How to Can Tomatoes
Canning your fresh tomatoes is fun, inexpensive and produces a tasty product with no BPA (See what FitDay.com has to say about BPA), monosodium glutamate, extra salt or sugar. These things alone are enough to make it worth your time for your health and for your family’s health.
Tomatoes are technically a high acid fruit. Canning tomatoes at home is safe because of the high acid content. Things with high acid or high sugar contents are safer to can at home than something like green beans or meat because the acid and/or the sugar helps to control bacterial growth. Canning anything in a pressure cooker is safer than using a water bath because the pressure cooker uses a higher temperature. But canning tomatoes in a water bath is fine. I do it all the time and we are at 4,000 feet elevation where water boils at 208 degrees instead of the 212 degrees at which it boils at sea level.
It is surprising how many tomatoes can fit into a pint jar. It is amazing how many tomatoes fit into a quart jar. Weigh your tomatoes to find out how many jars you will need. 16 ounces (one pound) of tomatoes will fit into a pint jar and 32 ounces (two pounds) will fit into a quart jar.
What you will need
|A canning kettle|
|Screw on rings|
|Paring knife for coring|
There are some very good kits available, too.
Decide whether you want to use pint jars (16 ounces) or quart jars (32 ounces). I prefer the pint jars because I can always open two jars if I need more canned tomatoes for something. If you have a big family, using quart jars makes more sense. I only use pint or quart jars but half pint, and half gallon jars are available, too. The half pint, pint and quart jars come in wide mouth options so make sure you buy the correct size lids and rings to fit the jars you use.
Put the jars that you are going to use into the dishwasher and set the dishwasher on the sanitize cycle. When the jars are cleaned and now sanitized, take them out and let them cool down a little by placing them on a dish towel on the counter mouth side down. Have rings and lids ready to go. The screw rings can be reused. The lids cannot. A new lid needs to be used for each jar.
Get the canning kettle on the stove, put about 2 inches of water in it and get it heating even before you start processing the tomatoes. That way, when the jars are ready they can go immediately into the canning kettle.
The tomatoes need to be blanched to get the skins to come off easily.
To blanch tomatoes, get a pot of water boiling at a rapid boil. Put as many tomatoes into the pot that will loosely fit. Wait for the water to come back to a boil. At that point, start timing 30 seconds. Then dip out the tomatoes with a slotted spoon into a bowl. The skins will now slip off, usually in one piece. Clean the core out of the tomato and it is ready to go into the jar.
I like to add dried onion, oregano, salt and pepper to my jars before the tomatoes go in. Other things you might want to add are a pinch of sugar, a teaspoon of vinegar, garlic, basil (fresh or dried) or any other herb or spice can be included in the jar.
Fill each jar to the middle of the shoulder of the jar. The shoulder is where the jar curves to reduce the size to the mouth. Using a clean, lint-free cloth, wipe the edge of the mouth of the jar to make sure it is absolutely clean. Put on the lid and loosely screw the ring on.
Most water bath canning kettles will hold six or seven jars. Pint jars and quart jars are the same size on the bottom. It’s just that quart jars are taller.
When you have enough jars filled to fill a canner, use your jar lifter to gently put each jar into the canner. If your kettle does not have a rack (mine does not), I use an old, thin dishtowel on the bottom of the canner as a cushion for the jars. The boiling water rattles the jars around pretty good. I don’t want a jar to break. I have had it happen and it is a mess.
Wait for the canner water to get boiling rapidly, then set your timer for fifteen minutes. Have a dry towel on the counter ready to receive the hot jars as they come out of the canner.
When the timer goes off, gently lift each jar out of the water bath and onto the towel on the counter. Leave about a jar’s width of space between each jar so each jar can cool off as quickly as possible. When all the jars are out of the water bath, tighten the screw rings until just nicely tight. Don’t crank them down or you will have a lot of difficulty unscrewing them when you need to use some tomatoes.
Leave the jars alone until they are cooled to room temperature. Store the jars in a cool cupboard until you need some wonderful home-canned tomatoes.