How to Can Tomatoes

Take advantage of tomato season! Learn how to can tomatoes and preserve the bounty from your garden or farmers market for the year to come. Our method uses boiling-water canning for canning whole tomatoes and canning diced tomatoes, but if you're new to the process, our step-by-step guide will teach you how to do it. We'll also show you how to freeze tomatoes if you don't have time for the whole canning process.

Though we still catch ourselves thinking of tomatoes as a vegetable, they're actually a fruit—and they behave like one when they're canned. Because tomatoes have a high acidity, they can be canned just like other fruits with only a splash of added citrus or vinegar. You can process tomatoes whole, crushed, or halved. Home-canned tomatoes will bring a garden-fresh taste to soups, stews, chilis, and spaghetti sauce all year long. For each pint of canned tomatoes, you will need 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes; for each quart, you'll need 2-1/2 to 3-1/2 pounds ripe tomatoes. Choose unblemished tomatoes for canning and wash well in cold water. Once your tomatoes are ready, follow our instructions below for peeling, canning, and freezing fresh tomatoes.

Step 1: Sterilize the Canning Jars and Lids

  • Wash your empty canning jars in hot, soapy water, and rinse them thoroughly.
  • Place jars in a boiling-water canner (or a separate large pot).
  • Cover the jars with hot water; bring to a simmer over medium heat.
  • Let the jars simmer for 10 minutes, then keep them hot in the simmering water until you're ready to fill each one. When you're ready to start filling them, remove one sterilized jar from the water and place it on a clean kitchen towel to prevent it from slipping while you fill it.
  • While the jars are simmering, place the lids in a bowl and pour some hot water from the sterilizing pot over the tops of the lids. Do not boil the lids, and keep in mind that the screw bands don't need to be sterilized.

Step 2: Peeling Tomatoes

  • Start with firm, unblemished tomatoes, and wash them well in cold water.
  • To remove the skins, dip tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds or until the skins start to split. Immediately place the tomatoes in cold water.
  • When cool enough to handle, remove the skin and core with a paring knife or with your hands. If desired, cut the tomatoes in half.

Step 3: Fill Jars with Tomatoes

  • Place a wide-mouth funnel in a hot, clean pint or quart canning jar.
  • Ladle whole or halved tomatoes into the jars along with any juices from preparing the tomatoes.
  • Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to each pint jar or 2 tablespoons lemon juice to each quart jar (the lemon juice raises the acidity of the tomatoes to ensure safe canning). 
  • Add boiling water, leaving 1/2-inch headspace.

Step 4: Seal and Process Jars

  • Remove the funnel; wipe the jar rim with a clean, damp towel to remove all traces of food. Food on the rim prevents a perfect seal.
  • Position the prepared lid and screw band on the jar and tighten according to the manufacturer's instructions.
  • Set each jar into the canner as it is filled. The jars should not touch. Cover the canner.
  • You will need to process the tomatoes in a boiling-water canner for 40 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts. Begin timing when the water returns to boiling.

Step 5: Check the Seal

  • When the jars have cooled, press the center of each lid to check the seal. If the dip in the lid holds, the jar is sealed. If the lid bounces up and down, the jar isn't sealed. Unsealed jars should be stored in the refrigerator and used within 3 days, or you can reprocess the tomatoes within 24 hours.
  • Label the jars with contents and date. Tomatoes with keep their optimum quality for 1 year.

How to Can Crushed Tomatoes:

  • Wash and peel the tomatoes.
  • Cut into quarters; add enough tomatoes to a large pan to cover the bottom.
  • Crush with a wooden spoon. Heat and stir until the mixture is boiling.
  • Slowly add the remaining tomato pieces, stirring constantly. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  • Fill the jars and add bottled lemon juice and salt (add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt for pints; add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt for quarts). Leave a 1/2-inch headspace.
  • In a boiling-water canner, process pints for 35 minutes and quarts for 45 minutes.

How to Can Tomatoes with No Added Liquid:

  • Wash and peel the tomatoes; halve, if desired.
  • Fill the jars, pressing to fill spaces with juice.
  • Add bottled lemon juice and salt (1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of salt for pints; add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice and 1/2 to 1 teaspoon of salt for quarts). Leave a 1/2-inch headspace.
  • In a boiling-water canner, process pints and quarts for 85 minutes.

1 Comment

  1. Why do the tomatoes need to be peeled? You state they should be unblemished, and then you instruct they should be peeled! Do you peel a tomato before you eat it? I don't, and I don't peel them before I can them. I do cut them. I can cherry tomatoes too!

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