How to Can Tomatoes the Easy Way

Canned tomatoes are the perfect solution to the wintertime produce drag. When the only winter produce that is found in the stores is rotting and bland, canned fruits and vegetables can be the perfect way to brighten up your meals with fresh flavors and nutrition. However, using homemade canned tomatoes rather than store-bought ones is an even better solution. By using home canning processes, you are able to control the flavor of your canned tomatoes so that they come out exactly how you want them. Also, home canning processes can be manipulated to yield a much more nutritious product that that of commercial canning processes.

Home cooks should have no fear of the home canning process. Even for those who have never canned before, the process is remarkably simple, quick, and manageable. The following guidelines will help novice canners and expert canners alike to achieve a delicious batch of homemade canned tomatoes.

STEP ONE: CHOOSE THE PERFECT TOMATOES

The type of tomatoes that you choose to can will make an enormous difference in the finished product. Different types of tomatoes have varying acidities, different amounts of moisture, and varying cell wall thicknesses. This will affect how they stand up to the canning process.

The ideal tomato for canning would have relatively little moisture, high acidity, and thick walls. It is not impossible to can a tomato without these traits. However, your finished product will be considerably thinner and more watery, and you must take care that additional acids are added to the tomatoes so that they are sufficiently sanitized by the canner machine. Ideal types of tomatoes would include Roma, beefsteak, or Better Boys. You can even use green tomatoes, as unripe tomatoes tend to be even more acidic than ripe ones. Make sure that none of the tomatoes you select are bruised, rotting, or come from a dead or frost-damaged vine.

STEP TWO: PREPARE YOUR INGREDIENTS

It is important that all your tomatoes are scrubbed and cleaned thoroughly to prevent the growth of bacteria when the tomatoes are canned. For the same reason, make sure that the jars that your tomatoes will be canned in are carefully sanitized as well (either in the dishwasher or by boiling).

Next, the tomatoes’ peels must be removed. Bring a pot of water to a boil and score the tomatoes, so that the peels will come off easier. Remove the cores of the tomatoes. Then, quickly blanch the tomatoes in the boiling water for about one to two minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and immediately transfer them to a bowl of ice water. Once the tomatoes are cool enough to comfortably handle, the peels should slide off with ease.

Finally, if you desire, cut the tomatoes into quarters or chunks. There is nothing wrong with canning whole tomatoes; however, if you plan to use the canned tomatoes in a sauce or casserole sometime in the future, it is much easier to chop the tomatoes before the canning process than after.

STEP THREE: CAN YOUR TOMATOES

Fill each of your quart-sized canning jars with the prepared tomatoes, up to about 1/4 inch from the jar’s top. It is vital that no juices or pulp gets on the upper ring of the jar, as this will cause the jar to seal incorrectly with possibly dangerous repercussions. Next, add two tablespoons of lemon juice to each jar (alternately, add 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid). This will keep the tomatoes free of bacteria while they are canned. If you wish to offset the slightly bitter, acidic taste that the lemon juice or citric acid will contribute, you can also add about a tablespoon of sugar.

Next, squeeze out any air bubbles using a spoon. Place the jar lids onto the jars and place the jars in your canner machine, making sure that at least an inch of water covers the tops of the jars. After boiling the jars for 45 to 50 minutes, you will have a freshly-made batch of delicious, home-canned tomatoes.