August 23, 2012

Canning Tomatoes

Tomato season is kicking into high gear here in northern Vermont, which means making sauce for the freezer, and canning. There are some recipes for which I prefer canned tomatoes rather than sauce, so I go through the extra trouble, and trouble it is, to can some if I have enough. This year is shaping up to be a very good tomato year after two or three duds, so I'm hoping to have a nice supply of canned tomatoes stored in the cellar. I'm growing a small sized, but very prolific, indeterminate plum tomato called Juliet; I mainly use plum tomatoes for processing, but add other tomatoes as they ripen and are too abundant to eat fresh.

The first step in either making sauce or canning is to peel the tomatoes. The skins simply slip off when the tomatoes are placed in boiling water for a minute and then dropped into cold water. It takes time but is worth it; I don't care for the peels on processed fruits.

When all the tomatoes are peeled, I squeeze them into clean canning jars, using a wooden spoon to squash them down. When I first began canning, I just plopped the tomatoes in the jars, which led to a jar with a few tomatoes floating on top of a lot of liquid. I wipe the tops of the jars, making sure they're clean, then place the canning lids, which have been boiled, on top. Then I screw on the clean bands. 

I then carefully place the jars into a canner, using a jar lifter. The canner will hold up to 7 quarts, but this time I processed only 3 quarts and 2 pints (I like to have some smaller jars of tomatoes). It is much more efficient to use all 7 spaces, but I didn't know how many tomatoes I had. Now I know that when I fill up my big white ceramic bowl with tomatoes, it will be 4 quarts; I'll need another medium bowl full for 6 quarts (5 quarts and 2 pints).

Here are my jewels, fresh out of the canner, where they have to cook at a rolling boil for 45 minutes. As they cool I'll hear the satisfying pop! pop! of the lids sealing tight. When they're cool, I remove the bands and wash the jars well, then store them in cardboard boxes in the cellar, to keep them out of the light. Seeing my freezer and cellar fill up with my home grown vegetables makes me tremendously happy. 


  1. These are beautiful. I'm with you - I love seeing my freezer and pantry fill with my home grown veggies.

    For some reason I thought tomatoes had to be canned in a pressure cooker so I never did it (I can salsa and pickled things in a water bath). You have inspired me. Although here in Colorado my tomatoes are weeks and weeks away from being ripe as I started my seed much too late.

    Thanks for the inspiration!

  2. I remember opening a jar of tomatoes during the winter months and putting one in a bowl to eat with salt-the aroma is heavenly. When I had a garden of my own I liked to char the tomatoes, pop off the skins and make salsa to can, or just freeze them. The charring gives a depth of flavor that is wonderful. It is a lot of work to can, especially when the temperatures are high, but it is so worth it when the ground is frozen and a summer tomato is months away.

  3. Thanks for the comments, Lisa and Anon. These home grown canned tomatoes are delicious. This past year I had to buy some canned tomatoes, and even the organic ones were sadly lacking in flavor compared to home grown.