It is very simple to preserve all those tomatoes. Tomatoes are acidic and don’t require an expensive pressure canner in order to stash away canned tomatoes for the winter
Canning Tomatoes (Hot Water Bath Method)
I have been asked twice this week how to can tomatoes, so here’s a photo-documentary of how I do it. You don’t need a bushel of tomatoes for a canning batch. You can preserve one pint at a time, as they ripen. Hot water bath canning is the proper method for acidic foods, such as tomatoes, pickles, and fruit. Beans, beets, and non-acidic produce require pressure canning.
You will need some basic equipment that nearly everyone already has. You will need a pot with a lid that is deep enough to cover the jar size that you are using. You will need canning jars, or if you are using previously used jars, you can reuse the screw-on ring, but will need new lids (Never use old Lids). You will need tongs for handling the hot jars, a large spoon, a sauce pan, and a paring knife.
Step 1: Prepare the hot water bath: Fill the large pot with enough water to cover the number of canning jars you will be canning at one time. I usually fill the jars with water, place them in the pot, then add water to cover them by about ½”. I then remove the jars with water inside, and whatever is left in the pot is the right amount. Bring the pot of water to a rolling boil, and lower the heat to a low simmer. If you are using a stock pot, put a dish towel into the pot and use a wooden spoon to spread it over the bottom. This is to prevent the jars from breaking from the hot spot where the flame contacts the pot. Canners have a disk in the bottom to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot. In a smaller pan, fill with water about 2” deep , or enough to submerge your tomatoes in boiling water.
Dip the jars into the boiling water to sterilize them using the tongs to hold the hot jars. (BBQ tongs will work if you don’t have jar tongs). Also sterilize the lids in a saucepan of boiling water.
Step 2: Removing the tomato skins: Pierce the skin of the tomatoes with a paring knife. Using a large Spoon or a ladle, dip the tomato into the boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds, rolling it around so all sides are exposed to the boiling water. As soon as you see the skin wrinkle or split, remove the tomato and the skin should easily pull off the tomato by gripping the skin with a paring knife and gently pulling it, like you were peeling a peach.
Step 3: Removing Seeds and Pulp: I like my canned tomatoes without seeds, but that is a choice, and not a requirement. I prefer Roma tomatoes for canning, but again that’s a choice. Cut the stem end off the tomato and cut the tomato in half and for larger tomatoes in quarters. Then with your thumb, remove the seeds and pulp, leaving only the meat
Step 4: Filling the Canning Jar: After you have sterilized the jar (Step 1), cut the tomato in half (or quarters depending on the size), and carefully removed the seeds (Step 3), push the tomato into the jar. Continue until the jar is tightly packed within ½” from the top, making sure that there are no major air gaps, by pushing a plastic debubbler, or a kitchen knife inside the jar to remove air bubbles. Finally, clean off the top of the jar to insure a good seal for the lid.
Step 5: Hot-Water-Bath Canning: After the jars are filled, turn up the heat to medium under the large pot of water from Step 1, dip the lids in the boiling water to sterilize them, and place them on the jars of filled tomatoes. Hand-tighten the rings on the jar over the sterilized lid. I always place a dishtowel in the boiling water so the jars are not sitting directly on the pan surface. This avoids thermal shock. With the tongs, place the jars into the hot water bath. Cover the Pot, and bring to a boil. Once the water starts to boil, let the jars sit 30-35 minutes in the boiling water. Then remove them with the tongs, and let them cool on a cutting board or cooling rack.
Step 6: Cooling and insuring a proper seal: Within 5 to 10 minutes you will hear the lids pop. If you are concerned about a proper seal, simply press on the center of the lid If it is sucked down, you have a proper seal. If the lid moves when you press on it then the jar is not properly sealed.
If this is your first attempt at canning, you will find it is very easy and you will definitely know if you are successful by checking the lid for movement.
Good Luck and Happy Canning !
Thank you typing this all out, and taking pictures and everything!
Thank you this is great will be at it tomorrow. great steps
What to do with the seeds and skin: If you run this stuff through a food mill, using the smallest seive so that the seeds don’t go through, you’ll get a LOT of additional juice that you can either use AS juice, or add it back to the cooking tomatoes for additional bulk and flavor. This also helps to clean the seeds so that they ferment a little faster and not as smelly, if you do seed saving.
If you don’t want juice or saved seeds, or just don’t like the hassle/mess of the food mill, you can also use this with the stems and skins of other vegetables to boil for stock. Special bonus: boiled seeds can be put into the compost and are guaranteed not to turn up next year as volunteers.
I never thought of boiling the seeds and skins before composting. It’s been bugging me to have to put it in the trash and not compost it, but I made the mistake years ago of throwing the seeds and skins in the compost pile – bad mistake – tomato plants in flowerbeds and everywhere.
Thanks for the detailed instructions. Most instructions that I found online kind of assumed that you already knew what you were doing. I like the idea that you can probably start out with a large stock pot that you already have, rather than buying a big, expensive pressure canner. Although I guess you would need one for certain foods. I assume that I can’t use my regular pressure cooker for canning, right?
I also like the idea of being able to can maybe a quart at a time rather than having to feel like I need to can a lot of jars at a time. I look forward to start canning tomatoes and strawberry preserves in my make shift water bath!
I’m tend to overdo my instructions sometimes, and write them for someone that knows nothing. I do a lot of preserving. I canned more than 100 half-pints of strawberry jam, 50 of peach, over a 100 pints of green beans, 60 pints of pickles, 60 quarts of tomatoes, and 20+ quarts of sauce.
A pressure cooker and a pressure canner are pretty much the same thing, except for size. I have both and used the cooker before I got the pressure canner. If you have a pressure gauge on it and can fit one or more jars in it, it should work fine. I also use my pressure canner as a hot water bath canner and just sit the top on unhooked.
You might want to check out a similar post on pressure canning. I see no reason that you can’t use your pressure cooker for canning. As I said, I have a large pressure “cooker” and used it to can three pints of beans at a time. I finally got a presto 23-quart so I could can 20 pints in a batch.
Thank you for your response. I’m impressed by how much you’ve been canning! Do you do it by yourself or do you get help? You obviously have a much larger vegetable garden then I do. I usually just have enough to feed my family and any extra I give to family & friends or throw in the compost pile. It would be nice to can the over abundance of green beans that I have. I now think that will be possible if I use smaller jars and my pressure cooker, but it might be better to just freeze them.
You mentioned the pressure cooker having a gauge on it and I guess mine doesn’t. It’s just a basic pressure cooker that I got at Macy’s that has a little thing at the top that starts to rock as the pressure builds up, then I lower the heat and until it gently rocks for a specified time for the food I’m cooking. Do you think I would follow the same steps if I were canning something? Now that I look at my pressure cooker,I see that I probably should get a bigger one (taller) if I’m going to take canning seriously. I guess here in Miami, I might want to try looking in a big appliances store like Brandsmart to see if they sell big pressure cookers/canners at a reasonable price. I saw some online, but they were well over $ 200 & I’m not sure I would want to make that kind of investment for something I may not use as much as someone with a really large vegetable garden. I guess I could look at the Container store to see if they have canning tongs and funnels. Can you suggest any place else that would be a good place to look for canners or the accessories?
Thank you again for your help!
I love canned green beans. I always can beans in pints or enough for one meal for the family. I also freeze them, but freezer burn is the limiting factor for that. I have a Food-Saver vacuum sealer so I vacuum seal everything. I lay out the beans and peppers on a tray and freeze them before I put them in a vacuum seal bag. That way I can take out what I want and reseal the bag.
On your pressure cooker, the weight that you hear rattling is what controls the pressure. My pressure canner has a weight for 15 psi. You need at least 11 psi for canning. Nothing wrong with canning at 15 psi in your cooker. The gauge helps me know how much I need to turn down the stove. And no I don’t have any help with the garden, canning, or freezing. I retired and am currently stay at home house-husband.
I would recommend the Presto 23-quart pressure canner which sell for $77-$85. They’re $85 at Walmart. The accessories are available pretty reasonable starting at $19. I use the pressure canner to cook large batches of spaghetti sauce, and do all my water bath canning in it as well. I make incredible sweet pickles in it too, mostly because I do up 30-35 pints at a time. I give away a box of pickles, jams & Jellies as gifts to friends. I even use it for pressure cooking beets ( I grew over 800 last year) and cook them in the pressure canner, then pickle some using the sweet pickle brine recipe and pressure canned them.
Bottom line is how much use can you get out of a pressure canner & accessories totaling about $100. The first year of canning is tough to justify with equipment and canning jars, etc. Everything is Re-Usable, so the second year it starts to pay back. If you have kids, you can make it a family project. If your kids help can the green beans, they will also eat them. I couldn’t get anyone to eat beets until we all had a Saturday morning family canning party. To this day, my daughter who wouldn’t eat a vegetable as a young kid, picks tonight’s veggie from the garden or canned good’s cupboard.
Thanks for the info. I’ll definitely look into finding a larger pressure cooker/canner. I’m still not sure where I’ll find it though. My kids are all grown, but I’m sure that I can persuade my daughter (and her boyfriend) and possibly one of my sons and his girl friend to come and help me.
You are so right about how a garden helps kids learn to love fruits and vegetables. When my kids where growing up, I always had a vegetable garden and even as toddlers they would help in the garden and pick what we needed for our meals. They grew up loving vegetables unlike many of their friends and were rarely sick.
I agree with the first year cost of canning! My grandmother gave me a waterbath and some jars and I got a Ball Blue Book and Utensil Set for Preserving from my mom. So excited about the jar lifters. If anything it is an irreplaceable canning tool. But otherwise my majority of cost will be the quart jars which I have none of. With a family of 6 these are a must! Walmart is resonably priced for the wide mouth although Dollar General has the standard mouth for about $8 a dozen. At least it is a one-time cost though. Eventually I may get a pressure canner but I don’t know if it is in the cards this year. Some online research is looking promising price-wise though.
Thanks for posting such wonderful instructions! This is exactly how my mother did it. I always somehow manage to forget a step and she got pretty frustrated with me calling her every year with the same questions. So I started using my mother-in-law’s pressure cooker and food mill and did them that way. Now I can do them the same way as they were always canned while I was growing up!
HW, thank you so much for taking the time to give detailed instructions on this process. I love that you didn’t assume we know everything about the basics. I purchased a water bath canning kit late last fall when they were on sale. My sister’s mother-in-law heard I wanted to start canning. She GAVE me the majority of her canning jars and she rarely cans now. It was a fabulous gift! I’m anxious to start canning this year. With a baby on the way and no longer working a traditional job, I’m looking forward to learning and applying more sustainable basics. Thank you again for sharing your knowledge!
I hate tutorials that assume you already know the basics, because I generally don’t. I did one on Pressure Canning too.
Sorry to revive this thread, but I thought this question relevant to ask here. Having recently overcome my fear of canning, I am now reading everybody’s threads and recipes here on Folia. I have always frozen my tomato sauce, but now I’m thinking of canning for next year.
When making sauce, I have always just pureed everything together, with no real discernible skin-bits remaining. I see here that leaving or removing seeds is personal preference, but what about removing the skins? Is there a reason for that or just preference again?
Thank you for bumping this thread SneIrish! Very usefull!
This is the way my mother used to can her tomatoes, only she used a canning-pot and very large jars. And – stupid me – I therefore never realized I don’t need to can tomatoes in large cans, but I can use the same cans that I use for jam. (After all… when you buy canned tomatoes in the supermarket, they aren’t in such large cans, aren’t they?)
My mother, and my grandmother, used this method also for stringbeans, celery, which are not so acidic I presume.
@Snelrish… It’s a matter of preference, though I use a lot of sauces, so for me it’s an issue of versatility and getting the most use out of my tomatoes. I can the tomato meaty pulp by itself. I generally remove all the seeds and the skins. I usually put the gelatinous pulp, seeds, and skins in a strainer, so I end up with jars filled with tomato chunks (meaty flesh), and other jars filled with the juice. I usually run the seeds, skin, and gelatinous pulp through the Squeezo, though it can be hand-squeegeed through the strainer. I can the juice and later cook it down to make ketchup and tomato paste. I process San Marzano tomatoes in a Squeezo for making pasta sauce. Sometimes I like a chunky sauce for Goulash, etc, so I brown ground beef & onions and add a pint of tomato “chunks” and a quart of the pasta sauce, and extra herbs. Other times I like a nice smooth pummarola sauce. By canning both sauce and chunks, it gives me more options.
@AnneTanne… I can Tomato chunks in pints and sauce in both pints and quarts.
One other thing you can do if you are worried about not pressure canning and doing the hot water bath – add one tbsp of lemon juice to one quart of tomatoes. The lemon juice ensures that the acidity is high enough.
Hotwired, as usual you are making me hungry. ARGH!!! 6 more hours until I can go home and eat some tomato sauce! (:
@ hotwired – Thanks for the info! I’ll probably just keep making the sauce for now. I don’t have as much canning to do as you do, since I only grow 6-8 tomato plants and there are only 2 of us to feed. Although who knows, now that I have conquered that first step into the world of canning, I may go out of control. FYI, I made Veal Parmesan last night with fresh tomato sauce that I started in the crock pot in the morning. It was unbelievably delicious, even for me and I consider myself a very good cook. The only thing that wasn’t fresh was the linguini, and I’m working on getting hubby to make his own in the stand mixer. I bought him all the attachments, now it’s just the motivation.
Not only is canning fun, but eating your harvests in mid-winter is pretty nice too. I do a huge amount of canning, upwards of 600-700 jars of Veggies, Fruits, Jams, & Jellies. I’ve been wanting to make my own Pasta for some time. Cristina is the Guru on making homemade pasta.
Thank you very much Hotwired for the detailed info. I’ve just read everything on this thread and downloaded the pdf as well :)
I have two questions:
1. How long do the canned tomatoes last in a cool dry place?
2. I have jars with fixed lids, unlike yours that are screw and lid. I’ve realized they don’t have any ‘give’ when I try to press them down so I doubt there will be any popping after the hot water bath. Should I go ahead and use them or do I have to buy jars with lids like the ones in your pics?
Thank you once again for your valuable information.
You can store canned tomatoes for up to three years. I canned 40 quarts and 30 pints this year, which is about my yearly usage since I also can 30 quarts and 30 pints of sauce. I never have any left over two years old though because I supply a lot of in-laws. I would be very wary of using one-piece tops unless they are specifically for canning. Never use a pre-used top. However, even with one-piece tops, as the jar pressurized in the canner the air will expand and leak out, then create a vacuum as it cools which pops the top in.
Can I use this same method for pasta sauce? Could I make my sauce with the onions, garlic, mushrooms, and herbs (no meat), and then follow your instructions for canning the tomatoes? Thanks
I prepare my tomatoes the same way for canning chunky marinara sauce. I have a food mill for Roma’s that I like for smoother sauces and making pastes. I start out by caramelizing sweet onions in a large cast iron pot, then add a cup of red wine to de-glaze. I add about two quarts of prepared tomatoes, and my diced peppers, minced garlic, and herbs. I cook that for about an hour so that all the flavors are infused and it has the consistency of a thick sauce. I use this instead of adding paste, though I sometimes make tomato paste for thickening by slow cooking tomatoes for hours. I then pour the thick onion-garlic tomato sauce/paste into a large 23-quart pot and add the bulk of my processed tomatoes. I add basil, oregano, thyme, and a couple of bay leaves, stir and let it simmer. Once it starts looking like a sauce, I add mushrooms and diced zucchini. I continue to simmer until it reaches the desired consistency. Finally, I ladle the sauce into pint and quart jars and hot-water-bath can it, using the same process as canning tomatoes. As long as your none of your ingredients require pressure canning (such as green beans), hot-water bath canning will work fine.
Thank you, Hotwired. Now I just need to get all my tomatoes to produce a big crop. I always thought that I needed a pressure cooker or special canner for this. You made my day! Thanks again.