How to Can Tomatoes, no matter what kind you're growing

You can can any variety of tomatoes, not just paste tomatoes!

There are tomatoes coming out of my ears.

Okay, not literally, but I did have a whole bunch of them - five dozen or more spread out on the kitchen island, and in danger of going bad.

The first step in canning tomatoes is to remove the skins or peels.

I was bemoaning this fact to a friend, who told me to can them. But they're slicing tomatoes, I said, not paste tomatoes. She said it doesn't matter, I'd just have more liquid in the jars; she cans them all the time.

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So I did, the very next day. I couldn't let all that red, ripe goodness go to waste. This has been a stellar year for tomatoes here in Oklahoma; I've never had a crop this prolific. They're beautiful, perfectly shaped, no cracks, no blossom end rot. Although now that the season is winding down and we've had a lot of rain in the past two weeks, they are smaller and there is some cracking.

Before I started, I ran the pint jars I would use through the dishwasher to sterilize them. The heated dry cycle kept them warm until I was ready to fill the jars.

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The first step to canning tomatoes is to remove the skins. This is my least favorite part, but I've learned that if I put them in the freezer overnight, then run them under hot water, the skins will slip off very easily. If I'd thought ahead I could have done this, but it was rather spur of the moment so I had to do it the traditional way this time.

Isn't this tomato beautiful? Symmetrical, perfectly round, gorgeous! This has been a stellar year for tomatoes.

I brought a large pot of water to a boil and blanched the tomatoes for several minutes, then dunked them in ice water until the skins cracked. Or until I got tired of waiting and poked the tip of a knife in them. The skins came off pretty easily, but if you have trouble, you can blanch them again for a minute or two and chill them again.

I gave the skins to the chickens, but there are other options too. You can add them to the compost pile, or dehydrate the skins and then powder them, using it to thicken and flavor soups and stews.

Quarter tomatoes and add to canning jars.

Step 2. Remove the cores and cut the tomatoes into quarters.

Step 3. Add 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid to each jar (1/2 teaspoon for quarts). You can use bottled lemon juice instead at a rate of 2 Tablespoons per quart.

Tomatoes are a borderline low-acid vegetable, so we must add some acidity to make them safe to water-bath can. If you wish to add salt, this is the time to do so.

Top off the jars with citric acid, salt if desired, and boiling water.

Step 4. I used the cold-pack method: using a canning funnel, pack the tomatoes into the jars and squish them down a bit. Then fill the jars with boiling water, leaving a half-inch of headspace.

To learn more about headspace, see my canning tips and tricks post.

Step 5. Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp cloth to remove any food residue. I realized that one jar had a rough spot on the rim, so I poured everything into another sterilized jar. This is why I prepare an extra jar or two whenever I can something.

Warm the canning lids in simmering water before adding to the  jars.

Step 6. Warm the jar lids in simmering water for a few minutes, and add a warm lid to each jar. Top with a ring and finger-tighten (don't tighten them too tight!)

Add rings to the jars

Step 7. Using the jar lifter, add each jar to the water bath canner that you've partially filled with warm-to-hot water. The full jars will displace the water, so don't start with your canner full of water.

Use boiling water to bring the level of water two inches over the tops of the jars. (To measure, touch the jar top with a plastic or wooden spoon handle. Pull out the spoon and you'll be able to see how deep the water is.)

Start timing when the water reaches a full, rolling boil. Process pints for 35 minutes, quarts for 40 minutes.

Step 8. Turn up the heat under the canning kettle. When the water comes to a rolling boil, cover the pot and begin timing. Process pints for 35 minutes and quarts for 40 minutes. Be sure to adjust the time if you live more than 1,000 feet above sea level.

Step 9. When finished, carefully remove the jars with your jar lifter, lifting them straight up (don't tip them). Place jars on several thicknesses of folded towels and let them cool. You should hear PING, PING, PING as the jars seal. What a lovely sound!

Check to be sure the jars are sealed successfully.

Leave the jars undisturbed for 24 hours. Check the seals by pressing lightly on the jar lids. If there is any "give," the jar didn't seal and should be refrigerated and consumed.

Wipe down the jars, add a label, and remove the rings before storing your jars.

You can use these tomatoes in many ways. Strain them and make salsa. Add a jar to any dish that uses canned tomatoes, such as chili (you can find my recipe for chili seasoning here or my recipe for chili mac). Saute onions and peppers and then add a jar of tomatoes plus spices, and cook down to make spaghetti sauce.

Or saute some chopped celery and onions and add a jar of tomatoes for stewed tomatoes. Or pour off the water from the jar and then whirr the tomatoes in a blender to make tomato sauce.

How to can tomatoes, no matter what kind they are!

How to water bath can any variety of tomatoes - from Oak Hill Homestead

Remember, as long as you add citric acid or lemon juice to bring up the acidity, tomatoes can be water-bath canned. However, if you add any other vegetables such as peppers, onions or celery, etc., you must use a pressure canner.

Now you can enjoy the fresh taste of tomatoes all winter long.

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Related posts:
Canning Tips and Tricks
How to Can Apples
Foods to Can in Winter

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How to can tomatoes, no matter what kind you're growing!  From Oak Hill Homestead


  1. I love the old days of canning it was a great time to get together with the women of the family and some men as well. This would have been a welcome recipe as it is different than the rest
    come see us at

    1. It would sure be nice to help when canning, Angie. I wish families lived close enough to each other that they could still do this.

  2. A very timely post. I am on a short trip away from my garden. I have a friend watering for me but not picking my produce. My tomatoes are starting to come in so I should have a big batch ready to can. I had a bad time with growing slicing tomatoes last year so this year I have six plants in containers away from my tainted soil. I have high hopes to can both sauce and canned tomatoes like you did. - Margy

    1. Hi Margy, I hope you're enjoying your trip and that you have a whole mess of tomatoes ready to can when you get back home. Enjoy!

  3. I always have a huge amount of tomatoes at the end of our growing season too. I am definitely going to try putting them in the freezer to make peeling them easier. That is always my least favorite part too.

    1. Freezing them first makes the process so easy, Tracy. Hope you're enjoying your RV adventure!

  4. I can every year, I end up making many quarts of Spaghetti sauce, but this year my tomatoes are a bust! its' been rainy days upon rainy days and not enough sun.. I don't think buying them will be financially worth it,so we may end up having to buy sauce and canned tomatoes this year. boo. thanks for sharing on our Celebrate 365 Farmers Market Recipe Inspirations week!

    1. I'm sorry to hear about your tomato failure this year; I hope next year is better!


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