How to Can Fresh Tomatoes in Jars
Traditional recipe for how to can fresh tomatoes as chopped tomatoes. A simple recipe that you can use to preserve the tomato harvest for the winter.
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I bottled and processed over a dozen pint and quart jars last week and have another dozen to go. The process is simple and easy and a great way to preserve a glut of tomatoes or crates of them bought in bulk. It involves a few steps including skinning the tomatoes, cutting them up, packing them in, and processing them.
Although tinned tomatoes are inexpensive there’s something special about preserving your own harvest. Imagine your homegrown tomatoes lining the pantry shelves long after they were growing on the vine. Just taking one down to use for dinner can bring you back to summer. On a more practical note, you can also guarantee that your bottled tomatoes are organically grown if that’s important to you.
How to Can Fresh Tomatoes
There aren’t as many people in the UK who bottle their own food. That mean’t finding a modern method for preserving the tomatoes involved looking to some American sources – namely the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. If you have it at home I used the recipe and instructions given for processing tomatoes in their own juice on page 22. My own notes are below.
Recipe for How to Can Tomatoes
- 2.5-3.5 lbs tomatoes per Quart ~ 1.25-1.75 lbs per Pint
- Bottled Lemon Juice
- Salt (optional) – I used Sea Salt
- Mason jars, lids and screw bands
- A jar lifter
Step 1: Cleaning & Sterilizing
Inspect your jars looking for cracks or splits then wash them with soapy water and rinse well. Place all of your jars in the oven and turn the temperature up to about 180F / 82C and leave them in the heat until you’re ready to use them. This ensures that when you place the jars in the hot water bath that they won’t crack or shatter. While those are in the oven, place your lids and screw bands in a bowl and pour hot water over them, making sure not to exceed 180F/82C.
Step 2: Skin the Tomatoes
Skin your tomatoes by simmering them in hot water until their skins begin to split then immediately plunging them into a basin filled with cold water. When they’re cool to the touch you can easily slip their skins off with your fingers. You can compost the skins or do as I did and set them aside for drying into tomato powder.
Step 3: Coring and Cutting
Remove the cores from the skinned tomatoes and then slice them up or leave them whole depending on your preference. When slicing, you can choose to halve, quarter, on chop them however you prefer. When they’re all prepared then you can begin taking individual jars out of the oven.
Step 4: Packing the Tomatoes
Add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice to the bottoms of the pint jars and double that amount for quarts. Pack the tomatoes and their juices into the jars leaving 1/2″ headroom. Add 1/2 tsp salt onto the top for each pint jar (1 tsp for Quarts) then place the lid on the jar and twist the screw-band on fairly tight.
Step 5: Processing Canned Tomatoes
Process the jars in a hot water bath as is detailed in the below image. I felt that the 1 hour and 25 minutes processing time was a bit excessive so after looking into similar recipes I opted to go with 40 minutes at my sea-level altitude.
Step 6: Cooling the Jars
Remove the jars from the pan and set them on a towel-lined counter to cool. After that, I labeled the jars and put them in the pantry. It’s easy to can fresh tomatoes and so satisfying seeing them line your shelves!
More Tomato Ideas
Wondering what to do with the tomato skins from this recipe? I found that if you dry the tomato skins out completely and then pulse them they make a delicious tomato powder. It’s similar in taste to sun-dried tomatoes and I’ve already used it in one pasta dish with plans on adding it to goulash and other rich-flavored tomato-based recipes.
Hi Tanya, I also have started canning this year and have bought the newest Ball preserving book. The new rules are that you do not need to simmer your lids and rings anymore. Just wash them in soapy water and then rinse and dry them. New tests have proven that that is better. Procession time for hot pack tomatoes in own juice is 35 min until 1000 feet height.(pints) 45 min for quarts) In pressure canner 20 min on 5 psi, and 15 min on 10 psi for both pints and quarts. If you use half pints as I do as I am on my own, you use the timing for the pints. I ordered some items at Spontex via the Ball website, but most in the States via Lucky vitamine. Even with the added transport and customs it is still substantially cheaper than in the UK. Eveline
I am interested in the fact that you say that the salt is optional. We don’t like a lot of salt in food and want to bottle tomatoes without, but I have also read that you need the salt to prevent botulism. Does the lemon juice do the same thing?
The acidity of tomatoes is what helps them preserve well – the same stands for other canned fruits which also don’t need salt.
I bottle whole tomatoes and add Italian seasoning and garlic for spaghetti sauce when u are ready for spaghetti just drain some of the juice out then dump in a blender and warm up on stove my family lives it and it is easier than the 8 hour process.
Jill, how much Italian Seasoning and garlic did you use for a pint of tomotoes too can ? Thanks in advance ?
I just did the same thing last weekend, primarily for the same exact reason. I want to know where my food comes from, as much as possible, and know it's the safest I can get it. I canned 28 jars of crushed tomatoes and am working on whole tomatoes and more tomato sauce this weekend. I, too, had to supplement my garden tomatoes with purchased ones, however, I was fortunate to be able to pick them at a local u-pick farm so they were fresh. Great article (as all your articles are). I truly enjoy reading your blog – it inspires me.
I read the same article, very scary. I wanted to can my own tomato sauce, pizza sauce and salsa for the whole year but now I'm rethinking the tomato sauce. Wow, does it take a LONG time to cook down. Yesterday I put 56 cups of tomato juice in my biggest pot, it took 8 hours to cook down. I got 4 quarts and 1 pint jar out of the whole batch. I agree with Sunnybrook Farm you should look into the Tattler Lids, they are BPA free. I started using them a few years ago after I found out that regular canning lids contain BPA.
I've just purchased twelve of the Tattler lids off Ebay and I'm looking forward to experimenting with them. It seems that the only thing you need to replace is the rubber ring?
Eight hours for tomato sauce sounds like a very long time! I buy tomato passata in bottles at the shop so I'm not likely to bother with making sauce either. Chopped tomatoes on the other hand are really quick and versatile for me – I use them in everything from chili, pasta and soup.
Good for you for even doing it….we make tomato (pasta) sauce base each year the Italian way, and we buy our crates of tomatoes from local growers….we couldnt grow way enough to make the couple of hundred bottles that we need for the year…just for our family!
A couple hundred bottles? Flip, maybe I need to make some more!
I would be happy to send you a copy of the canning book if you would like one! They generally sell them in all of the grocery stores in the US..the tomatoes look delicious!
Yes please! How about a swap for one of my handmade soaps? Please email me: tanya at lovelygreens dot com
I tend to make up my pasta sauces and soups and ketchups and then store these…I have never just stored the tomatoes so I don't think I would do this but I have taken on board the tip about the tomatoes skins. Of course I doubt I will be doing any of this at all until next year as so far I have had about 8 ripe cherry tomatoes.. :-(
Sorry to hear about your tomatoes – lots of people have been having issues with them this year.
Nothing like tomatoes in jars, I have them for lunch in the winter since I have so many, I have to use them every chance I get. If you can find Tattler lids, they can be used over for years so you won't have to keep looking for lids if they are hard to find.
They are rather cheerful looking aren't they? Especially when you have a wall of them sitting in the cellar like someone I know ;)
Good tip on the Tattler lids – I'm going to Google them right now.
Just bought a pack of 12 off Ebay to try…it's a shame they're not available in the UK but fortunately it's possible to get them shipped here from the US.
Can I use ordinary Jars with ordinary Lids, that I have kept aside for this purpose?
Also is it possible to just pour boiling water over my Tommy Toes (little ones) and jar them without all the cooking?
The lemon juice that is mentioned – can it be fresh?
Hi Glenda, if you are referring to recycled jam jars and lids, then no, you should not use them for bottling tomatoes. Stick to preserving jars and preserving lids (either Tattler or traditional lids) since the glass won’t crack during the water bathing process.