Basically you need about every large bowl, pot, and pan in your house, and lots of water. Oh and lemon juice and canning jars. And time. That’s about it, really!
Canning your own tomatoes is not a secret, there is no hidden method, and the directions are readily available on about 700,000 websites, according to Google. But, since my husband and I spent several hours at this yesterday (in between me being on conference calls for work) I thought I would share what we did.
How to Can Fresh Tomatoes
10 pounds fresh-picked tomatoes, give or take
6 or 7 pint canning jars and lids
1 tablespoon lemon juice per jar
Salt or sugar (optional)
First get a really large pot of water on to boil and add the jars (without lids) to it. I have a 15-quart canning pot that we used. Also put on another largish pot of water to boil to blanch the tomatoes. Next, get a full tea kettle of water on to boil, or another pot of water if you don’t have one.
Meanwhile, prep the tomatoes by washing and coring them, cutting off bad spots, and making an X-slit in the bottom to assist with peeling the skins. Once the blanching water is boiling, dunk the tomatoes in the pot for 30 to 60 seconds until the skins just start to peel on their own. Oh yeah, have a large bowl of ice water ready. Remove the tomatoes and immediately submerge into the ice water.
Once the pot with the jars in it has boiled for at least 10 minutes, remove the jars and add 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice to each one. Do not use fresh lemon juice as the acidity level of it cannot be relied on. You may add about a teaspoon of salt and/or sugar at this point for extra taste, but we did not do that and left them plain. Next get another bowl and add the lids and the seals and cover with the boiling water from the tea kettle to sterilize them. Then fill the tea kettle back up again, as you’ll need more boiling water later.
Now begin peeling the skins from the tomatoes and adding them to the jars, filling them up leaving a half-inch head space. You can cut or quarter any of the larger tomatoes. Once you have a full jar, pour the boiling water from the tea kettle up to the half-inch head space. At this point it is recommended to run a spatula around the edge of the jars to remove air bubbles, but I forgot that step. Some of the jars we didn’t pack as tight as the others, and that became evident after the canning process.
Oh, and you should bring the canning pot of water back up to a boil at this point. After all the jars are filled (we ended up with 7 jars), carefully wipe the rims with a wet paper towel to remove any tomato specks and juice. Add the lid seals and lids, and tighten hand-tight. Do not over tighten. Using canning tongs or some other method, carefully add the jars to the boiling water bath. Make sure there is at least one inch of water over the tops of the jars. Once the water comes back up to a full roiling boil, keep the water boiling for at least 45 minutes for 0 to 3,000 feet altitude, 50 minutes for 3,001 to 6000 feet, and 55 minutes over 6,000 feet.
Remove the jars from the water and set on a thick towel to cool. You will hear the lids “pop” once the complete seal has taken place. If any of the jars do not seal completely, you must re-do the process or use them within the week. And there you have it! Canned fresh tomatoes ready for your soups, stews, and pasta sauces over the winter.
p.s. We didn’t have enough jars to can all the cherry tomatoes, and we froze the rest of those. (Thank you Laura for the tip!) Well that was certainly easier than the canning, but the satisfaction of a day in the kitchen canning your own produce can’t be beat!