How to Can Tomatoes at Home: The Ultimate Guide

Canning tomatoes is a rewarding activity that can provide you with a steady supply of delicious, fresh-tasting tomatoes all year long. Whether you have your own tomato garden or simply want to take advantage of the local farmers’ market’s seasonal offerings, canning is an excellent way to preserve excess produce and reduce food waste. Additionally, canned tomatoes are versatile and can be used in a wide variety of recipes, from soups and stews to pasta dishes and sauces.

However, canning can be intimidating for beginners, and many people don’t know where to start. That’s why we’ve put together this ultimate guide on how to can tomatoes at home. We’ll walk you through everything you need to know, including the benefits of canning, what equipment you’ll need, and step-by-step instructions for the water bath and pressure canning methods. By the end of this guide, you’ll be confident in your ability to can tomatoes and ready to enjoy the fruits of your labor for months to come.


Tomatoes are a versatile and nutritious ingredient that can be used in a variety of dishes. However, they have a short shelf life and can spoil quickly if not consumed in time. Canning is one of the best ways to preserve tomatoes and extend their life while retaining their flavor and nutritional content.

In this article, we will guide you through the process of canning tomatoes at home. We’ll discuss the benefits of canning, what you’ll need to get started, and provide step-by-step instructions for both water bath and pressure canning methods. By the end of this article, you’ll have all the information you need to safely and effectively can tomatoes in your own kitchen.

Whether you want to preserve excess tomatoes from your garden or enjoy the taste of fresh tomato sauce all year round, you’re in the right place. Let’s dive in and explore the world of home canning!

Why You Should Can Tomatoes

Health Benefits of Canned Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes are not only convenient, but they also come with a host of health benefits. One of the key advantages of canned tomatoes is their high lycopene content. Lycopene is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against cell damage and inflammation. It’s found in high concentrations in cooked tomatoes, making canned tomatoes an excellent source.

Research has linked lycopene intake with a reduced risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer, and stroke. In particular, studies have shown that increased lycopene intake is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer in men. This is because lycopene helps to regulate cell growth and prevent abnormal cell growth.

Moreover, canned tomatoes are rich in other nutrients such as vitamin C, potassium, and folate. Vitamin C is essential for collagen production, which supports healthy skin and joint function. Potassium plays a vital role in regulating blood pressure and heart health, while folate is important for fetal development during pregnancy.

In summary, incorporating canned tomatoes into your diet can offer numerous health benefits due to their high lycopene content, which is associated with a reduced risk of chronic diseases. Additionally, canned tomatoes are a great source of other essential nutrients, making them a nutritious addition to any meal.

Cost-Effective Canning

Cost-Effective Canning

Canning tomatoes is not only a great way to preserve the excess tomato harvest, but it can also be a cost-effective solution for your grocery budget. By canning tomatoes, you can save money by avoiding expensive canned tomatoes from the store and reducing food waste.

One of the main advantages of canning tomatoes is that you can buy them in bulk when they are in season, which often results in lower prices per pound than buying them individually throughout the year. For example, if you live in an area where tomatoes are abundant during the summer months, you can buy a bushel of tomatoes for a fraction of the cost of buying them individually. By canning these tomatoes, you will have a supply of flavorful, nutritious tomatoes at your disposal all year round.

Canning also allows you to reduce food waste by using up any excess tomatoes that may otherwise go bad. When you have an abundance of tomatoes, it can be challenging to use them up before they spoil. By canning them, you can avoid this problem and enjoy the taste of fresh tomatoes all year long.

In addition to saving money and reducing food waste, canning tomatoes also allows you to control what goes into your food. You can choose to add salt or other seasonings to your canned tomatoes, or you can choose to keep them plain. By canning your own tomatoes, you know exactly what ingredients are going into your food.

Overall, cost-effective canning is a smart and practical solution for anyone looking to save money and reduce food waste while enjoying fresh, nutritious tomatoes all year round.

Preserving Excess Tomato Harvest

Preserving Excess Tomato Harvest:

If you have a home garden, you know that tomato plants can be quite prolific. And while it’s great to have fresh tomatoes available all summer long, it’s not uncommon to end up with more than you can eat before they spoil. That’s where canning comes in handy, especially when it comes to preserving excess tomato harvest.

Avoiding spoilage of excess tomatoes is not only a matter of saving money, but also a way to reduce food waste. By canning tomatoes, you can enjoy their fresh taste all year round, even after the growing season ends. This is particularly valuable if you prefer cooking with fresh, locally sourced ingredients rather than buying canned tomatoes from the store.

Canning excess tomatoes is also a great way to control what goes into your food. You can choose which varieties of tomatoes to can and add your own seasonings, such as basil or garlic, for added flavor. Canned tomatoes are also free of preservatives and additives that are often found in commercially canned products.

There are two main methods of canning tomatoes: water bath canning and pressure canning. Water bath canning is suitable for high-acid foods, such as tomatoes, while pressure canning is necessary for low-acid foods, such as meats and vegetables. Both methods require the use of specific equipment, including jars, lids, and a canner. But once you have the equipment and learn the process, canning tomatoes becomes an easy and rewarding activity.

In conclusion, preserving excess tomato harvest through canning is a great way to avoid waste, save money, and enjoy fresh, homegrown tomatoes all year round. With a little effort and some basic equipment, you can easily learn how to can tomatoes and reap the benefits of this traditional preservation method.

What You’ll Need to Can Tomatoes


Best Tomato Varieties for Canning

Choosing the right tomato variety is essential when it comes to canning. Not all tomatoes are created equal, and some will yield much better results than others. Here are some of the best tomato varieties for canning:

Roma Tomatoes

Roma tomatoes are an excellent choice for canning because they have a thick flesh and low seed count. They hold their shape well during cooking and are less likely to turn into mush. Plus, Romas have a higher acid content, which is important for safe canning.

San Marzano Tomatoes

San Marzano tomatoes are famous for their use in Italian sauces and are also great for canning. Like Romas, they have a thick flesh and a low seed count, but they’re sweeter and less acidic. This sweetness can help balance out the acidity of other canned ingredients, such as vinegar.

Amish Paste Tomatoes

Amish Paste tomatoes are another excellent option for canning. They are meaty and flavorful, with a high sugar content that gives them a sweet taste. They also have fewer seeds and more flesh than other tomato varieties, making them perfect for canning whole or crushed.

Cherry Tomatoes

While not traditionally used for canning, cherry tomatoes can be an excellent choice if you’re looking to make tomato jam or preserve them whole. Their small size means they don’t need to be peeled, and they can add a pop of flavor to any dish.

When selecting tomato varieties for canning, it’s important to keep in mind the texture, acidity, and seed count. By choosing the right tomato, you’ll ensure a delicious and safe end result.

Canning Jars

Canning Jars

Canning jars are the backbone of home canning. They come in various shapes and sizes, from half-pint to gallon-sized jars. Choosing the right type of canning jar is essential for safe and successful canning.

Types of Canning Jars

There are two main types of canning jars: regular mouth and wide mouth. Regular mouth jars have a smaller opening, which makes them suitable for thin liquids like jams, jellies, and pickles. Wide mouth jars have a larger opening, making them ideal for chunky or whole foods like tomatoes, peaches, and cucumbers.

Another consideration when selecting canning jars is the material they’re made of. The two most common types are glass and plastic. Glass jars are the traditional choice for canning, and they have several benefits, including heat resistance, transparency, and reusability. On the other hand, plastic jars offer convenience and portability, but they are not suitable for high-temperature canning methods like pressure canning.

Where to Buy Canning Jars

You can buy canning jars from various sources, including online retailers, grocery stores, hardware stores, and home goods stores. Some popular brands of canning jars include Ball, Kerr, and Bernardin. When buying canning jars, make sure to choose jars that are specifically designed for canning, as other types of jars may not be suitable for high-temperature canning and could break or crack during the process.

In addition to jars, you will also need lids and bands for canning. Lids create an airtight seal on the jars, while bands hold the lids in place during processing. Both lids and bands should be purchased new each year to ensure their reliability.

In conclusion, choosing the right type of canning jar is crucial for safe and effective canning. Whether you’re using glass or plastic, regular or wide mouth jars, make sure to buy jars that are specifically designed for canning and follow proper canning procedures to ensure the safety and quality of your preserved foods.

Canning Equipment

Canning Equipment

When it comes to canning tomatoes, having the right equipment is key to ensuring a safe and successful preservation process. Here are some of the essential tools you’ll need:

Water Bath Canner

A water bath canner is a large pot or kettle with a rack that holds jars in place during processing. This type of canner is suitable for high-acid foods like tomatoes, which can be safely canned using the boiling water method. To use a water bath canner, simply fill the pot with enough water to cover the jars by at least one inch, bring it to a boil, lower the jars into the water, and process them for the required amount of time.

Pressure Canner

If you’re planning to can low-acid foods like meats or vegetables, a pressure canner is a must-have tool. Unlike a water bath canner, which relies on high temperatures to create a seal, a pressure canner uses high pressure to eliminate any harmful bacteria that may be present in the food. This method requires more precise timing and monitoring than water bath canning, but it’s essential for ensuring the safety of your canned goods.

Jar Lifter

A jar lifter is a specialized tool used to lift hot jars out of the canner without burning yourself or damaging the jars. It consists of two handles that grip the top of the jar securely, allowing you to maneuver it easily and safely. Using a jar lifter is especially important when canning with a pressure canner, as the jars will be under even higher pressure and temperature than with a water bath canner.

Investing in quality canning equipment will not only make the process easier and safer but also help you achieve better results. With the right tools and techniques, you can enjoy the taste of homegrown tomatoes all year round.

Step-by-Step Guide on How to Can Tomatoes

Preparing Tomatoes for Canning

Preparing Tomatoes for Canning

Before you start canning tomatoes, it’s important to prepare them properly. This includes peeling the tomatoes and removing the seeds and excess liquid. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it right:

Peeling Tomatoes

Peeling tomatoes is an essential step in preparing them for canning. The skin of the tomato can be tough and can affect the texture of the final product. Here’s how to peel tomatoes:

  1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
  2. Cut a small X in the bottom of each tomato with a sharp knife.
  3. Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water and blanch them for 30 to 60 seconds.
  4. Use a slotted spoon or tongs to remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and transfer them immediately to a bowl of ice water.
  5. Once the tomatoes have cooled, use your fingers or a paring knife to gently peel off the skin.

Removing Seeds and Excess Liquid

Removing seeds and excess liquid from the tomatoes will help prevent your canned tomatoes from becoming too watery. Here’s how to do it:

  1. Cut the tomatoes in half crosswise.
  2. Hold each half over a bowl and use your fingers to gently squeeze out the seeds and excess liquid. You can also use a spoon to scoop out the seeds.
  3. Discard the seeds and excess liquid.

By following these simple steps, you’ll have perfectly prepared tomatoes that are ready for canning.

Filling the Jars with Tomatoes

Filling the Jars with Tomatoes

Once you have your tomatoes prepared for canning, it’s time to fill your jars. Before doing so, make sure you have sterilized your jars and lids by boiling them in a pot of water for at least 10 minutes.

When filling the jars, there are a couple of things you need to keep in mind. First, add a teaspoon of salt and a tablespoon of lemon juice to each quart jar. The salt helps preserve the flavor of the tomatoes, while the lemon juice helps regulate the acidity level. If you are using pint jars, use half as much salt and lemon juice.

Next, pack the jars tightly with your prepared tomatoes, leaving about half an inch of headspace at the top. It’s important to leave this space to allow for expansion during processing. Use a plastic or wooden utensil to remove any air bubbles trapped between the tomatoes. You want to make sure that there’s no trapped air, as this can lead to spoilage.

Once you have packed your jars, wipe the rim of each jar with a clean cloth to ensure there’s no debris or residue. Place your sterilized lid on top of each jar and screw on the ring until it’s snug but not overly tight.

With your jars filled, you’re now ready to process them using either the water bath or pressure canning method. But before that, make sure to check each jar seal by pressing down on the center of the lid. If there’s no “pop” sound, then the jar is properly sealed.

By following these steps, you can ensure your homemade canned tomatoes are safe and delicious to eat.

Processing the Jars

Processing the Jars

After you have filled the jars with tomatoes, the next step is to process them. The processing method you use will depend on several factors, including the type of canner you have and the acidity level of your tomatoes. Here are two methods for processing canned tomatoes: water bath canning and pressure canning.

Water Bath Canning Process

Water bath canning is a popular method used to process high-acid foods like tomatoes. It involves submerging the filled jars in boiling water to kill any bacteria and create a vacuum seal. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Place the filled jars into the water bath canner.
  2. Cover the jars with water, making sure there is at least 1 inch of water above the jars.
  3. Bring the water to a rolling boil and start the timer according to the recipe’s guidelines.
  4. Once the processing time is complete, turn off the heat and remove the lid from the canner.
  5. Let the jars cool in the canner for 5 minutes before removing them with a jar lifter.
  6. Place the jars on a towel-lined surface and let them cool to room temperature.
  7. Check the seals by pressing down on the lids. If it doesn’t pop back up, it’s sealed correctly.
  8. Label and store the jars in a cool, dark place.

Pressure Canning Process

Pressure canning is recommended for low-acid foods like meat, fish, and vegetables. This method uses high pressure to reach a temperature of 240°F, which kills all bacteria and pathogens. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Place 2-3 inches of water in the bottom of the pressure canner.
  2. Put the filled jars into the canner and secure the lid.
  3. Turn up the heat until steam starts escaping from the vent.
  4. Allow the steam to escape for 10 minutes, then put the weight on the vent.
  5. Increase the heat until you reach the recommended pressure level, based on your altitude and recipe guidelines.
  6. Start the timer once you have reached the correct pressure and maintain it throughout the processing time.
  7. Once the processing time is complete, turn off the heat and let the canner depressurize naturally.
  8. Remove the lid and wait 10 minutes before taking out the jars using a jar lifter.
  9. Place the jars on a towel-lined surface and let them cool to room temperature.
  10. Check the seals and store the jars in a cool, dark place.

By following these processing methods, you can safely preserve your tomatoes and enjoy their fresh taste all year round. Make sure to always follow a trusted recipe, and use proper equipment and techniques to ensure food safety.

Storing and Using Canned Tomatoes

Storing Canned Tomatoes

Storing Canned Tomatoes

Canning tomatoes is a great way to preserve them and enjoy their fresh taste all year round. However, it’s important to store them properly to ensure they stay safe and tasty for as long as possible. Here’s what you need to know about storing canned tomatoes:

Shelf Life of Canned Tomatoes

Canned tomatoes have a relatively long shelf life, but it can vary depending on the type of tomato, the canning method used, and the storage conditions. In general, canned tomatoes can last anywhere from 12 to 18 months when stored properly.

Proper Storage Conditions

To maximize the shelf life of canned tomatoes, it’s important to store them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight. Ideally, they should be kept at a temperature between 50°F and 70°F. Avoid storing them in damp or humid areas, as this can lead to rusting or spoilage.

Another key factor in proper storage is to make sure the lids are tightly sealed and intact. If the lid is bulging or leaking, it may indicate that bacteria has started to grow and the contents have spoiled. In this case, the can should be discarded.

It’s also important to avoid stacking cans too high, as this can cause damage to the cans and compromise their seal.

Overall, if canned tomatoes are stored properly, they can provide a delicious and nutritious addition to many meals. By following these guidelines, you can enjoy the taste of homegrown or locally sourced tomatoes all year long.

Using Canned Tomatoes in Recipes

Canned tomatoes are a versatile ingredient that can be used in various recipes to create delicious and healthy meals. Here are some tips for cooking with canned tomatoes and some recipe ideas to get you started!

Tips for Cooking with Canned Tomatoes:

  • Use canned tomatoes as a base for soups, stews, and sauces. They add a rich tomato flavor and help create a thick and hearty texture.
  • Look for canned tomatoes without added salt or sugar. This way, you have more control over the seasoning of your dish.
  • Drain and rinse canned tomatoes before using them to remove any excess salt or preservatives.
  • Experiment with different types of canned tomatoes, such as crushed, diced, or fire-roasted, to add variety to your dishes.

Recipes Using Canned Tomatoes:

  1. Easy Tomato Sauce: In a saucepan, sauté garlic and onion until soft. Add a can of crushed tomatoes, 1 tsp of dried oregano, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened. Serve over pasta or use as a pizza sauce.

  2. One-Pot Chicken and Rice: In a large pot, sauté chicken thighs until browned on both sides. Remove the chicken and set it aside. In the same pot, sauté onions, garlic, and bell peppers until softened. Add a can of diced tomatoes, chicken broth, rice, and seasonings. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until the rice is cooked and the liquid is absorbed. Return the chicken to the pot and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

  3. Vegetarian Chili: In a large pot, sauté onions, garlic, and bell peppers until softened. Add a can of kidney beans, black beans, corn, and a can of diced tomatoes. Season with chili powder, cumin, salt, and pepper. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the flavors have melded together.

In conclusion, canned tomatoes are a pantry staple that can be used to create a variety of tasty dishes. By following these tips and trying out some of these recipes, you’ll be able to make the most out of your canned tomato supply!
From the health benefits of canned tomatoes to the cost-effective and convenient option of preserving excess tomato harvest, there are plenty of reasons why you should learn how to can tomatoes at home. With the right equipment, tools, and knowledge, you’ll be able to enjoy fresh-tasting tomatoes all year round while also reducing food waste and saving money.

By following this step-by-step guide, you’ll be well on your way to becoming an expert at canning tomatoes. Just remember to choose the best tomato varieties for canning, gather all the necessary equipment, and follow proper safety guidelines when processing the jars.

Storing and using canned tomatoes is also a breeze, whether you’re making stews, soups, sauces, or other tomato-based recipes. So, don’t hesitate to try out different recipes and experiment with new flavors.

Overall, canning tomatoes is a rewarding and worthwhile endeavor that anyone can do with a bit of effort and dedication. Whether you’re a seasoned gardener or a newcomer to the world of canning, learning how to can tomatoes is an essential skill that will serve you well for years to come.

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