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How to Can Tomatoes

Just-canned tomatoes


Canning tomatoes is so easy!

Of all the vegetables I can each year, tomatoes have to be my favorite. Not only is the process easy, but I love their fresh flavor.

What You'll Need

To can tomatoes you'll need:

  • 5 lbs. tomatoes (Or more! This recipe shows you how to can any amount.)
  • fresh lemon juice (more details in recipe)
  • salt (amount described in recipe)
  • large pots
  • canning jars, pint-sized or quart-sized
  • canning lids
  • canning rings (aka screw-tops)
  • canning funnel (Or you can simply ladle them into the jars if you don't have a funnel.)

Step 1: Preparing the Tomatoes

This recipe works for any amount of tomatoes. I've canned as few as five lbs, and as many as 60 lbs. As you read through this recipe, you'll see why I don't indicate how many tomatoes to use.

How to remove the skins:

1. Put a big pot of water on the stove to boil.

2. Meanwhile, wash your tomatoes in cold water.

3. Once the water is boiling, drop in your tomatoes a few at a time.

4. The tomato skins will begin to blister (peel) after about one minute. Have a fork handy, because this is the easiest way to remove them from the boiling water.

5. Using a knife, remove the skins (they'll peel right off) and then remove the stem end. As I peel and de-stem them, I drop them into my largest pot.

6. If the tomato skin is still difficult to remove, then put it back in the boiling water for another 30 seconds or so.

Step 2: Preparing the Jars, Rings and Lids

The jars & rings (aka the ring that screws the lid onto the jar)

  1. Wash the jars and rings in hot soapy water, then rinse thoroughly.
  2. Place the jars into a large pot filled with water. (It helps to fill the jars with water so they will remain submerged.)
  3. Bring the pot of water and jars to a full boil.
  4. Let them boil for at least five minutes to sterilize the jars.
  5. Remove from heat, but leave the jars in the hot water.
  6. It isn't necessary to boil the rings. Simply wash them thoroughly then set aside till you need them.

The lids

You will always need to buy new lids every time you can.

  1. Place the lids in a skillet with water.
  2. Bring the water to a simmer, then turn off the heat.
  3. Leave the lids in the water until you use them.

Step 3: Canning the Tomatoes

  1. Place the peeled tomatoes into a large pot and bring to a rolling boil on the stove-top.
  2. How long should your tomatoes boil? Long enough for the tomatoes to begin to break down and the entire pot of them boils rapidly. There will be juice in the bottom of the pot when you first put it on the stove, and that liquid will come to a boil rather quickly. Wait a while though -- make sure the tomatoes themselves have heated to the boiling point, which may take 15 minutes or upwards of a half hour, depending on the number of tomatoes you're canning.
  3. Once the tomatoes are boiling, I add salt -- approximately 1/2 tsp. per quart. I just guesstimate but you can also add the salt just before you put on the lids (described later in the recipe.)
  4. Prepare your countertop with the sterilized jars, washed jar rings, and the lids.
  5. Ladle (or funnel) the boiling tomatoes into the jars. Leave about a half-inch of head space.
  6. Put 1/2 teaspoon of lemon juice into pint-sized jars; use one teaspoon lemon juice if making quart-sized jars.
  7. Wipe any tomato juice off the tops of the jars, then put on your lid, then screw on your rings tightly. I turn the jars over, then move on to the next one.
  8. Set your timer for about 12 minutes -- that's how long I keep my jars upturned before I turn them right side up.
  9. Leave jars of tomatoes on the counter for about 12 hours to fully come to room temperature. As they cool, you'll hear the lids popping downward -- indicating a complete seal.
  10. After about three hours, check to make sure all jars have sealed by pressing the top with your fingertip. If the top remains down, you're good to go!
  11. If the lid "gives" -- you can press it up and down -- they didn't seal. Put those jars into the refrigerator and plan to use them within the next week.
  12. Canned tomatoes should be stored, out of sunlight, for up to one year.
  13. Use a wax pencil or permanent marker to write the date on the top of the lids.

Tomatoes At A Full Boil


Funneling Tomatoes Into the Jars


Boiled Lids Ready to put on Filled Jars


Ways To Use Your Canned Tomatoes

I use canned tomatoes in my homemade pasta sauce, in goulash, chili-mac and any dish that requires tomatoes. It's so easy when you have jars of the "good stuff" in your kitchen that you've canned yourself.

Other ways to eat them? Sometimes I put a jar into the fridge to get ice-cold, then pour them into a bowl, add in a swirl of olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper (maybe some chopped chives or dill if I have it) then eat them with a spoon like a cold soup. They taste fantastic.

Final Notes

I realize that most canning instructions tell you to put the tomatoes into a canner, or into a hot water bath, but I never do. My mom has been canning tomatoes like this for years - -and her mother before her. Tomatoes are highly acid, and you're adding lemon juice and salt to preserve them. I've never had a problem.

The reason I don't like the water bath or canner? It causes the tomatoes to become thin and runny. These are canned tomatoes -- I want to see pieces of tomato in those jars.

If you're of the school that feels like you have to use a water bath, then go ahead. I'm just telling you how I do it.

Canning tomatoes is incredibly easy. Enjoy!

Questions & Answers

Question: I am using the same recipe I got from you in 2014. I notice you have added lemon juice. What does that do? I ask because my canned tomatoes, following your 2014 recipe, are perfect!

Answer: Glad to hear the canned tomatoes are working out! Yes, I added lemon juice (an acid) because some of the newer varieties of tomatoes have a lower acid content than what has been traditionally produced in the U.S. Adding the lemon juice increases the acid to preserve the tomatoes. If you're using standard varieties (Beefsteak, Big Red, Early Girl, etc) and not the newer types (usually marketed as "heirloom" tomatoes) then you should be good to go.

Question: How much water do you use when boiling the tomatoes?

Answer: Boil enough water so that you can drop the tomatoes into it -- three or four at a time -- and they bob in the water. For me, this usually means my kettle has about 6" (15 cm) of water.

© 2008 Buster Bucks