- Prep time 5 hours
- Cook time 1 hour 15 minutes
- Serves 4 quarts
Every year since he can remember, my father has canned fruits, vegetables, and jams. He learned his techniques from his mother (my grandmother), who typed up her time-tested instructions for how to can tomatoes and other seasonal produce, and made an entire booklet for him when he moved out of the house.
I've been helping Dad with canning since I was little, and we still always set aside a few August days to preserve the bounty of summer. Learning how to can tomatoes has been essential for my home cooking skills because I use them all winter long—they're great for making sauces, soups and spreads.
The rule of thumb is to order three pounds of tomatoes for each quart of canned tomatoes you want to make. We usually pre-order ours from a local farm, and find that one large bushel yields about 16 to 18 quarts. Meaty tomato varieties work best for canning. We've used several different kinds, and the farmers we work with give us great recommendations on which ones to can that year.
Each quart of tomatoes will need a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice. Coarse kosher sat works best for canning, and using bottled lemon juice is the safest way to ensure a consistent level of acidity that will keep the jars shelf-stable. Canning can be a little labor-intensive and requires some practice and specialized equipment, like a wire jar rack for the water bath, but the result is well worth it.
Helpful tools for this recipe:
- 6-Piece Canning Tool Set
- Hestan Probond Forged Stainless Steel Stockpot
- Kilner Vintage Preserving Jars, Set of 12
Test Kitchen Notes
The best way to preserve peak-season tomatoes? Can them! The process requires a little bit of effort and planning, but altogether is quite simple—and once you taste a homemade batch, you’ll be hard-pressed to want to go back to the store-bought variety. Make a big batch towards the end of summer for a bright tomatoey burst all year round—especially during the chilly winter months when freshness can feel hard to come by.
Marisa McClellan for The Kitchn recommends paste tomatoes, which “are quite dry, very meaty and have fewer seeds than your standard slicer." Some of these varieties include Roma, San Marzano, Big Mama, and Jersey Giant.
Once your tomatoes are all canned, the fun part begins: all the recipes you’ll put them towards. Homemade tomato sauce, creamy tomato soup, tomatoey braised chicken thighs, the possibilities are endless. —The Editors
bottled lemon juice
sterilized quart jars with lids and rims
- Cut an X into the bottom of each tomato, which will make peeling easier. Boil a large stockpot or lobster pot of water and add all tomatoes, working in batches if necessary. When their skins begin to retract after a minute or so, remove the tomatoes from the water and plunge into cold water to stop the cooking and loosen the skins.
- Peel the tomato skins off, and cut out the stems. Press the peeled and cored tomatoes firmly into the sterilized jars until there is only 1/2-inch remaining at the top.
- Once the jars are filled, add a teaspoon of Kosher salt and a tablespoon of bottled lemon juice to each quart. Place the lids and rims on the jars, and tighten.
- Prepare a large boiling water bath in a stockpot or lobster pot, making sure the water is deep enough to completely cover the jars. Once the water has come to a boil, arrange the jars on a wire jar rack, and lower into water. Allow the jars to process in the water bath for 45 minutes.
- When the processing is complete, carefully remove the rack and place on a heatproof surface. Cover the jars with a clean dishtowel, and allow them to cool at room temperature for a few hours.
- Test the seals to ensure proper processing, label the jars with the date, and store in a cool, dark place (like a pantry) to enjoy for up to a year.