My move to making things from scratch as much has possible has been a slow progression over time.  At first it was just because I enjoyed the process.  Then I grew to appreciate that I knew exactly what went into my food and where it came from.  Eventually I became particularly interested in how I could produce less waste, particularly stemming from my use of processed foods.  Regularly making yogurt was a big leap for me, but now it’s part of the routine.  Cooking with dried beans helped cut down on wasted cans and that too has become routine.  But one processed item that is just so darned hard to get away from?  Canned tomatoes.  Last summer I tentatively made my first endeavor into canning with peach jam.  This summer my friend Ashley and I decided to take a stab at canning tomatoes.  We wanted to buy ripe summer tomatoes at their peak from local farmers and can them ourselves, thereby eliminating the need to buy canned tomatoes during the winter months.

In choosing exactly what types of tomatoes we wanted to can, we thought about what we use most in cooking.  Typically it is cans of diced, whole peeled, or crushed tomatoes.  With this in mind, we decided to make two varieties – quartered tomatoes and crushed tomatoes.  Canning is very much a science and since even minor changes can have effects on the preservation and safety of the food you can, it’s important to stick to the recipe.  The recipes warned against fully dicing the tomatoes before preserving because it would throw off the pH of the mixture.  We figured quartered tomatoes would be easily used in any recipes that called for either whole peeled tomatoes or diced (we’ll just quickly chop them ourselves before using).

The process ended up being pretty simple and lots of fun (do this with a friend!)  Since we are new at this, we decided to start on a small scale with just 20 pounds of tomatoes.  At the end of it all, we ended up with 10 pints of quartered tomatoes and eight pints of crushed tomatoes.  That’s a pretty nice yield if you ask me!  At the rate I actually use canned tomatoes (probably less than a can per week), maybe one more canning day and I’ll have plenty to keep me stocked through the winter.  Once the liquid has been drained, I found that a pint of my home canned tomatoes has a similar yield to a 15 ounce store bought can, or maybe just slightly less.  I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised, but the flavor was also noticeably fresher than from a regular can.

We got our tomatoes from a farmer’s market.  Some farmers may offer bulk options specifically for canning purposes, so find out about that if you can.  We’re planning on that next time.

First, we made the quartered tomatoes.  To start, wash off the tomatoes and score the bottom of each with an “X”.

Quickly blanch them in boiling water for about 30 seconds, just to loosen the peels.  Remove immediately.

You should be able to see that the peels have loosened and pulled back slightly.

Once cool enough to handle, the skins can be easily peeled away and discarded.

Core the peeled tomatoes.

Cut them up into quarters.  (You may also opt to leave them whole or in halves.)

The tomatoes are now ready for canning.  Jars should be washed and dried in advance.  Heat the jars in a pot of hot water (about 180˚ F) until ready to fill.  This will prevent the jars from breaking when added to the canner.  At this point you should also have a boiling water canner nearly ready to go, with the water heating to 180˚ F.  (Side note – a boiling water canner is a great investment.  It’s about $40 for a large pot and accompanying rack.  Considering how much use I know I’ll get out of it, it seems like a steal.)

Add 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice to each pint.  Fill the warmed jars with the quartered tomatoes, pressing down gently so that the juice from the tomatoes fills the jar.  Leave ½-inch of head space at the top of each jar.  (You can also add up to 1 teaspoon of salt to each jar, but we left it out.)

Run a flat spatula around the edges of the jar a few times to help remove air bubbles.

Wipe the edges of the jars with a clean dry cloth.  Place lids and rings on each jar, closing the rings just until you encounter resistance (not too tight).

At this point, the jars can be loaded into the canner with the water at 180˚ F.  Lower the cans into the water so that it covers the lids by about 2 inches.  Bring the water to a rolling boil, cover and process for 45 minutes.  Processing times may vary slightly depending on your elevation, so be sure to check the specifics depending on where you live.  (I left that center space open – bad decision.  One jar fell over during processing and ended up with extra air inside.  The second round I simply added a jar of water to the center space to avoid that happening again.)  Note: Canning can also be done in a pressure cooker.  Again, check specifics for each recipe to find out the instructions for pressure canning.

Once the jars have been processed as directed, remove with a jar gripper.  Let cool.  Set aside and let sit 24 hours.  Press the center of the lid to be sure it cannot be intended.  This indicates a proper seal.  Store in a cool, dark place.  That’s it – you canned tomatoes!

Then we made the crushed tomatoes.  These start out with basically the same process as the quartered tomatoes – wash, peel, core and quarter.  Add the quartered tomatoes to a large pot over medium heat in batches, stirring and crushing occasionally until they mostly softened with some chunks.  Let the mixture simmer briefly, about 5 minutes, to reduce the liquid slightly.

The crushed tomatoes are again added to clean, preheated jars with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice per jar.  Wipe the jars, and place the lids and rings.  Process in a boiling water canner for 35 minutes.  Remove with a jar gripper and set aside to cool 24 hours.  Press the center of the lids gently to check the seal.

I hope you find this edition of Making the Basics useful!  Canning may seem intimidating if you have not tried it before – believe me, I felt that way not so very long ago – but it really is just like following any other recipe.  You can do it!
  • Nicole M.

    I can’t thank you enough for your blog. I initially stumbled onto it trying to make something from scratch that I could tailor to my husband’s lactose free diet. I have had success (and rave reviews) with every one of your recipes that I have tried. I have been wanting to can for a long time and your pictures and carefully thought out instructions will make my first time a breeze! Thank you, thank you, thank you! : )

  • Lena

    I thought about canning tomatoes myself this summer for the first time. We also use them a lot! But as we do only have very small storing possiblities, I made tomato ketchup, which turned out so delicious and much better than the store bought one. I keep the canning in mind, when we’ll have more space, hopefully next summer.
    So thanks for the recipe, I’ll keep it in mind!

  • annieseats

    I’m so glad to hear that! Have fun with your canning endeavors :)

  • Rebecca S.

    Where did you get that awesome strainer that fits inside your pot? Did
    it come with the pot? I’ve done canned tomatoes and the hard part is
    getting all the tomatoes out quickly during blanching. I use a
    spider-type utensil, but that strainer rocks!

  • I canned quite a bit this summer, and I have to say it is nice to see that canning is becoming more and more popular. We had so many tomatoes this year. I made tomato soup, ketchup and sun dried tomatoes. And season is still very productive.I’ve never tried removing the skin the way you are doing here. I usually puree them into the sauce. My mom makes them like you, and they love them. Maybe I can try a batch,too, I still have lots of tomatoes left.Thanks for all your wonderful posts

  • Teressa

    Home canned tomatoes are the best. I love using them in my vegetable soup in the winter.

  • janet @ the taste space

    Lovely post, Annie. I bought 50 lbs of tomatoes last week but dehydrated, roasted and cooked half of them…. This seems like a simple way to use up the rest without going tomato-crazy! I have also heard of boiling the tomatoes, adding to the hot jars with hot lids and then sealing them. No need to water can.

  • I’ve long since abandoned the complete canning process in favor of a quicker method of freezing tomatoes – this year I picked over 100 pounds from my CSA farm, and canning would have taken forever! Instead, I simply clean and core them, roughly chop, and squeeze with my hand into jars or containers to freeze. When thawed I drain off some of the water that’s separated and have great tomato pulp for sauces, stews, chilis or whatever. If you need to remove the seeds and skin later you can always run the thawed tomatoes through a food mill then.

  • annieseats

    Certainly a great option but even between our two freezers, I don’t have the space for that method.

  • annieseats

    It’s my friend’s pot so I’m not sure where it came from. It seems like it would be pretty easy to find a set though. Try a good kitchen store like Williams Sonoma or Sur La Table.

  • Jen

    You should try tomato sauce & puree next! I have a Victorio food strainer that makes this just as easy as quartered or crushed! I also use it to make and can fresh applesauce from our apple trees! Super simple!

  • AnnieB

    I noticed that you did not seed the tomatoes – I would usually use a food mill to get rid of them so that they would not show up in the finished product.

  • Erin

    Your canning equipment is so pretty, that green canner! :) Mine is well used (and loved) and not even close to being attractive.

    Homemade canned tomatoes are the BEST!

  • annieseats

    Since they are in the store bought canned versions most recipes call for, I decided to leave them in.

  • Maya Laurent

    Love this! I have a ton of garden tomatoes and need to do this. You simplified this…all the other stuff seems so detailed! :)

  • What a great tutorial. I have never thought about canning my own tomatoes. I’ll have to try that soon!

  • Deborah G

    I love having my own stock of canned tomatoes in my pantry. I did it last year for the first time and managed to get through until this summer on what I had canned. Also remember to take of the rings and not to stack your jars-that way if a lid does become loose you will know it instead of it “resealing” and possibly making you sick.

  • Angela

    Where did you get your canning pot? It’s so cute!

  • Caroline L.

    It is so great to read about your experiences in homemade products… You always break it down so that it seems simple instead of scary! Thanks!

  • Elizabeth

    It looks like the large All-Clad Multi-pot (12 quart) and it includes the strainer and a shallow steam basket. It is not the usual ‘all clad’ up the sides, however, just a tri-ply base but it still works well. It is great for making stock as well.

  • Chelsea

    This is really impressive! I want to try raspberry preserves, and this post was inspiring, thanks!

  • 4goodnessbake!

    Great post! We have a huge vegetable garden and produce our own tomatoes- on a large scale, so I can a lot of tomato sauce. However, it takes forever to boil the sauce down and is therefore very labor intensive- usually I spend a whole day. :( I like your idea of just canning the fresh quartered tomatoes in the summer and then making your own sauce with them in the winter! I will definitely do that too! But you are totally right- canning is not hard at all- you just have to follow the recipe. Thanks for your detailed post! I love your blog!

  • Juliana

    Wow, nice post Annie…I love the pictures and instructions of canning…I never did any canning and still very reluctant…bookmarked in case I decided to give a shot.
    Again, thanks for the great post and hope you are having a wonderful week :)

  • annieseats

    It’s the Ball one I found at my grocery store.

  • Ann P.

    Very cool! I never knew it could be that easy! Right now is the perfect time for canning, too. I’m getting very nostalgic for the fruits and veggies of summer, and don’t want them to go away so soon :[

  • JessIca W.

    Thanks for this tutorial! I har always been interested in learning to can but have not ventured to it yet. Would you be interested in doing a blog on the canning supplies and various item used for canning for novices like me who have no idea about what to buy in the store to begin canning. Maybe kind of a checklist of recommended items and how they work. For me, and I am sure for many others, that would take away some of the intimidation of beginning to can. I hate wehrmacht I try something new only to find out I don’t have all the tools I need. Thanks for considering my suggestion! Keep up the great blogging! It is wonderful! :)

  • I love this! I have a ton of tomatoes and this is perfect!!! Thank you for posting this!!

  • Cathy @ Noble Pig

    What an amazing tutorial. You are going to have some great winter meals with these!

  • karen

    I’ve been canning for about 18 years (has it really been that long?) and we absolutely can not use store bought canned tomatoes/sauce. The taste of homemade is so good! My goal each year is to have 250 pints of sauce/tomatoes. I also can green beans, sweet pickles, zuchinni relish and pickles, hot peppers, dill beans, dilly beans and whatever else I have an abundance of. I also freeze about 20 dozen ears of corn and make crock dill pickles. If you like dill pickles, nothing…no store bought version…beats a good old fashioned crock dill pickle. To save time making my tomatoe sauce, I also use the same strainer as Jen. However, I use my sister’s method for cooking the sauce. It saves time and I get a thick sauce..a spoon standing in the sauce thick. Enjoy your tomatoes this winter. Because of the taste, the work is worth it.

  • Katie

    Thanks for the great post! My husband bought me a canner last Christmas and I absolutely love canning. I’ve done salsa and tomato sauce, but never thought of doing just canned tomatoes! I’ll have to give that a try.

  • annieseats

    I doubt I’ll get around to it this season, but I’ll keep it in mind for next year. Thanks!

  • If you have freezer space, freezing tomatoes is easy also, wash, blanch and peel, quarter and put in freezer bags, so easy to cook up and use in chili and other recipes. it is my fav method for saving tomatoes.

  • Fiber of All Sorts {h2ogirl76}

    This is grand. It’s nice to see other’s are doing this at the same time as me. I’m intimidated by the pressure canner.. lots more research to do before using that method

  • Angela

    This has been the first year I’ve canned and I am loving it. I agree-it seems intimidating until it’s done. I look forward to trying this recipe. Thanks for sharing!

  • Ashley @ Wishes and Dishes

    Home canned tomatoes are the best for sure!!

  • annieseats

    Yes, someone else mentioned that. I don’t have that kind of freezer space unfortunately.

  • Shelley

    This post was awesome for helping with how long to soak the tomatoes as mine always came out mushy however still tasty. I boil mine ( I only make stewed tomatoes) after then add to the jar it seems much easier just a bit hot on hands though so use something to hold jars with if you try it that way. Awesome post thanks a bunch for the help :) Happy Canning :)

  • Lisa @ The Cooking Bride

    I just started canning this summer too! So far I have made diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.

  • Becky

    Have loved your blog and recipes for quite some time now–first time commenting! So glad you jumped into canning–you can’t beat fresh tomatoes all year round! When I do it, I actually skip the scoring step, and I remove the tomatoes from the hot water as soon as I see a split in the skin. I know for me, one step removed sometimes saves a lot of time! Thanks for sharing this!!

  • This is such a great how-to!! I’ve been wanting to get into canning and I use a ton of tomatoes, so this is perfect!! Does the lemon juice have to be bottled or can it be fresh?

  • annieseats

    The recipes all call for bottled. I’m assuming because the pH is uniform whereas it may vary from a fresh lemon? Just my guess.

  • Yasee

    How do you store your canned tomatoes? And how long do canned fruits/veggies usually last for? Thanks so much.

  • natalie

    I’ve been wanting to get into canning, but it’s so intimidating! 20 LBS OF TOMATOES??!?!? I’m sure it’s more than worth it, though… Thankfully all the pictures and step-by-step instructions make it seem pretty hard to mess up?? Or do you think it’s a little ambitious for a first-timer? Maybe I should start with your jam recipe instead? lol :)

  • annieseats

    Properly canned tomatoes should be stored as you would any other canned good.

  • Susannah Perry

    So… CLEARLY I have been using my jar gripper upside down. Good to know…

  • annieseats

    Oh no! Well, at least now you know.

  • annieseats

    I think anything is simplified with photos and clear instructions. Anyone can do this, trust me!

  • rosyblu

    HA! I’m so glad I’m not the only one…I used it upside down for about a year before the lightbulb moment that there was a reason that one side is curved.

  • Miwa

    Love your directions! Inspired me to try canning my bumper crop of about 60 pounds of tomatoes.

    One thing I found helpful was to have a water-boiling kettle on hand – Mine is Breville brand, basically a thing I use for making my French press coffee. I just found that having an extra 2 L of boiling water on hand for the canning process left less to guesswork, as I could add boiling water at will when needed. Thank you!

  • Annie Amos

    I also used it upside down for about a year! Ha!

  • Reen

    Hi Annie…not sure what’s happened but the step by step pictures are missing…there’s a message that states ‘this image or video is currently unavailable’?

  • annieseats

    Ugh, Flickr had some glitch a couple of months ago that caused nearly 25% of the photos on my site to disappear completely. I have fixed most of them (and I’ve already fixed this post once) but apparently it happened again. It should be corrected now. Sorry about that.

  • Mary

    Awesome thank you!!!

  • Holly Drainer

    Have you noticed Ball changed the time to 85 minutes for processing? I’ve been canning jam for years, but this is my first go at tomatoes. Seeing your post gives me courage to try something new :)

  • annieseats

    No, ours came out of a book so I haven’t looked for updates. I’m not worried about it though – this has always worked for me, so it should continue to be fine. Have fun canning!