Gardening is all about the harvest. We plant at least 50 tomato plants each year, for our family and for sharing with others. When you are overflowing with tomatoes, you have a couple of choices.
I like to can tomatoes and can tomato sauce for all year long enjoyment.
Either that, eat only them for breakfast, lunch and dinner for months. Of course, there is the ability to scare your friends and family, and alienate your neighbors. Most run the other way now when they see me coming with bags of ripe, red fruits now. True story.
For the beginner canner, to can tomatoes and can tomato sauce in a water bath is a great way to get your canning skills going. It’s easy to can tomatoes, and they have a great flavor to use in sauces, soups, and recipes later on as well. Plus, you get the added benefit of being able to can tomato sauce!
Tomatoes are a high acid food, and can be safely water bath canned. However, having said that, there is a few caveats. One, due to soil health and tomato seed quality changing over the years, there can be a fluctuation in the amount of acid each tomato plant and tomato can have.
So, to be safe when water bath canning them, it’s recommended that you add some acid to each jar. That doesn’t change the flavor, and can help with preservation of color and flavor as well. This recipe is for how to can whole tomatoes, as it requires less prep work to begin with and they are quite versitile.
For canning tomatoes without a pressure cooker, you will need:
- clean quart jars, washed and sterilized in boiling water for 10 minutes. You can run them in the dishwasher and keep them on “hold” or “heat dry” until you are ready to use them. OR, you can hand wash, and place in the water bath canner full of water as you are heating that water as well.
- New lids. This is crucial that you don’t try and reuse canning lids (tattler are an exception) as that may cause them to not seal correctly. Soak the lids in simmering water to help loosen the sealing ring and get them ready to seal the jar.
- Bands for the jars. You can reuse bands, as long as they aren’t warped or rusted out. Warped bands can lead to seal failures.If that occurs, toss them or repurpose them.
- Water bath canner and lid
- Jar tongs
- canning funnel
- bottled lemon juice
- measuring spoon
- boiling water to cover tomatoes once in the jar
- clean, damp dishtowel
- pot holder
- rubber spatula
- clean towel to place hot jars on
- tomatoes-The best kind of tomatoes for canning are the larger ones, like roma, big boy, early girl and mortgage lifter.
To begin, wash your jars and sterilize like described above. As they are sterilizing, begin preparing your tomatoes. This is the step that takes the longest, yet really is the easiest.
- Bring a pot of water to a rolling boil
- Cut the core from the tomatoes carefully and compost
- Place the tomatoes in a sink, with the drain hole plugged
- Once all the tomatoes are cored, pour boiling water over all them and allow to sit in the water for 10 minutes.
- Put your feet up and drink a cup of tea or coffee while you are waiting.
- Drain the water (carefully, as it can still be hot) and replug the sink.
- Run cold water and add ice cubes to the tomatoes.
- Allow to sit in the iced water for about 5 minutes while you finish your beverage.
- Drain the ice water, grasp a tomato and with the core opening facing toward you, run your thumbs across the skin and the tomato skins should slip right off for you. Save the skins in a bowl (I’ll show you what to do with those later)
- Place the now peeled tomatoes in a bowl and set aside until all tomatoes are peeled.
Now, we are ready for canning tomatoes water bath style.
This is the fun part, really. My kids even enjoyed shoving the tomatoes into the jar. I wonder if it was because they were sick of eating them fresh by this point, or they truly enjoyed helping. They aren’t talking, so I am not sure I will ever know the truth.
The next part of this canning tomatoes recipes is:
- Take a hot jar, and fill with the tomatoes.
- Push them through the funnel and they will “suck down” into the jar.
- For larger tomatoes, you may have to cut them into ½ to get them to fit into the jar.
- Fill the jar about ¾ full of tomatoes.
- You can push them down a bit to get more into each jar, if desired. This may “crush” them, but it’s perfectly fine.
- Add ½ teaspoon lemon juice to each jar. Again, this is to ensure enough acid to water bath safely.
- Cover with boiling water, leaving ½ inch headspace. This is the second thread from the top on your jar.
- Slide your spatula around the jar and tomatoes to remove any air bubbles. Add more water if necessary to keep the headspace at ½ inch.
- Carefully wipe the top of the jar with the damp towel to remove any food that may have spilled on to it.
Add the lid and screw the band on finger tight.
- Repeat the steps until you have enough to fill your canner with jars, or you run out of tomatoes.
- Process in the water for 45 minutes. Start the timer AFTER the water comes to a full, rolling boil.
- Once the timer goes off, use the canning jar tongs to remove the hot jars and place on the towel in a non drafty area to cool.
You should starting hearing that beautiful “ping-ping-ping”, signaling that your jars are sealing.
After 24 hours, check the seals by pressing carefully down the middle of them. Those that pop back are not sealed, and should be stored in the fridge to use within 3 days. Those that stay sealed can now have the band removed, the jar washed and stored on your pantry shelf for up to 12 months.
Now, you still have the skins to deal with.
You could have tossed them to the chickens by now, and they would have enjoyed that special treat. But, we are going to make and can tomato sauce with them! Truly genius, right? It’s amazing tomato flavor in those skins, and if you cook them down, it’s aaaaahhh-mazing!
- Simply place the skins in a heavy bottomed pot. (I am a cast iron freak, but I use my enameled pan for this. Cast iron and high acid foods alone aren’t a good combination, as the acid can ruin the seasoning.)
- Add water to the skins to just barely cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Blend the skins and water with a stick blender, or pour into a regular blender. Blend until smooth.
- Add the sauce back to the pan and allow to simmer for another 30 minutes, cooking out as much of the water as possible.
- Now you have delicious tomato sauce that is thick and meaty for sauces and soups!
Now, as for how to can tomato sauce for later:
- Using clean, hot pint jars, fill to ½ inch headspace.
- Wipe the top of the jars with a damp rag, removing any food bits.
- Add ¼ teaspoon lemon juice (again, to ensure acid levels are safe)
- Add clean lid and screw band finger tight.
- Process in boiling water bath canner for 30 minutes.
- Remove from water and place in a non drafty area for 24 hours. Listen for that sweet “ping-ping-ping” to occur.
Store sealed jars in the pantry for up to 12 months, non sealed jars should be stored in the fridge and used within 3 days.
As you can see, it’s not hard to can tomatoes or to can tomato sauce for later. The uses for them are nearly endless too! What are some of your favorite ways to use canned tomatoes? Pizza sauce, soups, chilis? I’d love to hear what your plans are for them this year!
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- Which way out of three different canning methods, is likely to kill you?
- How has bacteria mutated since Grandma used to can, and how does that affect you?
- How to can raw meat, and why some meat has to be canned differently.
- Why canning milk and eggs should be avoided.
- When to use different canning methods.
- How to can berries, vegetables, fruit, meat off-grid.
- How to blanch tomatoes
... and so much more!
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