Canned tomato

Canning Tomatoes

While more time consuming than drying or freezing, canning tomatoes is the best way to preserve them from the standpoint of taste and nutrition. Canning tomatoes is easy once you get a little practice! Continue reading for step-by-step instructions on preserving your tomato bounty.

You'll Need

  • Glass canning jars, pints or quarts
  • Lids and rings
  • Large pot (water-bath canner) or pressure canner


  • tomatoes, vine-ripened but not over-ripe
    • You'll need about 3 lbs per quart
    • 21 lbs/9.5 kg of whole or halved tomatoes per standard canner load of 7 quarts or 22 lbs/10 kg of crushed tomatoes
    • A few top canning tomatoes are
      • Campbells 1327 and Campbells 17
      • Red Cherry
      • Jubilee
      • Marglobe
      • Red or Yellow Pear
      • Roma
      • Rutgers
      • and many other varieties
  • salt
  • lemon juice or citric acid


When canning tomatoes the jars should be very clean. You can sterilize them by setting in boiling water for 10 minutes. Then, before filling, take out of the sterilizing water and drain on a drying rack for 10 minutes. Another easier option is to run them through your dishwasher then keep the door closed where they'll remain hot and ready.

Lids must be new but the rings can be reused. Wash and rinse both the lids and rings and then boil for a few minutes and leave in the hot water until you are ready to use them.

Start the Cold-Pack Canning Process

  1. Wash tomatoes thoroughly to remove all traces of bacteria-harboring dirt
  2. Peel
    • For large quantities you can buy a blancher to make the job easier. For small batches a slotted spoon and a pot of water will work.
    • Plunge into hot (not boiling) water for 30 to 60 seconds
    • Plunge into cold water
    • Peel - the skins should slip off but you may have to help with a knife
    • Cut out the stems
  3. Leave the tomatoes whole or cut into halves.
  4. Before putting tomatoes in the jars, add 1 Tbsp of lemon juice or 1/4 tsp. of citric acid per pint
    • Be careful not to skip this step because episodes of botulism poisoning have been on the rise involving home-canned tomatoes
    • You can skip this step if using a pressure canner
  5. Fill the jars nearly full with tomatoes, pressing down with a spoon to release the juice, leaving about 1/2-inch (1.3 cm) of headroom.
  6. Add 1/2-tsp. of salt per pint, or 1-tsp. per quart.
  7. Wipe the jar rim with a clean cloth then put on the lids and screw on the rings tight by hand. This will still allow air to escape during processing, creating a vacuum.
  8. Place the jars in a canner containing hot but not boiling water.
  9. Place the lid on the canner and bring to a boil.
    • 1 to 2 inches of water should cover the tops of the jars.
    • have a tea kettle with boiling water ready to add more water as needed
  10. Boil for 35 minutes (pints) or 45 minutes (quarts) at a gentle, steady, boil.
    • For altitudes over 1000 feet, increase the boiling time according to the chart:
Process Time Adjustment for Altitude
Altitude Add to boiling time (minutes)
1000 ft (300 m) 2
2000 ft (600 m) 4
3000 ft. (900 m) 6
4000 ft. (1200 m) 8
5000 ft. (1500 m) 10
6000 ft. (1800 m) 12
7000 ft. (2100 m) 14
8000 ft. (2400 m) 16
9000 ft. (2700 m) 18
10000 ft. (3000 m) 20

When the time has elapsed, use a jar lifter to remove the jars from the hot water immediately. Place the jars out of a draft or cold spot where they could crack and allow a bit of space between jars so they can cool.

To Hot-Pack Tomatoes

What is hot-packing? It is just a variation of canning tomatoes that is the same as described, except you first cook the tomatoes before filling the jars.

Hot-packing adds another step to your process, but the practice helps to remove air from fruit tissues and shrinks the contents to help keep the fruit from floating in the jars, increases vacuum in sealed jars, and improves shelf life. This pre-shrinking step also permits filling more fruit into each jar.

To hot-pack: Peel as before, then cut into quarters. Cook the tomatoes without water in a pan, bring to a boil and simmer for 2 to 5 minutes, stirring to keep from sticking.

Pack and process the same as the cold-pack method, except reduce the boiling time to 10 minutes for both pints and quarts, adding more minutes for altitude per the chart.

Label and Check for a Good Seal

Label the jars to show the contents and preparation date. You'll want to know the variety and may forget the date.

After the jars are cool, test the seals by pressing down in the middle of the lid. If a jar hasn't sealed, you can process the jar again in the next batch although it will lose some flavor. Or just refrigerate and consume in the next couple of days.

Now sit back and enjoy the fruits of your effort!


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