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Canning Whole Tomatoes {Pressure – Water Bath}

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Learn all about canning whole tomatoes. This step-by-step tutorial is perfect for beginners or those with lots of canning experience. One of the easiest ways to preserve lots of tomatoes at one time.

Quart jars of canned whole tomatoes.Pin

At the end of the season, we rush to get all of the last tomatoes in the garden preserved to enjoy them in the long, cold winter. Canning whole tomatoes is a great way to get lots of tomatoes processed in a relatively short amount of time.

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Tomatoes can be pressure-canned or water-bath-canned and are safe for long-term shelf storage. Both methods require the use of citric acid or lemon juice.

They can also be packed in water or tomato juice. I find packing them in tomato juice really bumps up the flavor of sauces, soups, stews, and pasta dishes.

What tomato varieties are best for canning?

It is said that the best tomatoes to can are meaty tomatoes, like Roma tomatoes or plum tomatoes. I honestly can any tomato variety that I grow that particular year.

I have canned a lot of the medium and small tomato varieties. Celebrity, Czech’s bush, Fourth of July, early girl, celebration, among others.

Cherry tomatoes take longer to peel but make amazing bolognese and pasta sauces with a slight, naturally sweet note.

The only varieties I would not can are the big slicing tomatoes such as beefsteak, Big Boy, and the like. This is only because I feel they lack the flavor compared to smaller varieties. But, if that’s all you have, they will work as well.

Canned tomatoes with fresh tomatoes and leaves.Pin

How many tomatoes will you need?

You will need about 21 pounds of tomatoes to make 7 quarts of canned tomatoes, about 3 pounds per jar.

For pints, you will need about 10 pounds for 7 pints. That works out to about 1 and 3/4 pounds per jar.

Colorful cherry tomatoes on black board.Pin

What you need

  • tomatoes
  • bottled lemon juice or citric acid
  • water or tomato juice
  • Optional, canning salt

Do you really need bottled lemon juice?

Lemon juice adds enough acidity to can tomatoes in water-bath or pressure canning pots. To be canned safely in a water bath, the acidity must measure 4.6 pH or below. Bottled lemon juice has a pH of 2-3. So that makes the tomatoes below 4.6 pH.

Freshly squeezed lemon juice can vary in acidity levels, so use bottled lemon juice to be safe. Citric acid can also be used to lower the pH.

Do you need to add salt?

It is not necessary to add salt when canning whole tomatoes. We do not add salt because we add the salt when I make the final product from the tomatoes. You can add salt if you choose.

If using, add 1/2 tsp salt to pint jars and 1 tsp of salt to quarts.

Canned tomatoes on barn wood background.Pin

Pros and cons of cold pack and hot pack methods

You can either choose to cold pack your tomatoes or use a hot pack method. Both are perfectly safe, but each has pros and cons.

The major pros and cons of cold packing are;

  • They are incredibly fast and easy
  • They taste the most like fresh tomatoes.
  • The fruit will tend to float because there is more air in the fruit itself.

Major pros and cons of the hot pack method;

  • You will inevitably fit more fruit into the jar.
  • Hot packing will minimize the fruit float because the air spaces in the fruit have been replaced with water.
  • It takes a little longer than cold packing, and you have one more dirty pot to clean up.

Water bath method to can whole tomatoes

Prepare the Equipment

Clean and heat jars. It is no longer necessary to sterilize jars, but we always heat the jars in the canning pot since we have to heat it to boiling anyway. Prepare the water bath canning pot with enough water to cover the jars. Wash the lids in hot soapy water. Rinse well and keep warm in a pot or bowl with hot water. Do not boil.

How to blanch tomatoes

Step One

Wash tomatoes well. Using a paring knife, remove the stem end and core.

Cored and trimmed tomatoes on cutting board.Pin
Core tomatoes. Remove any damaged flesh.

Step Two

Place the tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds or so to blanch.

Tomatoes added to large pot to blanch.Pin
Blanch tomatoes.

Step Three

The skin will split which will make them easier to peel.

Split skin of tomatoes.Pin
Skins will split.

Step Four

Remove from hot water with a slotted spoon and place them in an ice water bath to cool.

Blanch tomatoes added to ice water bath.Pin
Add to ice water bath to cool.

Step Five

Once cool, remove from ice water and slip off the skins. Use a paring knife to help grab the edges of the skin, if needed.

Woman's hand holding a tomato that is being peeled.Pin
Slip off skins.

Step Six

Heat juice or water in a separate pan.

Tomato juice added to another pot to heat.Pin
Heat water or tomato juice.

Step Seven

Peel all tomatoes.

Peeled tomatoes on board.Pin
Peel all tomatoes.

Step Eight

Add two tablespoons of lemon juice or ½ teaspoon of citric acid. If using, add salt now.

Lemon juice added to quart jar.Pin
Add lemon juice and salt if using.

Cold pack directions

Step One

Once peeled, fill the jars with tomatoes to within ½” of the top of the jar (headspace). Tomatoes can be whole, halved, quartered, or diced. Smash tomatoes down with any tool you can find to fit more in the jar. Like a spatula, spoon, or whatever will fit in the jar.

Peeled tomatoes in quart jar.Pin
Add tomatoes to jars.

Step Two

Fill jars with hot water or tomato juice, leaving the one half-inch headspace. (the space between the top of the product and the rim of the jar.

Filled jar with tomato juice added.Pin
Add hot water or tomato juice to the jar. Leaving one-inch headspace.

Step Three

Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp towel to remove any debris.

Wiping jar rims with paper towel.Pin
Wipe rims with a damp paper towel.

Step Four

Add lids. Apply bands. Tighten fingertip tight.

Centered lid placed on jar with lid lifter.Pin
Place warm lids on jars. Apply bands. Tighten fingertip tight.

Hot pack directions

  • Place the tomatoes in a large pot. Barely cover them with water.
  • Bring to a boil. Boil for 5 minutes.
  • Add lemon juice to jars. Add salt now if using.
  • Fill the jars with hot tomatoes using a canning funnel. Smash tomatoes down with any tool you can find to fit more in the jar. Like a spatula, spoon, or whatever will fit in the jar.
  • Using a ladle, fill the jars with hot cooking liquid to within 1″ of the top of the jar. Remove air bubbles with a knife or chopstick.
  • Wipe the rims of the jars with a damp towel to remove any debris.
  • Center the lids on the jars.
  • Screw bands on. Tighten fingertip tight.

Water bath Canning

After preparing the jars, add them carefully on top of the rack in your water bath canning pot with your canning tongs. It will take less water to cover the filled jars, so remove some of the water if it gets too full and may spill over. Bring to a low boil. Process quarts for 45 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Process pints for 40 minutes.

Check the water level to ensure too much water doesn’t evaporate. Jars should be completely covered at all times. Add more water if necessary.

After processing, remove the canning pot from the heat. Allow jars to stay in hot water for at least 5 minutes before removing them. This will prevent siphoning, which is leaking liquid from the jars.

After this rest period, remove the jars from the pot with a jar lifter. Allow them to sit on a kitchen towel on the counter for at least 12 hours.

Check the seal; if lids flex up or down when pressed in the center, the jar is not sealed. It can be reprocessed, frozen (only freeze wide-mouth jars), or store them in the refrigerator and use within a week or so.

Pressure Canning Whole Tomatoes

The major pro in the debate of whether to water bath can or pressure can tomatoes is that it takes less time to process the fruit in the pressure canner.

There really are no cons to pressure canning. The procedure for preparing is exactly the same in both methods.

  • Prepare tomatoes as per the above instructions, either raw or hot.
  • Prepare the pressure canner according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, using the bottom canning rack and heat water—load jars into the canner.
  • Place the lid on the canner securely according to manufacturer’s recommendations. Allow the pot to vent for ten full minutes. Add the regulator. Allow the canning pot to come up to proper pressure for your altitude. Process the jars for the allotted amount of time at the specified pounds pressure per square inch for your altitude. See the details in the recipe notes below.
  • Once your processing time has passed, remove the pot from the heat. Allow it to cool naturally and release pressure.
  • After the pressure is released, open the canner carefully. Let jars sit in the canning pot for at least 5 minutes to cool slowly.
  • Remove jars with your jar lifter and place them on a kitchen towel on the counter for 24 hours.
  • Check the seals. Press down in the center of the lid. If it flexes, that jar did not seal and must be refrigerated or reprocessed with a new lid, if desired.
Colorful tomatoes on bulapPin
Do I have to peel the tomatoes?

Yes. You have to peel the tomatoes before canning them. According to the National Center for Home Food Preservation, peeling root crops, underground stem crops, and tomatoes reduces bacteria numbers greatly.

Can I add salt during canning?

Yes. You can. Use ½ teaspoon of salt per pint and one teaspoon per quart.

Do I have to add the acid even when pressure canning?

Yes. Tomatoes require acidification even when pressure canned.

Can I add sugar to counteract the acid?

Yes, you can add sugar if you find the tomatoes too acidic.

How big should I cut tomatoes?

Depending on personal preference, tomatoes can be whole, halved, quartered, diced, or crushed.

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Uses for canned tomatoes

Other canning recipes

Helpful tools

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canned tomatoes in quart canning jar.Pin

Canning Whole Tomatoes

Learn all about canning whole tomatoes. This step by step tutorial is perfect for beginners or those with lots of canning experience. One of the easiest ways to preserve your tomato harvest to utilize all year long!
See Step by Step Photos Above!Most of our recipes have step by step photos and videos! Also helpful tips so that you can make it perfectly the first time and every time! Scroll up to see them!
5 from 9 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: canning
Cuisine: American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 5 minutes
Processing time: 43 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour 3 minutes
Servings: 1 quarts
Calories: 293kcal
Author: Beth Neels
Cost: $2

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds tomatoes 8-10 medium sized tomatoes per quart
  • 2 tablespoons Bottled Lemon Juice
  • 1 teaspoon salt optional
  • 1-2 cups tomato juice or hot water

Instructions

For Water Bath Canner

  • Prepare water bath canning pot, lids and jars.
  • Bring water to boil in large stock pan. Set up ice bath.
  • Meanwhile, remove cores from tomatoes. If using tomato juice place it in separate pot to heat up.
    3 pounds tomatoes
  • Dip tomatoes in boiling water for 30-60 seconds, until skins crack.
  • Immediately place tomatoes in an ice bath, with slotted spoon.
  • Slip skins off of tomatoes.
  • Add lemon juice or 1/2 tsp of citric acid to jar. Add salt, if using.
    2 tablespoons Bottled Lemon Juice, 1 teaspoon salt

Raw pack

  • Heat another large pan with water and bring to a boil.
    1-2 cups tomato juice
  • Pack tomatoes in to jar. Push them down so that all of the tomatoes will fit, leaving ½ inch headspace. Fill jars with fresh hot water or heated tomato juice, leaving the headspace.
  • Wipe rims. Apply lids. Tighten bands fingertip tight.
  • Process quart jars for 45 minutes, adjusting for altitude..

Hot Pack

  • Place tomatoes in pot. Cover with water. Bring to boil.
  • Gently boil for about 5 minutes.
  • Pack tomatoes in to jar. Push them down so that all of the tomatoes will fit, leaving ½" headspace.
  • Fill jar with hot tomato juice, or the hot water from the pot that you dipped the tomatoes in to loosen the skins.
  • Wipe rims. Apply lids. Tighten bands fingertip tight.
  • Process quart jars for 45 minutes, adjusting for altitude..
  • For water bath canner

For pressure canner

  • Prepare tomatoes as per above instructions, either raw pack or hot pack.
  • Prepare pressure canner according to manufacturer’s recommendations, using the bottom canning rack and heat water. Load jars into canner.
  • Place lid on canner securely according to manufacturer’s recommendations. Process jars for the allotted amount time at the specified pounds pressure per square inch, for your altitude. See recipe notes below.
  • Once your processing time has passed, remove pot from heat. Allow it to cool naturally and release pressure.
  • After pressure has released, open canner carefully. Remove jars with your jar lifter and place them on a kitchen towel on the counter for 24 hours.
  • Check seals. Press down in the center of the lid. If it flexes that jar did not seal and must be refrigerated or reprocessed with a new lid, if desired.
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Video

Notes

Will store for at least 12 months. Store in cool dry location.
Processing times for water bath canner, adjusting for altitude
Information from National Center for Home Food Preservation
For Pints
0-1000 feet above sea level  40 minutes
1000-3000 ft.                          45 minutes
3000-6000 ft.                          50 minutes
above 6000 ft.                          55 minutes
For Quarts
0-1000 feet above sea level  45 minutes
1000-3000 ft.                          50 minutes
3000-6000 ft.                          55 minutes
above 6000 ft.                          60 minutes
Canning pressure for dial gauge canner, adjusting for altitude
For pints or quarts -15 minutes
0-2000 feet above sea level  6 pounds
2000-4000 ft.                         7 pounds
4000-6000 ft.                         8 pounds
above 6000 ft.                         9 pounds
For pints or quarts – 10 minutes
0-2000 feet above sea level  11 pounds
2000-4000 ft.                          12 pounds
4000-6000 ft.                          13 pounds
above 6000 ft.                          14 pounds
For weighted gauge canner
For pints or quarts – 15 minutes
0-1000 feet above sea level  5 pounds
above 1000 ft.                          10 pounds
For pints or quarts – 10 minutes
0-1000 feet above sea level  10 pounds
above 1000 ft.                          15 pounds

Nutrition

Serving: 1quart | Calories: 293kcal | Carbohydrates: 65g | Protein: 14g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 93mg | Potassium: 3782mg | Fiber: 17g | Sugar: 45g | Vitamin A: 12429IU | Vitamin C: 243mg | Calcium: 160mg | Iron: 5mg
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18 Comments

  1. First time canning cherry tomatoes.. I did not boil my tomatoes for 30 seconds then ice bath. I did leave the skins on, but most of them split open and lost the bright red color. Is this normal and will they still be safe to eat?

    1. It’s fine that you cold packed them. It’s better to peel them just because the skins slough off and the jar is unsightly. They should be fine to eat. They will change color after the canning process.

      1. Did you mean skin the tomatoes? You can can them with the skins on. The skins may slough off in the jar and make the jar unsightly or the skins may turn a bit tough, if you do. But it will not hurt the safety of the product.

  2. Is it possible to skip the cooking process to remove the skins? I have small cherry tomatoes and would prefer to leave the skins on. If I do so, would they just collapse or would I still be able to roast them whole after opening a canned jar?

    1. If you want to roast them, I would do that prior to canning. Then you can can them. The peeling is perfectly optional though. Just know that afte canning the skins will all slip off and you will have skins in the tomatoes. Some varieties can add quite a bit of acidity to your sauces, etc.

  3. 5 stars
    What a great and informative post on how to can tomatoes! I feel confident now when I try to make this. Thanks!

  4. I hope I have the patience to follow your recipe with the yellow pear tomatoes which have suddenly decided to provide crazy amounts on the vines right now. I think it must be the cooler overnight temperatures. I love your idea of freezing the tomatoes until there’s enough for a canning batch. Great tip!

    1. I grew yellow pears last year. They are very prolific and so sweet. They make a great sauce! Thanks Christian!

  5. 5 stars
    I’ve always wanted to can my own veggies, but have been too afraid. Your tips and instructions are so great, I’m going to give it a try! Thanks!

  6. 5 stars
    I always have so many tomatoes from my garden that I cannot use fast enough. Your instructions for how to can them are life saving!

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