Canning Tomatoes

How to Can Tomatoes

It seems, somehow, many people have prolific gardens that produce an excess of tomatoes.  Not me.  Nope.  My garden always has huge tomato plants, but hardly any tomatoes.  I’ve tried all the suggestions- trimming “suckers” and deadheading, but I still get monstrous plants with very little fruit.

But, I love the taste of freshly canned, heirloom tomatoes.  So what to do if your garden didn’t produce enough tomatoes to can?  Buy tomato seconds:

How to Can Tomatoes: tomato seconds

Most tomato vendors at farmer’s markets will have tomato seconds- these are ‘ugly’ tomatoes that either have spots or are overripe and unappealing to most shoppers.  Luckily, these tomatoes are perfect for canning and can usually be purchased by the half bushel (approx 25 lbs), and they are usually very cheap.  Seconds also usually contain a variety of tomatoes- all the styles the tomato vendor sells- so unlike commercially canned tomatoes that usually only contain one tomato variety (like Roma), home canned tomatoes can contain a large variety of flavorful heirlooms.

So, if you need tomatoes, ask around for tomato seconds at your local farmer’s market.  Or, using the plethora of tomatoes from your own garden, you are now ready to can.

What you’ll need:

  • water bath canning stock pot
  • a smaller stock pot to blanch the tomatoes
  • a bowl with cold water and/or ice
  • canning jars and lids
  • canning jar lifter

Step One: the first step is to remove the tomato skins and cores.  The easiest way to do this is to add the tomatoes to boiling water and wait for the skin to crack:

How to Can Tomatoes: step 1

Step Two: remove the ‘cracked’ tomatoes from the boiling water and place them in cold water (or ice water).  After the tomatoes have cooled a bit, the skin should be loose and easy to pull off.

How to Can Tomatoes: step 2

Step Three: After the tomatoes are skinned, remove the core and any large blemishes, then cut into desired sections (halves, quarters, etc).

My favorite tomato canning recipe comes from Ball’s Complete Book of Home Preserving– Raw Packed Tomatoes with no Liquid Added.  Prepare jars and lids.  To each quart jar, add 1/2 tsp citric acid (or 2 tbsp lemon juice) and 1 tsp salt- these quantities can be halved if using pint jars.  Then fill each jar with the prepared tomatoes, leaving a generous 1/2 inch head room (air space at the top of the jar).  Remove air bubbles from the jar, clean jar rim, and place lids and tighten bands to fingertip- tight.

Step Four: Process cans in a water bath for 85 minutes (i.e. start timing when water is boiling- water should remain boiling for 85 minutes):

How to Can Tomatoes: step 4

After processing, remove the canning stock pot from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.  Remove the cans from the water bath and you are done!  Once the jars are completely cooled, make sure the lids are sealed (remove the band and lightly pull up on the lid- it should not come off).  Now your tomatoes are ready to be stored!

How to Can Tomatoes


Happy Canning!