Monday, January 22, 2018

2017 Canning Wrap Up

In 2017, I completed the Food in Jars Challenge, which was ambitiously and excitedly brought to participants by cookbook author, blogger and food preserving extraordinaire, Marisa McClellan. I stayed pretty faithful to the monthly challenges and only missed two months (but was doing other preserving things during those months, so I don't feel like I really 'missed' them completely.)

Anyway, after such a fun year that included lots of work, some new recipes and techniques, and mostly successes, I felt like the challenge was worthy of a 2017 wrap up blog.  I'm listing each month below with a link to each month's entry from my blog, quick summaries, and links to applicable recipes and other resources I used.

Hope you enjoy!  I'm not currently involved in any specific challenge groups for 2018, though there will definitely be canning going on, and I'm still a member of the Food in Jars Community.

(Check out this picture of my handsome husband showing off the cool canning pantry he made for me in our under-the-stairs closet. This is 1 of 3 places we use to store our goods!)

January: Marmalade
  • Orange Marmalade (Pomona's Pectin cookbook recipe) - this was my first experience with using Pomona's Pectin and I fell in love!
February: Salt Preserving
  • Gravalax (Combination of this recipe and this recipe) - this was a cool process and turned out great. I prefer it smoked versus salt cured - but it was a fun experiment!
  • Salt Preserved Meyer Lemons, Key Limes (Shout out to Lemon Ladies for the Meyers!) I now cannot live without these in my refrigerator. The limes more so than the lemons, but both are great to have on hand! Salted lime margarita, anyone?
  • Salt Preserved Egg Yolks - also a cool experiment. We enjoyed these grated like Parmesan cheese - mostly on salad is how we ate them. I am not sure if I would make them again, but I didn't know they were a thing prior to this challenge, so a fun new thing to try!
March: Shrubs and Jellies
  • Confetti Pepper Jelly (Pomona's Pectin cookbook recipe.) This is delicious on pork chops. Would also be good with cream cheese and crackers, but haven't tried it that way yet. Will be making this recipe again!
  • Raspberry Rhubarb Shrub - This turned out, but I just don't "get" the popularity of shrubs. It's not for me. I'm going to try to use this up in salad dressing I guess. Probably wouldn't make again!
April: Quick Pickles
  • Quick Pickled Vegetables - These were good, but the longer they sat in fridge the less I liked them. They were pretty in the jar!
  • Pickled Ginger - I can't remember what recipe I followed here, but it doesn't really matter, it was a failed attempt. I think I just don't like pickled ginger, but my husband does and he also wasn't a fan of this.
May: Cold Pack Canning
  • Spicy Pickled Green Beans - I had been wanting to try these for awhile, and they are good! They ended up spicier than I anticipated, next time I would just make them plain without the pepper flakes. 
June: Jam
  • Low-Sugar Strawberry Jam (Pomona's Pectin cookbook recipe) - We went to Schumacher's Nursery and picked our own berries. It was fun, and they were delicious!
July: Hot Pack Preserving
  • Low-Sugar Raspberry Jam (Pomona's Pectin cookbook recipe) - We have two large ever-bearing raspberry patches in our yard and get berries off the vines between June and October. They are so good!

The category for August was Low-Temperature Pasteurization, but I skipped it and did my own thing. I submitted several entries into the local county fair, and I also made:
  • Peach BBQ Sauce - This recipe turned out fine, but it is a bit bland for our taste. We will use it by mixing with other BBQ and hot sauces. 
  • Garden Zucchini Relish (family recipe that is quite similar to this.) - we love this for making tartar sauce, and also mixing into chicken salad or topping hot dogs.
  • Dill Pickles - I snagged some nice small cucumbers from the local farmer's market - they make perfect pickles!
September: Fruit Butter
  • Maple Sweetened Pumpkin Butter - This is NOT a recipe that is safe for canning. However, it is very good and I froze it in quart bags and used it for Thanksgiving pumpkin pie. 
  • Sweet Pickle Relish (I honestly can't remember which recipe I used, oops!) - I made this for my grandparents and gave most of the batch to them, they love it and always return my jars!
  • Extras Stand - As our garden hit maximum production in September, we were having a tad bit of trouble keeping up.  My husband came up with this idea and constructed it in our front yard. It was so fun to put things in it and watch people take them. After we constructed this, I learned about the Food is Free project based in Austin, Texas. Pretty neat!
October: Dehydrating and Pressure Canning
  • Marinated Sundried Tomatoes - I made a big batch of these out of cherry tomatoes. Once dehydrated, I put them in a quart size bag in the freezer. We take them out, rehydrate them a bit, and put them on our salads.
  • Dried Herbs - Before the first freeze, we cut all of our herbs down and put them on baking sheets to dry out. When they are completely dried, I put them all into mason jars for dry storage.
  • Smoked Serrano Peppers - Our serrano peppers produced a TON of peppers this year. I wasn't sure what to do with all of them, and we ended up putting most of them on the smoker to dry/smoke them. They are amazing!
  • Dried Black Beans - We grew these for the first time this year. Once they were dry, it was kind of fun to pop the pods open and shell the beans. I think the variety was black turtle beans? We would grow these again.
  • Spaghetti Sauce - We kind of do our own thing here, though we use approved recipes as a guideline and we pressure can the final product.
  • Savory Tomato Jam - This was a first for me this year. In my opinion, it tastes kind of like a cross between spicy ketchup and BBQ sauce. 
  • Green Tomato Bacon Jam - I couldn't let go of the last of the green cherry tomatoes on the vine, so I found this awesome recipe and made it. It's a refrigerator/freezer recipe - not safe for canning - but it rocks. Seriously, so good!
  • Hot Pepper Butter/Mustard - we love this on ham loaf, and in spicy sauce for sandwiches etc. This is a pantry staple in our house!
  • Green Tomato Salsa (Freezer Batch) - we usually make this and can it, but this year it was a smaller batch and I was honestly kind of tired of canning by this point - so I made a small batch, put a few quart jars of it in the refrigerator to eat, and a few quart bags in the freezer for later.  We like to make green chicken chili, green shredded pork, jalapeno corn dip, and more with it.
November: Fermentation
  • Sauerkraut - this was a big fail. It's too bad, as it wasted our good purple cabbage from the garden. I believe we packed the half-gallon jar too tight and used too much salt - it basically salt cured the cabbage instead of fermenting it. I'm currently trying again with the Food in Jars recipe - we are about a week in and it's going much better.
  • Raspberry Peach Wine (Yum!) - my husband is the winemaker, my role in the process is more of a taste tester. We used raspberries from our patches and peaches from the local grocery store when they were in season. The batch was started in July, and ready for drinking/bottling in November.
December: My Own Thing

The category for December was Fruit Pastes, but I skipped it and did my own thing (again.)  I made the following things mostly to give away as gifts to co-workers and family members. All turned out well, with the cranberry mustard being my favorite of the three!
  • Cranberry Mustard - Whole wheat bread, sliced turkey breast, baby spinach and this ... need I say more?
  • Oktoberfest Mustard - This needs to 'mellow' before it's suitable for eating, so I haven't yet tried it. Soon, we will!
My husband and I also had a big holiday baking day in December and made treat trays up for some neighbors.

I hope you all had a great 2017 canning season, and best of luck in 2018!

Thursday, January 11, 2018

The "Food in Jars" Mastery Challenge - December: Fruit Pastes

To finish out the year of the 207 Food in Jars Challenge, the December challenge category was for Fruit Pastes. To be honest, I didn't really have an interest in doing this one, aside from the fact that I ran out of time with the other holiday things I was making and doing.

I wanted to make some canned items to give as gifts to friends and family members.  I have a hard time giving away jars of things, because I have visions of someone trying one bite of something I spent precious time making, hating it and throwing the entire jar away. So, I bought a couple dozen of the 4-ounce half-jelly jars, consoling myself that if someone hates what I give them, at least it's only a little bit that gets tossed. So many people just don't understand how much TIME is involved in making these things!

Anyway, for my gift selection, I canned three new things that I hadn't made before and wanted to try. I was in a cranberry mood and I love mustard, so my choices were: Cranberry MustardOktoberfest Beer Mustard, and Christmas Jam. For the purpose of gift giving, I also threw in a few small jars of Tomato Jam and Hot Pepper Butter/Mustard that I had made earlier in the fall.

I took quite a few jars to work for co-workers - in a variety so everyone could choose what they wanted - and the Christmas Jam was the most popular.  The Cranberry Mustard is my absolute favorite. Whole wheat bread, turkey breast, baby spinach, gouda cheese and some of this mustard - oh my goodness. 

Also in December, my husband and I had a big baking day and made all kinds of things so we could put together some treat trays for some of our neighbors.  We had a good time, made a big mess, and the treats were appreciated by all.

Here are the things we made for the treat trays:
Orange Cookies - Family Recipe
Sugar Cookies - Family Recipe
Chocolate Covered Pretzels - Holiday pretzels dipped in melted chocolate. No recipe required!

So, even though I didn't do the fruit paste category for the December challenge, I still got a few things accomplished!

The "Food in Jars" Mastery Challenge - November: Fermentation

The November category for the 2017 Food in Jars Challenge was Fermentation.  My husband Marshall makes wine and we had started a batch of raspberry-rhubarb wine in July that was ready to drink and bottle in November.  We also had several small heads of purple cabbage from our garden that were ready to pick in September, so we had sauerkraut going in a half-gallon mason jar that was also scheduled to be ready in November.

The Wine
Marshall has been making wine for a long time, and sometimes it turns out awesome and sometimes it isn't as awesome. We have two large patches of everbearing raspberry bushes in our yard, so we pick (and eat, and make jam, and freeze, and make wine with) raspberries from July to October.  This year, we actually made the wine out of the berries left in the freezer from the previous year.  The rhubarb was a gift from a co-worker of mine who shares with me in exchange for a bit of jam or wine. It's a good deal for both of us!  Anyway, I unfortunately didn't get a photo of the wine, but we bottled a few bottles to take to family in Ohio when we went for a visit in November.  We drank some (because it's pretty fun to have a 5-gallon bucket of wine with a spigot tap for awhile), and then we bottled the rest. This year's batch turned out on the pretty awesome side. We don't sweeten any of our wine as much as commercial fruit wine, so it has a nice full fruit flavor.

Usually when we put labels on, I just use regular Avery mailing labels. Sometimes we make them a bit fancier on the computer, sometimes we just hand write on them.  However, the adhesive from the labels is a bugger to get off, so this time I just wrote write on the bottles with metallic Sharpie markers.  It worked great, looks fancy, and will wipe right off with some rubbing alcohol when we are done with each bottle.

The Sauerkraut
I am not too proud to admit that our sauerkraut was once again a failure. We just cannot seem to get this right.  Three years ago in the fall, Marshall's parents were visiting us right around the time our cabbage was done in the garden.  His mom got two mason jars out, sliced all the cabbage and showed me how easy it was to layer shredded cabbage in the mason jars with some salt and tamp it down with a wooden mallet, weight it down on the top and let it do its thing.  We ended up with a delicious batch and froze it in freezer bags.

Two years ago when it was sauerkraut time, we had a BUNCH of cabbage from the garden and decided to make a big batch of sauerkraut and we would can it in jars.  It was too much to do the fermentation in mason jars, so we used the primary fermenting wine bucket with the wine fermenter on top.  At some point in the middle of the fermentation, it seemed to get a bit of mold in it. It must have been ok, because we skimmed that off, and it finished fermenting, we canned it and it was really good.  So this batch was also a success.

Last year, we again used the wine bucket, but Marshall thought it didn't get enough air the year before so we used a towel to cover it instead of the fermenting lid. Huge mistake. This batch got really funky on us and was not edible. What a waste.

This fall, we decided to revert to the mason jar technique.  Marshall took our beautiful purple heads of cabbage, hand cut them all, and mashed them into a half-gallon mason jar with kosher salt.  We weighted it down with one of my new Pickle Pebbles, rigged a mason jar lid with a wine fermenting top, and let it do its thing.  It really didn't do anything. It didn't spoil, but it didn't ferment.  I think it was a combination of too much salt, and it being packed down too tight?  It basically was like salt cured cabbage! What the heck.

We talked about throwing it away, as it was entirely too salty to eat, but first I dumped it out of the jar into my large Pyrex mixing bowl (shown left,) and put clean filtered water over it and let it soak for 4 hours or so. After that, it was still too salty, so we boiled some filtered water with the cabbage in it, and let it cook that way for about 20 minutes or so.  We then drained it off again, let it cool, and froze in freezer bags. Basically, it's cooked cabbage at this point. So, not a waste at least since we will eat it - but, it's not sauerkraut.

For 2018, I am determined to get this right.  I'm going back to the basics and I'm going to use Marisa's Homemade Sauerkraut as my guide. I recently bought these Pickle Pipes to use as the fermentation lid, and I have my Pickle Pebbles I already told you about for weighting down the goods inside the jar.

For the record, between November 2017 and now as I type this (January 2018), I have purchased 2 jars of Frank's sauerkraut at the grocery store. It is inexpensive and actually really delicious.  But, this sauerkraut is not going to win. We are going to try this again. And again. Until we get it right. I am smart enough to make sauerkraut, darn it.

After that, we are going to make Kimchi, too.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

The "Food in Jars" Mastery Challenge - October: Dehydrating and Pressure Canning

The October "Food in Jars" Mastery Challenge was very conveniently for Dehydrating and Pressure Canning, two things that I had to do for the "end of garden" process around here anyway.  Due to the first frosts happening in Southwest Minnesota in October, slowly but surely we had to get everything out of our garden. Unfortunately, the garden had a slow start this year because of a complete lack of rain and was just finally really doing well!  Go figure. Anyway, here is a summary of what we did in October!


Banana Chips - I work at a long-term care facility, and one day on my way out the door the kitchen was getting rid of a box of overripe bananas. I've taken them home before and know that they are really sweet, delicious bananas that are different than what I can buy at our grocery store - so I snagged them, came home and cut them all into slices and put them on my dehydrator trays.  I have an older style Nesco dehydrator and it works fine, but takes things a lot longer to actually dehydrate than what most recipes say. Anyway, I'd say they ended up in the dehydrator for about 24 hours total, with the trays rotated a few times.  When they are done, they are still a little chewy and I worried that there was too much moisture in them for long term storage, so we pretty much just ate them all within a week. A quick tutorial for this process can be found here from The Prairie Homestead blog.

Marinated "Sundried" Tomatoes - My mom had a bunch of volunteer grape (or cherry, I really don't know the difference) tomato plants this year in her garden, and she wasn't going to pick them.  I couldn't leave them there, all lonely and sad, so I picked them and brought them home.

With some of them, I made Marinated "Sundried" Tomatoes and followed Marisa's recipe and process.  They are delicious, and we also used the leftover marinade for several (dinner) things. When they were dried, I did put them in a freezer bag in the freezer for longer term storage.

Herbs - We had a variety of herbs to dry from the garden, including basil, parsley, cilantro, sage and mint (three of which are shown in photo.) I still have quite a bit of sage and mint left from last year, so we will be sharing some of it with our four chickens. I know some people hang it upside down or dehydrate it, but all we do is lay it out on plates or baking sheets and let it air dry. I check on it every few days and move leaves around as needed etc.

Black Beans - Last year for Christmas, I got my husband a pretty cool "Survival Seed Vault" and it had quite a few normal things we always plant in it, but it also had a packet of black beans. We had never planted these before, and did this spring - they grew really well and we currently have a big square window screen of them drying in our office. I think they are about ready to shell.

Smoked and Dehydrated Peppers - We had an awesome crop of serrano peppers this year, which dare I say I think I like better than the beloved jalapeno? Anyway, forgive me for saying this but I just couldn't get as much into canning everything in sight this summer as I normally do, so I came upon this blog about making chipolte chiles and decided it would work for serranos. We LOVE these.  We have done two whole smokers full and have used them in lots of things so far. They rock.

Pressure Canning:

Spaghetti Sauce - We made our annual batch of spaghetti sauce and I pressure canned it. We use tomatoes, yellow onions, green peppers, sugar, fresh garlic, fresh basil, salt and citric acid. I am comfortable with the safety of what we do, but I don't have a recipe to share.

Other Projects:

Tomato Jam - With some more of my mom's cherry/grape tomatoes, I made a batch of Marisa's Tomato Jam. So far, we have turned a jar of it into barbecue sauce and used it on grilled duck. It is delicious!

Green Tomato Bacon Jam - I still had more of the cherry/grape tomatoes from my mom's garden left (and at this point I was wondering why I didn't just leave the dang things there like she was going to.) A member on the Food in Jars Facebook group recommended her recipe for Green Tomato Bacon Jam (a freezer recipe, not a canning recipe) - and I gave it a shot.  So far, I've eaten it on a pork chop and it was AMAZING.  I'm excited about the other four small jars of this that I have in my freezer.

Hot Pepper Mustard - My mother-in-law has always made hot pepper butter (also called hot pepper mustard.) It is one of our favorite things, especially on ham loaf. We were on our last jar, and decided to use the majority of our summer banana pepper crop on a batch of this yummy goodness. Problem being, the original recipe has flour and based on things I learned in the Facebook group this year, I didn't want to use flour. After doing some research, I decided I was comfortable using the original recipe, but swapping the flour for Clear-Jel, which had been done by blogger OneSunnyAcre.  It turned out great! (You can find Clear-Jel on Amazon.)

Green Tomato Salsa Verde - We weren't going to can green tomato salsa this year because we still had a lot left from last year. But, I ran out of things to do with green tomatoes, so I made a small freezer batch. When we make it to can, we follow the Ball Canning recipe Green Tomato Salsa Verde.

I cleaned out my refrigerator today and it makes me so proud to see all of the things in there that we MADE. Many things from products that we GREW or bought from local farmers. How cool. I counted 26 mason jars in my refrigerator of various sizes! Apple butter, cherry rhubarb sauce, green salsa, red salsa, peach/blueberry/strawberry jam, raspberry jam, dill pickles, zucchini relish, hot pepper mustard, pickled green beans, raspberry/rhubarb shrub, salt-preserved lemons and limes, horseradish, ketchup, among other things.  I love that this hobby makes my refrigerator look like that!

Here are some other "end of garden" pictures. We will be working on freezing kale and Swiss chard this coming week, and making some sauerkraut.

Friday, September 29, 2017

The "Food in Jars Mastery Challenge" - September: Fruit Butter

Well, the September installment of the "Food in Jars Challenge" was for fruit butter. I'm not new to fruit butter, as I grew up helping my grandma pick apples from the loader bucket of my grandpa's tractor so we could take the apples inside and make applesauce and apple butter.  My grandma always made her applesauce kind of chunky, and it's my favorite - the same way I try to do mine when I make it on my own now, though I never can seem to get it quite the right level of chunkiness like she did.

Anyway - I have also made cranberry-apple butter in the past, and last summer I made peach butter.  I am a big fan of the slow cooker method for fruit butter, and love how thick and smooth the end result is.

For this month's challenge, first I was planning to do apple butter - but I checked the "jams and jellies" section of my canning pantry and turns out I don't really need anymore apple butter for right now.  As I was looking, turns out I also have a couple small jars of cranberry-apple butter left and several jars of peach butter. My next thought was plum butter, maybe a small batch recipe, but then I realized that the plum season here was short, and over - so no plums for me!

Finally, took a peek at Marisa's September blog entry about making fruit butter to see what recipes she had gathered for us.  Though it isn't a canning recipe, I settled on the Maple Sweetened Pumpkin Butter recipe, because our garden produced a lot of Cinderella baking pumpkins this year and it seemed like a good way to use a couple of them.

I just cut two of them (gross weight was 5 pounds) in half and removed the seeds. Splashed a touch of olive oil on them, and lightly covered with tinfoil. They baked in the oven at 350 degrees for about 2 hours.

Once they were cool, I removed the skins and put all of the pumpkin into my slow cooker on low, added the other ingredients, and blended it all with my immersion blender (I couldn't live this "I can quite a bit" life without this thing!)

I then put a flour sack towel on top of the slow cooker bowl, and the slow cooker lid on top of that. The towel helps catch the moisture that gathers, instead of letting it drop back into the butter.  (I do this for anything I make in the slow cooker, which really isn't much - but spinach dip, queso, soups - it prevents them from getting runny from the condensation. This is a super cool trick that I read in a cooking magazine once.)

After it cooked for about an hour like this, it was really thick (my pumpkin was actually really thick when I started, we didn't have a lot of rain here this year so I don't know if that is why or if it is just the type of pumpkin.) Anyway, after an hour it seemed to be the proper consistency.

This basically tastes like pumpkin pie filling to me, although very delicious pumpkin pie filling! I froze it in two quart-size Ziploc bags and I think that we are just going to use it to make pumpkin pie. Really delicious pumpkin pie!

In an unrelated to my pumpkin butter note, I saw this recipe today for an "Apple Butter Old Fashioned" drink and I think we are going to use some of that pantry apple butter to try this soon!

Another recipe of Marisa's that was in her September blog post is for "Slow Cooker Blueberry Butter," which I also thought sounded really delicious.  When things slow down a bit around here and it's the middle of winter and I don't have anything else to do, I might give it a go!

Monday, September 18, 2017

The "Food in Jars Mastery Challenge" - August: I Missed It!

Well, as many of you have been seeing, I have been participating in the 2017 "Food in Jars" Mastery Challenge.  For each month in 2017, cookbook author Marisa McClellan selected a category for participants and provides tips, podcasts, recipes and more about that category to the participants for that month.

So far this year, I had participated in every single month, sometimes on the last day but I got it done!  But, when we got to August, I just kind of missed it.  The category for August was low-temperature pasteurization.  From what I read about this, the short version seems to be that it allows you to can things (mostly pickled) at a lower temperature for a longer period of time and results in a crispier pickle.  It uses equipment like a steam canner and/or immersion cooker, neither of which I own nor wanted to purchase at this time.  I have been wanting to make some homemade yogurt, and at some point asked on our Facebook group if this qualified for the low-temperature pasteurization category and the consensus seemed to be no.  Anyway - I skipped the August challenge.  I am kind of disappointed that I did, but ... life goes on!

What I DID do in August was:

1) I made a double batch of Zesty Peach BBQ Sauce. I followed the Fresh Preserving website's recipe except I used 2 jalapenos for the heat instead of red pepper flakes (safety gurus don't worry, I used that much less sweet pepper so it's all good.)  The peaches I bought came in a 15-pound box and I only used 6 pounds for my sauce, so my husband started a batch of peach raspberry wine with the rest!  (Raspberries from our freezer from our patch.)

2) I made a batch of garden zucchini relish and a batch of dill pickles.

3) I entered 9 jars of "Food in Jars" in the Murray County Fair and brought home 8 ribbons!  My goal for this year was a blue one, so I was excited by the outcome!  Left to right: confetti pepper jelly, zesty peach BBQ sauce, dill pickles, spicy dilly beans, garden/zucchini relish, ketchup, orange marmalade, and raspberry jam.  Not pictured is my entry for low-sugar strawberry jam, which didn't get a ribbon because it has "poor eye appeal" because my "fruit is floating." Gives me something to do better next time, I suppose.

So, here's to next year's fair and packing the pickles tighter, making the fruit not float, and aiming for one of those coveted fancy purple ribbons. And to next month's (which is actually this month already) September challenge for fruit butter.  Onward and upward, my friends!

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The "Food in Jars Mastery Challenge" - July: Hot Pack Preserving

For the July version of the "Food in Jars" challenge, the category was "Hot Pack Preserving." We don't have air conditioning in our home, and our garden had a late start this year due to the crazy weather in southwest Minnesota - so I'm cutting it close here with the deadline (it's 10:42pm on July 31.)  However, I didn't want to just make something to make something, and I was holding out for something to be ready from the garden.  That didn't happen, and we were about out of our homemade ketchup anyway (which I make with crushed tomatoes from the grocery store) - so ketchup it was!

Tonight, I used 4 26-ounce cans of the "Happy Harvest" crushed tomatoes from Aldi, and 1 14.5-ounce can of "Hunt's" diced tomatoes.  The crushed tomatoes are perfect, the diced have seeds (so I was glad I only was using one can of those.)  The total amount of tomatoes I used was equal to 1 gallon, and I used 2.5 cups of vinegar. I ended up with 8 pints!I use a slightly adapted recipe from an old version of Ball canning, and due to the fact that it technically isn't a 'current' recipe, I'm not going to share it here for this purpose.
While I completely agree that you need to follow canning recipes closely and it's nothing to mess around with, I also know how to do math and look at one safe recipe and its ingredients and adjust another recipe accordingly to suit our tastes while making sure it's still safe.  I don't do it often, but in the case of how I make my ketchup, I do it slightly. The other ingredients include sugar, diced onion, celery seed, mustard seed, kosher salt, white pepper, paprika, garlic powder, and onion powder.  It is a perfectly safe recipe with plenty of vinegar to the ratio of tomatoes, not to mention the canned tomatoes from the store already have citric acid in them. 

Anyway - I brought the tomatoes, onion and spices to a boil for about 30 minutes, then I hit it with an immersion blender to grind all of the onion pieces up and blend it.  Then, I added the vinegar and cooked it on low simmer for about an hour.  Last time I made ketchup, it didn't get thick enough so I wanted to make sure and cook it long enough this time for it to thicken up.

Once it was thick and I had my jars sterilized and my hot water bath ready to go, I filled 8 pint jars and put them in the boiling water bath for 15 minutes.
While I was waiting for them to process, I quartered 2 pounds of limes and got them salt preserving in a widemouth quart jar.  I did this with key limes in February for the Salt Preserving challenge and we loved them in margaritas and on fish tacos, and we ate them all and need more.  Yum!