The tomatoes are fresh, ripe and beautiful – time to start canning tomatoes! And if we’re going to all the trouble, we might as well do it safely, so we’re confident in the final product.
If you like to can whole or halved peeled tomatoes, this blog post is for you. If you prefer diced tomatoes, hop on over to Canning Crushed, Chopped or Diced Tomatoes.
Why Hot Pack instead of Raw Pack
You have two options for canning tomatoes. Both are equally safe.
- Hot Pack – heat the tomatoes and then can them
- Raw Pack – add raw tomatoes to jar and then can them
While the prep work takes slightly longer, I prefer the hot pack method because…
- more air is removed from the tomatoes, so they’re less likely to float
- less air = more space for more tomatoes per jar so I save shelf space and money
- less air = better vacuum seal in the jar which leads to improved shelf life
- you’ll get better color and flavor that will last longer than raw packed
- the hot water processing time is much shorter (raw pack takes 85 min of processing versus 40 or 45 minutes for hot pack)
If none of that matters to you, try this link for a tested, safe recipe for Raw Packed Canned Tomatoes.
Canning Tomatoes – Hot Pack Method
Gather tomatoes – you’ll need about 21 lbs for 7 quarts or 13 lbs for 9 pints (9.5 kg for 7 one litre jars or 6 kg for 9 500 ml jars).
Gather your canning supplies – canner, jars, lids, the three most important canning tools, acid, ladle, pots, clean linens, pot holders, etc.
Step 1 – Wash Tomatoes
As easy as it sounds – put in bowl of water and wash! At this point you can also cut off any blemishes.
Step 2 – Peel Tomatoes
Updated, 2020 – I’ve always said peeling was optional. But the USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning says that peeling root crops and tomatoes greatly reduces the number of bacteria, yeast and molds. So they recommend peeling tomatoes.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation includes instructions for peeling tomatoes in most of their canned tomato products – (not their tomato juice recipe). They also say their canning instructions are meant to be followed as written and changing ingredients or steps may impact quality and safety of the final product. Another vote for peeling tomatoes.
Now, you would think that the amount of time tomatoes are boiled before canning and once again during the canning process would be enough to eliminate dangerous pathogens – but the safe thing to do is follow the experts’ advice and peel tomatoes.
How to Peel Tomatoes
Step 3 – Remove Core
If the core bothers you, cut it out. If you don’t really care, move on to the next step.
Step 4 – Leave Whole or Cut in Half
Step 5 – Heat Tomatoes
Place tomatoes in large saucepan. Add water to cover tomatoes.
Boil gently for 5 minutes.
Step 6 – Fill Jars
Use a slotted spoon to ladle your hot tomatoes into the hot jars (they need to be hot so the jars won’t crack, but they don’t need to be sterilized because our hot water bath will be more than 10 minutes).
Squeeze in as many tomatoes as possible removing as much air as you can.
Top with the hot tomato liquid until you have a 1/2 inch headspace.
Step 7 – Add Acid
Add lemon juice to each jar. VERY IMPORTANT for safely canning tomatoes. Add 2 tbsp (30 ml) lemon juice per 1 Quart jar or 1 Litre . Add 1 tbsp (15 ml) per Pint jar or 500 ml jar. Correct acid level prevents Clostridium Botulinum from being able to survive in your jarred food.
Use commercial, bottled lemon juice to ensure the correct per cent of acid. Fresh squeezed lemon juice may not have the correct acid level.
Alternatively, the National Centre for Home Food Preservation says you can also use 5% vinegar (4 Tbsp/1 Quart) (60 ml/1 Litre) or citric acid (1/2 tsp/1 Quart) (2 mL/1 Litre).
Step 8 – Seal with Lid
Step 9 – Hot Water Bath
Step 10 – Cooling & Storing Jars
The Professional Home Economist In Me!
If you’ve been following my blog you know that my Professional Home Ec training comes out big time whenever I can anything – that means SAFETY FIRST! I don’t mess around with canning, especially when there’s a chance of creating the perfect environment for Clostridium Botulinum, the pathogen that can lead to botulism – which can be fatal. Why on earth would anyone not want to protect their friends and family from food poisoning, severe illness or even death, when the remedy is ridiculously easy!
That’s why you see frequent links to the National Centre for Home Food Preservation, the go to source for safe food preservation. Sadly there is no Canadian equivalent to this organization – no one in Canada researches, publishes and provides consumer friendly advice on home canning that isn’t tied to a specific commercial product. Yes, that makes me sad.
My mom doesn’t always agree with my canning methods – she thinks I’m over the top. My training has taught me the science behind canning and why it’s important. Her argument that she has canned for years and is still as healthy as ever, as am I – having eaten and enjoyed her home canned items for years does not sway me to become lax in my standards.
But doesn’t the fact that she’s been canning with substandard canning methods and is still alive prove her methods are safe? No. It means she’s been lucky. Just like my dad, who often balks at wearing a seat belt. Does the fact that my dad is still alive and well despite not wearing a seat belt prove that it is a safe practice that we should recommend to others? No. It means he’s been lucky. Wearing a seat belt is a simple practice and has been proven to reduce the risk of harm or death in case of an accident. Just like adding acid and following proper water bath canning practices have been proven to reduce the risk of harm or death in home preserving. I insist my family members wear seat belts because I want to reduce the risk of anything bad happening to them. For the same reason, I insist on following safe canning practices. It’s not difficult and my family is worth the extra precaution.
As my friend Ellen says, “When we know better, we do better.”