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 “How to Can Tomatoes: Water-Bath and Pressure Canning”!
YES, that’s right! You can process tomatoes in either a water-bath or a pressure canner!
First, you’re going to need fresh-picked, fleshy tomatoes from the garden 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, omelets, pasta or in fresh marinara!
Here’s what you’re going to need:
Beautiful fresh tomatoes
Salt (1/2 tsp for pints, 1 tsp. for quarts)
A pan or kettle of hot water
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…
Water Bath Canning Tomatoes
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.
Then add salt (1/2 tsp for pints, 1 tsp. for quarts).
Canning Diced Tomatoes the Easy Way
You can process your garden-fresh tomatoes in any fashion you prefer: whole, crushed, quartered, whatever. But I prefer to can diced tomatoes, it’s just easier for me to work with.
Let me show you the easy way to can diced tomatoes!
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.
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.
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.
Using a dough scraper (go figure), I scrape the tomatoes off the cutting board and put them directly into the jars.
Aren’t they pretty? I love the look of tomatoes in mason jars!
Keep cutting and filling 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.
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!
(I forgot to add salt to my jars at the beginning, so I’m adding it now!) It’s best to add it and the lemon juice at the bottom though!
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…
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.
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.
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!)
If your loaded jars are cold, you could just place them all in water bath canner with tepid water, and let them all heat up together. (This will not work with pressure canning, but it can work with water bath canning)
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.
The water in the canner should cover the jars by 1-2″, add water if needed.
Once your jars are placed, turn the burner on high and bring the water to a boil.
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.
Once the timer goes off, remove the entire canner from the heat and take the lid off. Wait 5 minutes and then remove jars.
Place a clean kitchen towel nearby and gently lift your jars out of the canner, then place them on the towel.
What a work of art!!
So, there you have it, how to can tomatoes the right way!
How to Pressure-Can Tomatoes
Wait, is that a thing?
Yes, it is!
You CAN pressure-can tomatoes, if you choose to.
What are some reasons you might decide to pressure can your tomatoes?
- It’s a lot faster! It only takes 10 minutes to process in a pressure-canner as opposed to 45 minutes in a water-bath canner for quarts!
- Pressure-canning preserves more of the nutritional value of the tomatoes.
- If you just have one water-bath canner, you can alternate with your pressure-canner and speed up your canning!
How is Pressure-Canning Tomatoes Different than Water-Bath Canning?
The process of preparing tomatoes for pressure-canning is the same as for water-bath canning.
However, the difference is how you prepare and fill the jars.
With pressure-canning, you’re dealing with not only a much higher temperature internally, there’s also a much higher contrast of temperature between the canner and the jars.
So what does that mean?
It means that you must work with HOT jars when filling them for the pressure canner.
The best way I’ve found to do this is to keep the jars, filled about 1/3 with water, inside the open pressure canner that has a few inches of water as well.
As you’re ready to fill your jars with tomatoes, simply remove one jar at a time and empty the hot water out in a sink.
You will need to add salt and lemon juice, just as you do with water-bath canning in the bottom of the jar.
Salt: Pints 1/2 tsp., quarts 1 tsp.
Lemon juice: Pints 1 tbsp., quarts 2 tbsp.
Then, fill your jars with tomatoes and then new hot water. (Remember, we want the jar to stay hot!)
Insert wooden or plastic spoon to eliminate any air bubbles.
Put the jar back into the hot water within the pressure canner, move on to the next jar and finish them all.
Once all of the jars are full and back in the pressure canner’s hot water, then take a clean cloth and wipe the rims clean, then put on a lid and ring.
Resist the temptation to tighten the rings down too hard.
Follow the instructions for your pressure canner.
Process quarts and pints for 10 minutes with 10 PSI.
Super fast processing!
If you get stuck or have other questions, please comment below and I will be in contact with you.