Sunday, August 28, 2011

Canning Tomatoes – Quick Start Guide

Here in the Midwest, August is the peak month for harvesting tomatoes.  While drying is a good choice to store the fruit, canning is also an excellent way to go, and will retain the original juices of the tomato.  If you are just getting started, there are a couple kitchen tools, like a jar lifter and canning funnel that you may not have that will be helpful.  Check out our home canning kit in the Canning section of the T-Farm General Store which includes a nice collection of canning tools.  A highly recommended book on the subject is the Ball Complete Book of Home Preservation which we also sell in our store.

An excellent resource for all type of food preservation is The National Center for Home Food Preservation.  If this is your first time canning, they also recommend that you read Using Boiling Water Canners before getting started. 

To keep things simple, I will cover the process of canning crushed or quartered tomatoes which requires only tomatoes and lemon juice, with salt being optional.  The original recipe goes into great detail, so I re-formatted the information into shortened, numbered steps in order to simplify the process. 

Quantity: An average of 22 pounds is needed per canning load of 7 quarts; an average of 14 fresh pounds is needed per canning load of 9 pints.
A bushel weighs 53 pounds and yields 17 to 20 quarts of crushed tomatoes-an average of 2¾ pounds per quart.

1. Wash tomatoes and dip in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins split. Then dip in cold water and slip off skins and remove cores.
2. Trim off any bruised or discolored portions and quarter.
3. Quickly heat one-sixth of the quartered tomatoes in a large pot, crushing them with a wooden mallet or spoon as they are added to the pot.
4. Continue heating the tomatoes, stirring to prevent burning. Once the tomatoes are boiling, gradually stir in the remaining quartered tomatoes and boil gently for 5 minutes while coninuing to stir.

5. For pints, add 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice per pint.  You may also add 1/2 teaspoon of salt, if desired.

6. Fill jars immediately with hot tomatoes, leaving ½-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process.
7. Process times depend on the size of jars and altitude (see table 1. below)

Table 1. Recommended process time for Crushed Tomatoes in a boiling-water canner.

Process Time at Altitudes of
Style of Pack
Jar Size
0 - 1,000 ft
1,001 - 3,000 ft
3,001 - 6,000 ft
Above 6,000 ft
35 min


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