Canning Tomatoes: a full guide on pressure canning tomatoes

Tomatoes are at their best in terms of taste during the summer period. The sweet and sour flavor combination that a good, fresh tomato provides into your mouth is delicious. The great thing about tomatoes is that they are very versatile, in the sense that they can be used for different purposes: they can be eaten raw, in a soup, they can be roasted or used to make the best and the freshest of pasta sauces. If you want to enjoy the delicious taste of tomatoes, even during the wintertime, you might want to consider canning whole tomatoes to preserve them. Even if there is nothing like eating a freshly picked tomato, especially if you have your garden, canning whole tomatoes to limit possible waste and to have the possibility to eat great tasting tomatoes throughout the whole year is one of the best ways to enjoy tomatoes all year round. Canned tomatoes can be used for hearty stews or chunky soups which are fantastic comfort foods during the cold winter period or you can use them to make your homemade tomato sauce. No matter how you choose to use your canned tomatoes, having some jars stored in your cupboard is always a good idea.

If you are interested in how to can tomatoes, here are some recipes and tips to help you achieve the best result. Have you ever found yourself in the situation of having way too many tomatoes because of a great promotion or simply because your garden has produced more than you can consume? Then canning your tomatoes will be your favorite approach to solve any waste problem.

But let’s be honest, pressure canning tomatoes do take some time and it does require a bit of effort. That does not mean that you need some particular cooking skills as the process itself is pretty simple, only that you have to know in advance that you’ll have to be patient if you want your canned tomatoes to taste great!

The types of tomatoes traditionally used for canning are San Marzano or Rome, which are plum-shaped, but you can also opt to use juicier and larger tomatoes to can. Only, keep in mind that the juicer tomatoes won’t hold their shape very well. Once you’ve picked a kind of tomato, check that they are all free from blemishes and you can start canning them.

Let’s get started.

The Process of Canning Whole Tomatoes

canned tomatoes

First of all, as previously mentioned, take into account that the process will take some time. You can choose to do it during the weekend or during a less busy day when you can spend a while in the kitchen. If you have to deal with big quantities of tomatoes, know that you’ll have to peel them one by one. However, the good news is that apart from the time, you don’t have to stress about your cooking skills, as it is a very straightforward procedure.

What Do You Need

The list of ingredients for this “recipe” is very short and simple, and if you already have your tomatoes, you’ll probably have all the rest you need at home already.

  • Your fresh tomatoes, for this recipe we are making the doses for 15 pounds of tomatoes, but you can easily adjust the quantities to what you have on hand;
  • 3/4 cup of lemon juice or citric acid; for canning bottled lemon juice is to prefer over fresh lemon juice as it has a standard level of acidity which is needed to keep your tomatoes from going bad;
  • (Optional) Salt;
  • Glass Jars with sealable lids and rings;

You will need to use your pressure canner. Depending on the size of the canner, it would hold up to seven quarts or nine pints at a time. That fits 21 lbs of tomatoes if you can quarts of 13 lbs if you decide to can pints.

Just a little reminder, for your safety, that while you can always reuse jars and rings, for hygienic reasons, you should buy new leads from time to time.

The Steps To Follow

Start with bringing a large pot of your water canner to boil. Once the water is boiling add your jars to warm them. You do not need to sterilize lids and rings as the canning process will do so.

While the water comes to a boil, which will probably take some time, you should peel your whole tomatoes. To do so, use a sharp knife and cut an “x” at the bottom of each tomato, to facilitate the peeling procedure.

Before you start, set aside a large bowl of ice, and place it close to the pot.

Put your cherry tomatoes/other tomatoes into the boiling water and leave them in until the skins start to “split”. Usually, this process takes about 30 to 60 seconds. If you do only a couple of tomatoes at a time, you will ensure a faster process. Putting too many tomatoes in the water cools down the water temperature and increases the amount of time needed for the tomatoes in the boiling water so that the skins become easily removable. After the time needed, you should quickly transfer the tomatoes from the pot to the ice water to cool them down quickly.

Once the tomatoes have been cooled down and they have reached a temperature that makes it possible for you to handle them without burning yourself, use a sharp knife to help you remove the skins. Because of the blanching step, the skins will come out easily, with no resistance!

If you don’t want to through away the peeled skin of your tomatoes, you can dry them out and make some “tomato chips”, which can make for a great snack!. The process is very simple and does not take up any precious time. Simply, place the skins on a baking sheet and put them in the oven at 200 F for a few hours, until they get crispy (the time will depend on the humidity, so it is quite difficult to give an accurate measure). To prevent them from burning and to ensure having better results, check on the skins every 20 minutes after the first 2 hours.

You might want to core and seed tomatoes before canning them. This step is optional and it won’t affect the taste of your canning tomatoes, but it might come handy if you need your tomatoes to be seedless. You can simply cut around the stem of your peeled tomatoes and directing your knife to a 45-degree angle as you cut. Then, simply take the stem and the core out using your fingers. To take the seeds out, you simply have to cut the tomato in half and scoop out the seeds and the remaining part of the core. You can do so both with your fingers or using a spoon.

Then, you should bring the water back to boil and place your jars in the canning rack. Boil the empty jars for 10 minutes to sterilize them. For better and safer results, place the lids and the rings separately, also for 10 minutes.

Once the sterilization has been finalized, remover the jars and lids from the water and bring the water back to boil.

In the meanwhile, put two tablespoons of your lemon juice (or, if you decided to use citric acid, half a tablespoon will be enough) in each quart jar. If you are using pints, you can half the amount of lemon juice. If you want to add salt, you should do it at this stage. A teaspoon will be more than enough for quarts. Then, stuff your jars with the tomatoes. It does not matter if they will not be “whole” in the end. You should press your tomatoes down when adding them to the jars so that they will release enough juices to cover the tomatoes and to fill any gaps between tomatoes. Leave some headspace in your jar and add some boiling water if necessary, still leaving half of an inch of headspace.

After having wiped the edges of the jars, it is time to place rims and lids and to set the jars in the canning rack. Lower them into the boiling water or simply process them in a boiling water canner for approximately 85 minutes. If you are using a pressure canner, 40 minutes will be enough.

When the time is over, remove the jars from the water bath and allow them to cool down for at least 24 hours. Then, give the last check to your jars and store them in a dark, cool place.

So here it was, the ultimate guide on how to can whole tomatoes! As you can see for yourself, the actual process is very simple, but peeling the tomatoes one by one can become very tedious, especially when you are dealing with big quantities. Anyways, the time spent will be worth it, especially during the wintertime when you will be craving some delicious, summery and sweet tomatoes!

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