Canning Tomatoes for Beginners

Canning Tomatoes For Beginners

Summer is tomato season!  Oh tomatoes, how many ways do I love thee??  Now is the time to capture that fresh flavor in jars for the winter months!  Today, I’m going to show you how with “Canning Tomatoes for Beginners”!

First, you’re going to need fresh-picked, fleshy tomatoes for canning!  Often times, I’ll pick up a couple of cases to can, long before my own garden tomatoes are ready.  I don’t want to miss a single opportunity to enjoy tomatoes on sandwiches, omelettes, pasta or in fresh marinara!

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canning tomatoes

Here’s what you’re going to need:

Beautiful fresh tomatoes

Water bath canner

Jar lifter

Good knives

Cutting board

Canning jars, lids and rings


Lemon juice

Various rubber spatulas to release air bubbles in jars

Wide-mouth funnel

A pan or kettle of hot water

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canning tomatoes

The first thing I do is wash my tomatoes in a sink full of cool water, along with a cup or two of vinegar and a few drops of fragrance-free dish soap.  Swish them around for a few minutes and give them a good rinse!  Put in colander to dry.

Now to get started…

Line up your sterilized jars on your work surface.

Ball Canning Book recommends putting 1 tbsp. of lemon juice in the bottom of your pint jars and 2 tbsp. in quart jars.   Although tomatoes are considered a high-acid food, the exact acidity is inconsistent.  Adding lemon juice helps to insure that the acid levels are high enough for water-bath canning.

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After cutting your tomato in half (and taking a whiff of that tomato-awesomeness!), use your thumb to swipe out those seeds.  You don’t have to get every single one, but get most of them.  They make the tomatoes bitter when you cook with them.

canning tomatoes

I keep a small bowl nearby for the seed collection….you can save the seeds to use next year or just put in the compost pile.

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removing seeds from tomatoes

Once the seeds are out, I like to turn my tomato flat on the cutting board and slice like an orange.  Then I turn it and cut it the other way, making nice small cuts.

dicing tomatoes

Using a dough scraper (go figure), I scrape the tomatoes off the cutting board and put them directly into the jars.

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diced tomatoes

Aren’t they pretty?  I love the look of tomatoes in mason jars!

ball jar with tomato pieces and funnel

Keep cutting and filling jars…

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canning tomatoes in mason jars

Gently press your tomatoes down to make a bit more room, I’m using my blender tool.  Tomatoes tend to hold a lot of juice.  Once canned, you may find an inch or two of head space that you didn’t want.  Packing them in good and tight will help to eliminate that.

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pressing down canned tomatoes

While you’re doing all of this, make sure you have some of the correct sized canning lids on simmer in a saucepan, ready to go.  Do not boil them, please!

heating canning lids

Next, your tomatoes are going to need some salt to preserve them.  For quart jars, add 1 tsp. of salt.  For pints, add 1/2 tsp. of salt.

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adding salt to canning tomatoes

Now is the time to release any air bubbles inside the jar, I use the clean end of a rubber spatula for this.  As the bubbles release, add hot water to the jar from your kettle.  Your goal is 1/2″ head space…

pouring hot water into mason canning jar full of tomatoes

Like this…..

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close up of mason jar rim

With a super clean cloth, wipe the mouth of the jars clean.  I like to dip my cloth in the hot lid water for this.  Make sure you don’t leave even the smallest grain of salt or tomato on the lip or the jar will not seal properly.

wiping rim of mason canning jar


Using tongs, lift the hot lids from your saucepan and set them directly on the jar.

Then, with one finger holding the lid down, put the rings on tight.

If you mess up, just dip the lid in the hot water again and start over.  It takes some practice and we all make mistakes.

jars of canned tomatoes

Your water bath canner should be at least half-full with simmering water, about 180 degrees.  If it’s too hot, the jars will break.  (Yep, been there done that!)

Place your full jars into the canner.  You can use the jar basket to lift them up and down, but I usually just place them in with the jar lifter.  Make sure there is distance between the jars so that water can circulate while cooking.

Water should cover the jars by 1-2″, add water if needed.

canning tomatoes in water bath canner

Once your jars are placed, turn the burner on high and bring the water to a boil.

canning tomatoes in water bath canner

Once the water begins to boil, turn the heat down slightly to maintain boil and start timer.

Quarts require 45 minute processing time, pints need 40 minutes.

If your canner is like mine, water likes to boil over a bit.  Don’t panic, just keep some clean kitchen towels to sop it up.

water bath canner on stove


Time to pull the jars out of the canner!

Place a clean kitchen towel nearby and gently lift your jars out of the canner, then place them on the towel.

removing hot jars from water bath canner

What a work of art!!

jars of canned tomatoes

So, there you have it, how to can tomatoes the right way!

If you get stuck or have other questions, please comment below and I will be in contact with you.

three quarts of canned tomatoes with three tomatoes in front




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