgers.
Hardy plants. Hardy fruit.
Good flavor.

All in all, I had about 50 plants to pick off of. I still ended up getting about 33lbs of tomatoes from the Farmers Market. I was canning about 5-7 quarts a week, for about 4 weeks.

Next year?
I will have a TON of san marzonos.
I will stake them better........
My Survival Garden Trellis Update Pics

‘All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men say and do nothing’
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Old 10/25/10, 08:57 AM
Wasza polska matka
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: zone 4b-5a
Posts: 6,912
I can all sorts of tomato products, this year, from mostly mortgage lifters...some amish paste, some romas, yellows and some funky varieties Martin sent me. I had 60 plants, all started from seed (the first year I did all my plants from seed)
I canned
40 pints of pizza sauce
25 quarts of spaghetti sauce
15 pints of salsa
10 pints taco sauce
26 pints of petite cut diced tomatoes
20 quarts of tomato juice
25 quarts of stewed tomatoes
30 pints sloppy joe sauce

We ate tomatoes almost every day and gave some away to friends.
For next year I am going to try bloody butcher (I already have the seeds) and a Polish variety (cant think of the name right now) in addition to the mortgage lifters.
I'd rather have one Chewbacca than an entire clone army.
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Old 10/25/10, 09:45 AM
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: W. Massachusetts
Posts: 319
Wow, I am deeply impressed by some of these descriptions. I'm scaling back my hopes to 50 PINTS of sauce But will still be happy with less.

I'd love to start from seed, but I'm in the north and I don't even have a sunny windowsill. However, I am going to be leasing a plot in a community garden, and I plan to ask if that includes any greenhouse privileges. But the greenhouse they run (which is for educational purposes - I take my daughter there, we love it) sells starts for very cheap, so I might just plan on buying them again this year.

Originally Posted by Macybaby View Post
If you don't have jars or equipment, you may want to start looking around. It may be a little bit late, but some places still have some in stock and have been clearancing them out. You can also look at garage sales or wait until summer for pre-season sales on jars.
Yeah, I was sort of thinking that - since by now folks are likely done with their canning, maybe some of the stuff is on sale now. However, I don't know where to look other than Walmart. You mentioned garage sales and that's a good idea - too bad I don't do garage sales (No snobbery of mine.. it's a long story.. let's just simplify it to say I can't drive and I'm not ready to subject my husband to the tortures of garage sales). In my town there's not many stores since Walmart took them down. I will need everything - a stock pot (with the rack for cans would be nice), jars and lids.

Oh, actually, I was wondering something else while I'm at it. If I'm following a recipe and it says to pack in, say, quart jars - do I adjust anything if I want to pack in smaller jars? (Or larger - but I'm more likely to want smaller). I'm assuming the recipe is exactly the same, but the time in the water bath might be different? I guess with tomato sauce there isn't much worry of overcooking it, so I can just boil a pint jar the same length as a quart jar. But what about something else... oh, I don't know, maybe corn? Where you want it to keep a little crunch and not wind up a goopy mess.

Or applesauce... my daughter likes applesauce as a snack on occasion. I would love to use those little bitty jars as a one-serving snack. Sometimes I buy applesauce at the store but it's often a waste, if she only wants one such snack in a week and then the big jar goes bad in the fridge. Well, anyway, I'm all excited to plan for next year I even have a good pantry for storing this stuff. And next year my husband will build me a root cellar, and I'll ask him to put up a simple shelf down there too for jars so in later years I can really go crazy.
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Old 10/25/10, 10:36 AM
7thswan's Avatar  
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: michigan
Posts: 23,896
Make sure that any pots you plan to use are non-reactive. If you want to cann corn you will need a Pressure Canner. Your grocery store might carry canning jars. Get yourself the Ball canning book for all kinds of info. I put up over 100 qt.s T sause and ?? jars of salsa, from 20 San Marazno and a few Roma plants. Could have done bushels more, but didn't need anymore and the chickens eat those.
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Old 10/25/10, 12:15 PM
Join Date: Jul 2010
Location: Southern NY
Posts: 2,389
I had twelve Roma plum tomato plants , did thirty qts plus juice, paste and sundried and felt like I had enough left to feed every one in town. Next year I will do six plants
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Old 10/25/10, 03:27 PM
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I love South Dakota
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: South Dakota
Posts: 5,317
Where are you located? That would help in pointing out some places to get jars. Right now Menards has them at a decent price, Wallmart still has some Ball jars but looks to be switching to some "made in china" brand. Lowes didn't have anything left, they were on clearance and are gone now.

Right at the start of Canning season, Menards had canning supplies on sale at a really good price. I bought about 20 dozen and thought I'd done good. Should have bought at least twice that. This is my third year canning, and due to sharing a signficant amount of what I put up last year with a sibling that is 400 miles away, I didn't have many empties to start with this fall. I've since got them back (traded empty for full jars with him) so I'll be good to go at the start of next canning season.

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Old 10/25/10, 03:51 PM
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: W. Massachusetts
Posts: 319
I'm in western Massachusetts (the middle of nowhere according to anyone from Boston). Never heard of Menard's. We do have a couple of hardware stores in town, plus there's an Agway but I've never been in it and I'm not clear on what they sell (gardening supplies is my guess). And there's Walmart. I think that's the sum total of the stores we have other than pharmacies, grocery, etc. I think I'm probably stuck with Walmart.

So I take it Ball jars are made in the USA? I'll keep my eye out.

20 dozen... wow I bow to you. Hopefully I'll be handling that many in a few years.
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Old 10/25/10, 04:12 PM
Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Indiana
Posts: 2,965
You have chosen a couple of nice products with which to start canning. You can manage both tomato sauce and applesauce in a water bath canner, so that helps.

What about auctions for canners, jars, etc. There must be tens of thousands of jars tucked away in basements, attics and sheds of homes where canning is no longer being done (grandparents, etc). We're talking a couple of dollars per dozen as opposed to $8-10 doz, HUGE savings when you are starting out.

Little single-serving jars of applesauce would be cute, but quite costly once you start purchasing flats. It's possible that more would be consumed once your family becomes accustomed to the flavor of home-canned without added sugar, and it would be a lot more economical to can in larger jars. (Be sure to try Jonathans, beautiful pink sauce with a tart flavor).

You will be able to can tomato sauce, by washing, coring, cooking slightly and buzzing through a blender. For applesauce, I think you will want to purchase something like a Victorio or Squeezo strainer. It is so very much faster than a Foley food mill.

If you have not had the pleasure of watching family members can, you might see if there is anyone in your neighborhood that you can "shadow", perhaps even another HT'er. As enjoyable as canning is, it is downright joyful to can with someone!
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Old 10/25/10, 05:33 PM
Join Date: Oct 2010
Location: W. Massachusetts
Posts: 319
Thanks Marilyn, and a good point about the economics of little bitty jars. You're right, if I've put something up, I'll be sure it's used, even spooning it out at dinner!

Love the idea of auctions and such.. maybe I'll put a request out on Freecycle or check Craig's List. But of course in this economy, more people are canning. I'm a little late to the party

I checked Agway's site and they DO carry canning supplies. No price, but at least I can shop around.

I have a Vitamix and that can certainly help with some stuff. For example, the applesauce - I don't have to cook it down, i can just blend it up and put it right in the water bath. (I think...). And even the tomatoes might be helped along being blended first, though I imagine I'll still have to cook it down. Now, I can put applesauce in a water bath? It's acidic enough? Well, I can look that up. We definitely are accustomed to plain old applesauce with no sugar.

I would love to can with someone, and I'm starting to make a few potential friends that perhaps I could do it with (long story, but I have no friends at the moment, trying to rectify - plus no family in the area either). Not sure yet if these women I'm getting to know have canned yet, but they are all interested in food security at least. It sure would be nice to get to know an older lady who could teach me. And I'm sure I could do that lady good, just by being interested in what she knows. But I don't know where to find such a lady I'm sure an otherwise tedious day of canning would be a lot more fun with help. My grandmother has passed on, but she was an anomoly of a grandmother - she didn't belong in the kitchen, that's for sure! In the last 20 years of her life, she didn't cook ANYTHING except to microwave water (you read that right) for her instant coffee. LOL. A lovely lady all the same. She had 3 sisters, and each had a skill - one of her sisters was the cook, another could clean like you wouldn't believe, and my grandmother was the financial manager. (Don't know what the last sister's skill was). Ah, blabbing, sorry about that.
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