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Can Tomatoes

Tomatoes on the Vine

Many people are taking up gardening, and an excellent way to preserve the harvest is by canning. Canning is easier than you may think and can be a fun project for the entire family.

Preparing to Can Your Tomatoes

When food is exposed to air, it’s also exposed to bacteria that can cause the food to spoil. Boiling food in a glass canning jar kills bacteria that may have come in contact with the food and also creates an air-tight seal to prevent new bacteria from getting into the jar, allowing food to stay fresh and edible longer. Following are instructions for canning tomatoes, one of the most popular of home-canned foods, but many other fruits, vegetables and meats can be preserved following similar steps. To prepare for canning foods at home:

  • Read the canner manufacturer’s instructions carefully, and follow the guidelines for recipe preparation, jar size, canning method and processing time.
  • Assemble the required foods, materials and tools. You can find canning kits at Lowe’s.
For low-acid foods, like meats and vegetables, use a steam pressure canner and a similar canning process.

Packing Tomatoes

Peeled Tomatoes

Step 1

Inspect the jars for nicks, cracks, uneven rims or sharp edges that may prevent sealing or cause breakage. Also inspect the new canning lids to make sure they are free of dents. The seal should be even and complete, and the bands should fit tightly.

Step 2

Wash the jars, lids and bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse well, dry the bands and set aside.

Step 3

Heat the jars and lids in a saucepot of simmering water at 180°F. Don't boil the lids. Allow the jars and lids to remain in hot water until they’re ready for use, removing them one at a time as needed.

Step 4

Fill the boiling water canner half full with hot water, elevate the rack in the canner and put the canner lid in place.

Step 5

Heat the water in the canner to about 180°F, and maintain the temperature at a simmer until ready for processing.

Step 6

Select fresh tomatoes at their peak of quality and flavor, free of cracks and spots. Prepare only enough foods for one canner load.

Step 7

Wash the tomatoes and drain them.

Step 8

Blanch the tomatoes to remove the skin.

Blanching is the process of boiling food then placing it in ice water to remove the skin. Place the tomatoes in the basket rack and lower into a large saucepot of boiling water. Boil the tomatoes 30 to 60 seconds or until skins start to crack. Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and immediately dunk them into ice water. Allow the tomatoes to cool in the ice water.

Step 9

Remove the tomatoes from the ice water, then remove the skins and trim away any green areas and cut out the cores. Leave the tomatoes whole or cut them into halves or quarters.

Step 10

Place the prepared tomatoes in a large saucepan, adding just enough water to cover them, and boil the tomatoes gently for five minutes.

Step 11

Use a jar lifter to remove a canning jar and set it on a towel.

Step 12

Add lemon juice and salt to each jar:

  • 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice and ½ teaspoon of salt to each pint jar
  • 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice and 1 teaspoon of salt to each quart jar

Step 13

Carefully pack tomatoes into the hot jar, leaving about a ½ inch of space below the top rim.

Step 14

Ladle boiling water or cooking liquid over the tomatoes in the jars, again leaving about a ½ inch of space below the top rim.

Step 15

Once the jar is filled, slide a nonmetallic spatula between the tomatoes and jar, gently pressing back on the tomatoes to release trapped air bubbles. Repeat this procedure two or three times around the inside of the jar.

The jars may be hot.

Step 16

Wipe the rim and threads of the jar with a clean, damp cloth.

Step 17

Remove the lid from the hot water and center it on the jar. Screw the band down evenly and firmly until it's fingertip tight.

Step 18

As you fill each jar, set it onto the elevated rack in the boiling water canner.

  • Remember to maintain water in the canner at a simmer temperature of 180°F.

Canning Tomatoes

Tomato Jars

Step 1

Once all the jars are filled and placed onto the rack, lower the rack into the canner. The water level should be about 1 to 2 inches above the jars.

  • Add boiling water to the canner as needed to ensure that the water level covers the two-piece jar caps on the jars by 1 to 2 inches.

Step 2

Place the lid on the canner and bring the water to a boil. Recommended processing time begins after the water comes to a rolling boil:

  • Pints: 40 minutes
  • Quarts: 45 minutes
  • Processing time for steam pressure canners is different from boiling water canners. Refer to the manufacturer’s instructions for recommended times.

Step 3

When processing time is complete, turn off the heat and carefully remove the canner lid.

Step 4

Allow the canner to cool for five minutes before removing the jars and setting them upright, 1 to 2 inches apart, on a dry towel to cool.

Step 5

Allow the jars to cool for 12 to 24 hours.

Step 6

Once the jars have cooled, check the lids for a tight seal by pressing on the center of each lid. If the center is pulled down and doesn't flex up and down, remove the band and gently try to lift the lid off with your fingertips. If the lid doesn't flex and you can't easily lift it off, the lid has a good vacuum seal.

  • Jars without a secure seal can safely be reprocessed within 24 hours. Remove the lid and make sure there's no damage to the jar. If there's any damage, replace the jar, and always start with a new lid. Then reprocess using the previous instructions.

Step 7

Wipe the lid and jar surface with a clean, damp cloth to remove any food particles or residue.

Step 8

Label the jars with the product and date, then store in a cool, dry, dark place. Home-canned tomatoes typically are good for about a year.

Enjoying Canned Tomatoes

  • Before opening canned tomatoes or other preserved foods for eating, examine the jar’s lid for tightness and vacuum seal. If the lid’s center is lower than the rim and pulled inward, it has a good seal.
  • Hold the jar at eye level and examine the outside of the jar, looking for moist or dried food seeping from the seal.
  • When opening the jar, listen for the sound of a pop, indicating that the seal held securely.
  • Once the lid is removed, look for any signs of discoloration on the food or under the lid. If found, don’t eat the spoiled food.
  • If the food passes these tests, enjoy the flavors of your home-canned foods.

Project Information

  • Skill Level: Beginner

*Time and Cost are estimated.

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