info@thepatchylawn.comLife inspired by beautiful imperfection! Eating, Gardening and Making for a more Authentic Life.

Canning Tomatoes

Home / Recipes / Canning/Preserving / Canning Tomatoes

Canning tomatoes is the delight of just about every gardener/canner, we dream of having bucket loads of vine ripened tomatoes to put up for the long winter.  I have about 10 plant this year, and all of them have just been limping along, barely producing enough to make it feel like summer (it is a drought year).  Luckily, my friend imported me a 20lb lug from Humboldt County for just $10.

lug of tomatoes

In the past, I’ve stuck to only canning the perfect, round, red tomatoes, but my friend swears these brandywines and big yellow heirlooms are suitable for processing in boiling water (I added citric acid to adjust the ph just in case).

I’ve processed a fair amount of tomatoes, and what I’ve found works best for my family and how we cook, is to can them “crushed” in their own juices.  This seems to be the most versatile option, rather than making lots of different sauces (I’ve scorched a few!).  I can toss a jar into soup, make some salsa or even a quick marinara.  While it is fairly easy to find quality, organic pasta sauce in a jar, it is almost impossible to find crushed tomatoes not in a can, marinated in all the BPA and God knows what they use to line the metal.  So, that’s what I do, and here is the method I’ve been perfecting.

It is a good idea to review the canning principals if you are new to canning, or it has been a while.  I’m assuming you know how to prepare the jars, attach lids and use a water canner.  Always look to the Ball Blue Book for the best practices.

Canning Tomatoes

Start with the best tomatoes you can find, and process them at their peak of ripeness!  Begin by peeling the tomatoes and removing the core and seeds.

peel tomatoes

Dip tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for about 30 seconds, then run under cold water to stop them from cooking.

peeling tomatoes

The skins will split and slip right off.

core tomatoes

Using a paring knife or a coring tool, cut out the stem, core and any imperfections.  It is important remove any mold, rot or black spots, because they could contaminate and ruin your entire batch.

canning tomatoes

This is my set-up while I process the tomatoes.  I have a colander with tomatoes ready to be peeled (blanch them in small batches, as you need them), a cutting  board and three bowls (I also have a boiling pot for dipping the tomatoes, and the canning water getting hot).   The largest bowl is for the crushed tomatoes, the medium bowl is for the skins and seeds, and the smallest is for cores, stems and yucky parts.  Peel and core the tomatoes, tossing the core and unusable parts into the smallest bowl.  Then tear the tomato into a few big chunks, do this over the medium bowl, to catch all the juice as you pull out the seeds.  Pile the crushed tomatoes in the largest bowl.

The medium bowl with the seeds and skins will be processed into tomato juice, so be sure to save as much juice and pulpy bits as you can, while keeping it clear of the black stuff.  You will be surprised how much awesomeness you can squeeze from the skins!

Tomatoes are technically a “high acid” food, meaning they can be processed in a water canner, but their acidity can be borderline.  You need to add either bottled lemon juice or citric acid to ensure that they will be safe to eat.  Use 1 Tbs lemon juice for pints (2 Tbs for quarts) or 1/4 tsp citric acid (1/2 tsp for quarts).   Add these to the jars before you pack in the tomatoes.

Raw Pack

Pack the tomatoes into quart or pint jars by smashing them down and removing as many air pockets as possible, the juice will rise up around the tomatoes.  Leave 1/2 inch head space and process 125 minutes in boiling water.

Hot Pack

Using a slotted spoon (or hands) lift crushed tomatoes out of the bowl and into a large pot,  leaving behind as much juice as possible.  Bring the pot of tomatoes to a boil, making sure they are hot all the way through.  Lift the tomato chunks into the jars, pushing them down to remove the air pockets, the juices will rise up.  Leave 1/2 inch headspace.  Process pints 35 minutes and quarts 40 minutes.

Tomato Juice

Please, don’t throw away your skins and seeds!  This is all bonus deliciousness.  Run everything through a food mill, or at the very least, a fine sieve.

tomatoe juice

When I’m done with these tomatoes, there is nothing left but a handful of seeds and translucent skin.  Pour all the juice into a pot and simmer for a few minutes.  You can also pour it into a quart jar and let it settle in the refrigerator over night.  Drink it right away, can it, or make ice cubes.

Canning Tomato Juice

Simmer for 5-10 minutes, depending on how thick you want your juice to be.  The longer you cook it, the less “fresh” it will taste, though will still be yummy.  Bottled lemon juice (1 Tbs pints, 2 Tbs quarts) or citric acid (1/4 tsp pints, 1/2 tsp quarts) still needs to be used and added to the jar before the tomato juice.  Leave 1/4 inch headspace and process 35 minutes for pints, 40 minutes for quarts.

tomato juice

After sitting overnight, either canned or in the refrigerator, the juice and pulp will separate.   You can pour off the tomato water on top to get a concentrated juice, but you’ll be missing out on the a whole layer of tomatoey-sweetness.

Bloody Mary, anyone?

tomato juice seperated

Tomato Cubes

These are perfect for thickening a sauce or adding a little flavor blast to some soup.  You can pour the tomato juice right into the ice cube trays, or let it settle over a day or two to get it nice and thick (think tomato paste).

tomato juice icecube tray

I’ve found that if you pour the juice into your ice cube trays cold, it doesn’t turn them red.

tomato juice cubes

Store the ice cubes in a ziplock bag and enjoy all through the winter.  They will keep about six months, giving you blasts of sunshine through the darkest days.  Drop a cube or two into soup, sauce or even a Bloody Mary!

Canning tomatoes is a lot of work, but once you get into the rhythm, and have a good system (and maybe some helpers!), the job isn’t too bad.  With all the health concern about tomatoes in cans, you can feel good about providing the very best food for your family.



Take a peek into my world of Eating, Gardening, Making and Mothering, authentically and with meaning. Thanks for visiting!
Recommended Posts
Contact Us

I've got my hands full with life at the moment, drop a note and I'll get back to you soon!

raw artichokes

Sign-up for the Newsletter!

We're always talking about more ways to live authenically and sustainably.

You have Successfully Subscribed!

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This