How to Can Tomatoes


When I was younger, I would hear the word “canning” and pictured a factory with equipment, ingredients, workers, shifts, a human resource department, payroll (ok, just kidding on those last few) . . . it was all very intimidating. I thought “how can I pull off something like that in my own kitchen?” I did some research and realized that canning can be as simple as boiling cans of food in water for a specified amount of time. That’s it. Not nearly as intimidating as I made it out to be in my mind. Yes there is some equipment required. And yes, it can be more complicated (there are some foods that require canning in a pressure cooker, and there are some foods that require some acidity tweaks, like tomatoes, in order to turn out), but if you do your homework, you’ll do fine. And when you take those cans out of the canner and let them cool, the popping lids can be the most rewarding sound in the world. Yes?


To make one batch of 7 quarts of canned tomatoes (can cut recipe in half if canning pint jars):

21 pounds tomatoes

14 T bottled lemon juice or 3½ t citric acid* (I use bottled lemon juice)

7 t salt, optional

7 t sugar, optional


Prepare equipment by filling water bath canner half full with hot tap water and placing over high heat. Top with lid. Bring water to a boil. Also fill 7 quart jars (or 7 pint jars) with hot water. Also simmer lids in water over low heat in small pan on stove. Meanwhile, wash tomatoes. Cut an “x” on the bottom of each tomato. Place in boiling water for 60 seconds or until skins start to split. Place immediately in ice water. Core and slip off skins. Cut in chunks if desired.


Empty hot water from jars. Add 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice or ½ teaspoon citric acid to each jar (1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice or ¼ teaspoon citric acid for pints). Add 1 teaspoon salt to each jar (1/2 teaspoon for pints), if desired. Also add 1 teaspoon sugar to each jar (1/2 teaspoon for pints) to offset acid taste, if desired. Fill remainder of jar with tomatoes. Squish tomatoes down in jar (tomato juices fill jar enough that no extra liquid is required), leaving 1/2-inch space at top. Wipe rim with cloth. Place lid and band on each jar. Put jars in canner, making sure there is enough water to cover lids at least 1 inch. Replace lid and return water to a boil. Boil according to chart below.


Process times for canning pints or quarts of tomatoes:

0-1,000 ft. altitude – 85 minutes

1,000-3,000 ft. altitude – 90 minutes

3,000-6,000 ft. altitude – 95 minutes

Above 6,000 ft. altitude – 100 minutes


Remove from canner (a canning jar lifter is handy) and cool on wire rack. Label lids with the date.


*To ensure safe acidity in canning tomatoes, add ¼ teaspoon citric acid or 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to pints or ½ teaspoon citric acid or 2 tablespoons bottled lemon juice to quarts. Add acid directly to jars before filling. If desired, add a small amount of sugar to offset acid taste.

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2 Responses to How to Can Tomatoes

  1. Cindy Johnston says:

    This sounds wonderful. We are going to try it. A little different than how I did it growing up on the farm.

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