Canning tomatoes is the height of the summer garden experience. But it can also be overwhelming when you're faced with canning hundreds of pounds before they go bad! Get my easy recipe for canning tomatoes and use my simple trick for saving them so you can water bath can them at your leisure!
This year our summer garden went completely crazy. I'm talking "locked up in a padded room in Lubbock" crazy.
That's the "problem" with the Back to Eden gardening method... you get huge gorgeous plants and the most abundant garden you can imagine! Seriously, we had veggies coming out of our ears for MONTHS before the heat finally took everything out and we had a lull in the produce.
My first year of homesteading really caught me completely off guard as I had no idea I would be spending 8-10 hours a day canning and processing food for 3 straight months.
I was emotionally and physically exhausted from the enormous effort that was involved in single-handedly processing over 1000 pounds of produce. As a result, I tried to find all the shortcuts I could! One of the things I found that I could postpone was canning tomatoes!
I'll share my trick for canning tomatoes after the season ends (which is especially good for indeterminant tomato varieties) in a minute, but first, let's talk about actually canning tomatoes.
Learning how to can tomatoes is a very easy process and once you try it, you'll be hooked! We like to can tomatoes after just heating, and pureeing the whole tomato. However, you can also peel them and de-seed them with a food mill if desired.
Canned tomatoes are very simple when it comes to ingredients, just tomatoes and lemon juice!
Tomatoes - This can be any kind of tomato. While many people stick with paste tomatoes for this process, we have canned every kind of tomato, even cherry tomatoes! You can peel them if desired, but you don't have to. You can simply cook them until the juices release, then puree the whole tomato and can!
Lemon Juice - We use bottled lemon juice, due to the predictable pH levels. However, you can just fresh lemon juice if you have it on hand. This helps raise the pH of the tomatoes so they can be water bath canned.
How to Can Tomatoes
Here's a quick overview of the process for canning tomatoes!
- Prepare: Select, wash, score, blanch, cool, and peel tomatoes (if desired).
- Sterilize: Clean and sterilize canning jars using boiling water or a hot dishwasher cycle.
- Cook: Add the peeled tomatoes to a food processor and blend until smooth. Then heat the tomatoes up to boiling before continuing.
- Fill: Add bottled lemon juice for acidity and fill jars with hot, pureed tomatoes.
- Prepare jars: Remove air bubbles, wipe jar rims, apply lids and rings.
- Can: Process 45 minutes in a water bath canner.
- Cool: Remove processed jars from canner and let them cool naturally.
- Store: Check seals, label and date jars, and store in a cool, dark place.
- Enjoy: Use your canned tomatoes in various recipes and savor the flavors all year round.
How to Use Canned Tomatoes
While there are lots of different ways to can tomatoes - pasta sauce, juice, salsa, and even tomato jam for example - we mostly just can a generic sauce so that it can be used for any number of things in post-processing.
Here are a few of our favorite ways to use our canned tomato sauce:
- One Pan Healthy Broccoli Casserole
- Spaghetti Squash Casserole
- Pizza (just reduce the sauce and season!)
- And of course, pasta!!
Freezing Tomatoes for Later VIDEO
It is a surprisingly simple task to store gallons and gallons of tomatoes for later processing. It takes almost zero effort and is a great way to store indeterminate tomatoes until the end of the season so you can process them all at once.
All you have to do is freeze them! That's right, you can just freeze the tomatoes whole in order to can them later with these easy steps!
- Sort - Sort tomatoes, setting aside those with cuts or bites. Place whole tomatoes in a gallon freezer bag and seal it.
- Freeze - Freeze the tomatoes in a single layer, avoiding stacking, until completely frozen (about 12 hours). Store the frozen bags as desired.
- Soak - When ready to process, soak the tomatoes in warm water for 3-5 minutes. Remove the skin by pulling it towards the blossom end.
- Process - Process the tomatoes for canning or use them to make fresh sauce immediately.
I was able to freeze 18 bags of tomatoes this year, from just one plant!
Yes, you can use a variety of tomatoes for canning. However, most people prefer using meaty tomatoes like Roma or San Marzano for their higher flesh-to-juice ratio.
While it's not mandatory, peeling the tomatoes can improve the texture of the canned product. You can easily remove the skins by blanching the tomatoes in boiling water and then transferring them to an ice bath.
Adding lemon juice helps increase the acidity of the tomatoes, which is crucial for safe canning. It ensures that the canned tomatoes have a low enough pH to prevent the growth of harmful bacteria.
When stored in a cool, dark place, properly canned tomatoes can last for up to 12 to 18 months. However, for the best quality, it's recommended to use them within a year.
While jars can be reused as long as they are in good condition, lids should not be reused as the sealing compound may not work effectively after the initial use. It's important to use new lids for each canning session to ensure a proper seal.
Even More Canning Fun
If you're looking for more simple and delicious water bath canning recipes, here are a few of our favorites!
- 22 pounds tomatoes fresh or frozen
- 14 tbsp lemon juice bottled or fresh
- Heat jars in boiling water, or in the dishwasher on sterilize.
- Remove lemon juice from fridge and allow to warm to room temperature (if it's cold when starting out). This prevents the jars from breaking when you add the cold liquid to the hot jar.
- Peel and de-seed tomatoes, if desired. This is easiest if they were frozen first!
- Remove blossom end with a knife.
- Place tomatoes in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.
- Using an immersion blender (if available) blend tomatoes until smooth. If no immersion blender is available, use a regular blender or a food processor to blend tomatoes. Transfer back to the pot and bring to a low boil.
- Remove jars from oven and add lemon juice to bottom of each jar. 1 tbsp per pint, 2 tbsp per quart.
- Ladle in tomato sauce, leaving a 1/2" headspace. Clean rims and secure lids and rings.
- Follow canning instructions here and process for 45 minutes in a water bath canner.
- Remove from canner and allow to cool for 24 hours before moving and storing.