Three Basic Steps To Canning Tomatoes.
It’s that time of year again, where produce is abundantly available, and thoughts go to canning and preserving.
One summer many years ago (1979)…my garden produced a bountiful yield of homegrown tomatoes. Not wanting to waste a single tomato I ventured into my first attempt at making/canning tomatoes.
Never having canned before I headed to the library where I found a canning book that gave me the courage to try. To my surprise home canning in small or large quantities can be a fun and very worthwhile.
I don’t know about you but I feared canning would be an overwhelming, messy and an exhausting task….and it was the first time. But I figured out the 3 Basic Steps to Canning Tomatoes…it could be pleasurable and rewarding!
Methods of canning:
- Cold pack – the produce (i.e. tomatoes) are COLD when placed into HOT jars
- Hot pack – the produce (i.e.tomatoes, like a tomato sauce) are HOT when placed into HOT jars
- Freezing – after coring/peeling freeze whole tomatoes in Ziploc bags (won’t’ last like canning but should hold for a month)
- Water bath canner or large stockpot (both for processing the canning jars)
- a canning jar rack (see picture above) or round rack to keep jars off the bottom of the pot
- canning jars (pints (2 cups) and/or quarts (4 cups)
- canning jar lids and seals
- small pan to use for blanching tomatoes
- small pan for simmering canning jar lids
- kettle for boiling water
- apple/tomato corer or paring knife
- rubber jar lift
- wide mouth funnel
- canning jar seals and rings
- wooden spoon
- vinegar or lemon juice
- measuring spoons
Water bath caner, tongs, large mouth funnel, jar lifter, lids, and seals.
A close-up of the lids (dome lids) and seals (also called screw bands
Most of my equipment I’ve purchased at garage sales and thrift stores. Ace Hardware and Fleet and Farm always have a nice section for canning.
Basic Steps To Canning Tomatoes:
You can do all 3 steps in 1 day or over 2-3 days. It’s up to you! The amount you can is UP to you, AND does NOT have to done in 1 day!
- Preparing the tomatoes
- Packinintoto jars/containers
- Processing (water bath or pressure cooker or freeze)
Step 1 – Preparing tomatoes – removing skins and coring the tomatoes.
Using a cutting board inside a large tray – keeps the mess inside and not on the counter!
Start bringing a pan of water to a boil, a bowl with cold water, and a bowl to put waste in (skins/cores) (not shown).
Using a serrated (good for cutting bread and tomatoes) knife (works better) and slice an X on the top of each tomato.
Once your pot is boiling…start dropping the tomatoes (X cut on top) into the water, and you can time for 30 seconds…
Or just look for the tomato skins “cracking” (this is how I judge when ready – easy). Note: When 1 set of tomatoes are in the boiling water I am cutting X’s in the remaining tomatoes.
Using a slotted spoon remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and drop into a cold water bath (water with ice cubes in it) which “stops” the cooking process. Let them sit (1-2) minutes or cool to the touch.
The skins will easily peel off the tomatoes…
Pull the skins back and core the tomatoes using a corer or paring knife. You can also just slice off the core end off.
Once all the tomatoes are “prepared” (skinned and cored), cut your tomatoes in half (or leave whole). At this point, you are done with Step One. It took me less than 40 minutes to prepare 25 pounds of tomatoes.
See how clean my counter is, everything is in the “tray”. The bowl has the skins and cores.
If you don’t want to move to Step 2 – put your tomatoes in a covered bowl and refrigerate. I wouldn’t hold the tomatoes more than 1 day.
Step 2 & 3 – Preparing and packing jars, air bubble removal, sealing and processing
For cold packing – Step 2 & 3 are done at same time (hot packing can be done in 3 separate steps).
If you stopped at Step 1 remove your tomatoes from the fridge.
Preparing Jars: Cleaning/sterilizing jars. Run your jars through a dishwasher cycle and keep hot till you start packing the jars. If your hand washing your jars make sure they are sterilized using very hot water. Note: you can also “dunk” your jars in your canner once the water boils to sterilize before packing.
Filling your water bath canner with water can be a little tricky. For quart jars, I fill the canner with water just under 3/4 full. When the jars are loaded in, the level of the water will rise with the weight of the tomatoes. If the water is too high the water cover can overflow and be dangerous. So what I do is fill the water to 1/2 level for pints and quarts.
Also, I keep a kettle of water for filling up is necessary. If I run short on water after loading jars with hot tap water. Sorry been canning for days no judging!
Packing Jars: Start dropping the cut tomatoes down into the jars. As the jars fill up, keep pressing down on the tomatoes. You’ll be surprised how they will compress down. Fill the jars to the top, as the jar fills up, I started cutting the tomatoes to be able to pack in the jar full.
As the jars are filled the natural juices will fill up around the tomatoes. DO NOT FILL JARS TO THE TOP, I leave a 1/2 to 1″ headspace below the jar rim.
I add sugar and salt to my tomatoes…pints size jars add 1/2 tsp each, 1 tsp each for quarts. I NEVER use table salt, it is very metallic tasting, also Kosher salt contains less sodium than table salt.
Today’s tomatoes are hybridized and aren’t as “acid” as they use to be back in the day, so I add white vinegar (you could also use fresh lemon juice). To help raise acidity use 1 Tbsp for pints, and 2 Tbsp for quarts.
Wipe the rims and threads of the jars with a clean, damp cloth to remove any residue or drips. Make especially sure to clean
the top surface where the seal will seat. NOTE: Leaving any food debris on top will prevent a proper seal.
Removing Air Bubbles: Before closing/sealing the jars we need to remove the air bubbles – air bubbles in the packed jars (before processing) can interfere with the jar’s ability to drive out the extra air in the top and develop a good seal.
To remove air bubbles insert a long non-metallic spatula (wooden spoon handle, bamboo stick) along the inside edge of the jar to allow the excess air to escape from the jars. Move the spatula up and down along the inside wall in several places around the jar. Whatever you use just make sure it’s sterile, just dip in the hot water in your water bath canner.
Sealing Jars: Take a small pot and put your seals inside, bring to a boil. TIP: if you let your seals boil for 15 minutes it helps in securing a very tight seal. ***When you put the seal on the jar you’ll notice the seal on the lid is up, you can push it up and down with your finger.
NOTE: Use lids only ONCE. Never reuse your lids, but you can reuse your jars and jar rings. Take out a seal as you use it, you want it to be HOT when place on jars.
Place seal on each jar.
Next, screw down a lid on top. NOTE: Do not over-tighten, just use your fingertips to tighten.
Processing: Load your jars into the water canner rack. TIP: if you don’t have a rack, place a rack in the bottom of the pot you are using to lift jars. Jars should not touch the bottom of the pan but elevated.
Your water bath should be near a boil.
Using the handle lift rack to the first notch of handles.
Then slowly drop the rack down into the pot. TIP: Drop jars into water slowly. Don’t want an overflow. This water is HOT! NOTE: Make sure water level is 1″ over the jars.
Once the water comes back to a boil, start timing the water bath.
Processing time: (once water returns to boil) pints for 35 minutes, quarts – 45 minutes.
Once processed, turn the heat off and let sit for 5-10 minutes. Then lift the rack back to the notch on the rack. Let’s sit again for a few minutes.
Then use the jar lifter to lift each jar out of the rack. TIP: place a towel on your counter and place jars here to cool. Soon you will hear the seals “popping”. NOTE: Do not let jars touch each other during the cooling period. At this point, if you have more jars to process, continue in the same manner
***After processing check the seals: the lid(s) will suck in (you’ll hear popping sounds) and we will know they sealed correctly. The jars are safe to store for up to a year.
Signs of Spoilage: No matter how hard you try, you might end up with a jar that may be spoiled, if a jar does not seem completely normal before or after opening, do not use. This includes leaking jars, bulging lids, and jars that spurt when removing the lid or when removing the seal it comes off too easily. I usually need a jar opening to remove the lid there’s a pressure force behind removing the seal. If the seal just lifts off – don’t use. If the food looks spoiled, foams, or has an off odor during preparation, discard it.
I would never have thought, that back in the summer of 1979 that I would never stop canning. I’ve gone from small-batch canning to large-batch canning. Still using the same 2 recipes (soon will post my tomato sauce recipe). So far this summer I’ve canned over 150 pounds of whole tomatoes, sauces, jams, salsa’s and vegetables.
Beautiful and great tasting. It always gives me a thrill.
I so hope this will motivate you to start canning/preserving. Start small like I did, and you will find it rewarding and FUN!