When the fresh tomatoes from our garden started to pile up in the kitchen recently — brilliant reds and lemony yellows — I set out to make marinara sauce with fresh onions and garlic from the farmers market. I’d freeze some and use the rest immediately.
But there’s one thing I wouldn’t be doing: canning it.
Canning tomatoes, whether it’s in a sauce like the one I planned to make, whole or diced, isn’t the same as it used to be. The tomatoes themselves have changed, and I cannot guarantee safe water bath canning with my recipe.
Earlier this year, I chatted with author Marisa McClellan, who teaches water bath canning and has written several cookbooks about canning, including “ The Food in Jars Kitchen.” She explained that the tomatoes we grow now are different than those our grandparents did.
“Tomatoes today are less acidic than 50 to 60 years ago, so your grandmother’s practice then might have been safe, [but it’s] not as reliable today,” McClellan said.
It’s not by accident either, McClellan told me. They were bred to be less acidic.
Lisa Fishman, a regional supervisor and nutrition education professional with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, said something similar. “We hybridize our seed supplies so that we can grow less acidic tomatoes and seedless cucumbers. … We don’t necessarily know how acidic a tomato is anymore,” Fishman said.
Sarah Walker Caron
Sarah Walker Caron is the senior editor, features, for the Bangor Daily News and the editor of Bangor Metro magazine. She’s the author of “Classic Diners of Maine,” and five cookbooks including “Easy...
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