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    How to Can Tomatoes

    Authored by Carol J. Alexander

    Nothing beats the flavor of a homegrown tomato. Fresh off the vine, served sliced with salt, tucked between two slices of bread, or cooked down into an aromatic sauce for pasta and pizza, the sweet-tart tomato taste is to be savored. And, when you learn to can your tomatoes, you can enjoy that rich goodness all year long. The easiest way to can tomatoes is by packing them raw into jars and processing them in a water bath canner.

    Before you begin, ensure you have enough jars, lids, and acidifying agent. One quart jar holds roughly three pounds of tomatoes. So, to fill a canner with seven quarts, you’ll need about 21 pounds of tomatoes. Or, you’ll need about 13 pounds of tomatoes to fill a canner with nine pints. For reference, a bushel of tomatoes weighs 53 pounds.

    How to prep your canning equipment

    Once you have enough jars and lids to begin, make sure everything is clean and accessible.

    • Wash your jars and inspect for any cracks.
    • Rub your finger around the rim and look for any chips that will prevent a proper seal. 
    • Keep your jars hot in the dishwasher, oven, or pot of hot water.
    • Hold your water bath canner up to the light and look for pinholes from chipped enamel that may leak water.
    • Fill the canner about halfway with hot water and put it on a burner to simmer.
    • Fill a large stock pot with water, bring to a boil, and keep simmering. 
    • Place the lids in a small saucepan of water and keep simmering on the back of the stove to soften the seals.
    • Have a timer, jar lifter, chopstick or rubber spatula, and other tools laid out on the counter for easy access.

    Read more about all the Canning Supplies you may ever need.

    How to prep tomatoes for canning

    1. Choose disease-free, firm tomatoes at their peak of ripeness for canning. Wash and remove any stems before blanching.
    2. Dip the tomatoes in boiling water for about a minute or until the skins split open. Then immerse them in cold water to cool. 
    3. Once blanched, the skins should slip right off.
    4. Remove the cores and either leave the tomatoes whole or cut them in halves. 
    5. Fill the hot jars up to the neck with tomatoes.

    Acidify tomatoes for canning

    To acidify the tomatoes, add ONE of the following to EACH JAR:

    Bottled lemon juice

    Pint jar: Add 1 tablespoon

    Quart jar: Add 2 tablespoons

    Citric acid powder

    Pint jar: Add 1/4 teaspoon

    Quart jar: Add 1/2 teaspoon

    5% vinegar 

    (may alter flavor)

    Pint jar: Add 2 tablespoons

    Quart jar: Add 4 tablespoons

    1. Add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart or ½ teaspoon to each pint if desired.
    2. Cover the tomatoes with boiling water, leaving ½-inch headspace.
    3. Wipe the rims of the jars, apply lids and rings, and place them on the rack in the canner. 
    4. Process pints for 40 minutes and quarts for 45 minutes.

    Read our Step-by-Step Guide to Water Bath Canning for more information about processing food in a water bath canner.

    How to store home canned tomatoes

    Once you remove the jars from the canner, allow them to sit undisturbed for 24 hours. Before moving them to long-term storage, check each jar for a successful seal. Your tomatoes will keep best in a cool, dark, dry location between 50 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit. 

    Read more about How to Store Canned Food.

    Variations of home canned tomatoes

    Mixing fruits and vegetables for canning can be tricky. Here’s why. To create salsa, you add onions and peppers to tomatoes. By themselves, onions and peppers require pressure canning. So, to water bath salsa safely, you’ll need the correct amounts of each ingredient to create something acidic enough to be safe. For this reason, always use a trusted recipe that’s been scientifically tested, like those from the National Center for Home Food Preservation.

    For everything you need to preserve your harvest, review our latest canning equipment catalog. Stock your kitchen with all the necessary supplies for putting food by so you’re never caught unaware. Then enjoy homemade sauce on pizza, pasta, and more with family and friends all year long.


    More canning information

    Find everything canning with our basic canning guide. Learn how to make your harvest last through food preservation.
    One of the most popular methods of food preservation, pressure canning allows you to put up jars of green beans, stew meat, and other low-acid foods. Find everything you need to get started.