Homestead, Pressure Canning

Pressure Canning: Tomatoes

Tomatoes are a great product to pressure can.  I find that it is one of the most satisfying items to can and love to be able to grab tomatoes whenever I need them for a recipe.  This article will take you through each step I take to pressure can, including the order in which I prep the jars and the tomatoes.  Give this a try and let me know your results!

Ideally, tomatoes should be picked at peak ripeness.  I have had fair luck picking when only slightly green and then ripening indoors in the event of the possibility of a hard frost or freeze in our area.  They seem to be more susceptible to rotting.

Many different types of tomatoes result in different textures and juiciness of the tomato.  For instance, Big Boys are much juicier than Roma tomatoes.  I like to use Big Boys for BLTs, salsas & salads but use Romas for making tomatoes sauces and canning.  Big Boys are bigger, but their content of juice makes cooking down into a sauce take a long time.

Big Boys & Heirlooms

Sauces can be cooked down in an oven, which takes less “hands-on” time, but just the same, takes time.

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To Pressure Can Tomatoes:

1. Fill your pressure canner with hot water and cover with lid slightly ajar.  I simply set the lid on the top and do not engage the notches.  Bring water to a boil.

2. Prepare your jars. I prefer to use Quart Jars with Wide Mouths.  Hand wash with hot soapy water or put in the dishwasher.  Always prep more jars than you think you will need.

3. Wash the tomatoes to remove dirt or plant material.

4. Set a second pan on the stove filled with water. Bring water to boil.

5. Once the water in the canner is boiling, place your jars in the water – be careful. Use a jar lifter to tip your jar into the water to fill it and then set it to the bottom.  Controlling it the entire way to prevent splashing boiling water on you.

6. Once the water in the pan begins boiling, scald the tomatoes for a few minutes. Allow the tomatoes to remain in the water until the skin begins to crack.

Allowing the tomatoes to cool slightly before slipping the skins.  Note that I did not core these before scalding.

8. Once slightly cool, take 2 forks and slip the skin from the tomato. I core the tomato at this time as well.  You may wish to core the tomatoes in advance.  Once I have half skinned, I will fill the pot with more tomatoes and continue the process until complete.  Place the completed tomatoes into a large bowl until you finish this step.

Skinned Tomatoes

9. After the tomatoes are skinned, cut the tomatoes into the size you prefer. You may wish to dice, quarter, half or keep them whole.  I prefer dicing or quartering to fit as many into the jar as possible.  I prefer diced tomatoes for chili or soups.

10. The next step is to place the tomatoes into a pan on the stove and bring to a boil. Be very careful that you do not scorch the tomatoes.  Boiling tomatoes prevents the tomato from separating into flesh at the top of the jar and liquid at the bottom.  Skipping this step is not detrimental to the quality of the product.

11. Fill a small saucepan halfway with water. Bring this to a simmer and place appropriately sized jar lids in the water.  This softens the seal and makes it more pliable to help the lids seal on the jar.

12. Prepare your pressure canner by ensuring you have the right amount of water in the canner. Remove water from the jars and from the canner to get this to the correct level.  Use a jar lifter to pour water from the jars.  Read your manual for information regarding this.  My canner requires two quarts of boiling water.  Place the lid slightly ajar on the top of the canner to keep the rubber seal warm.  Place the empty jars in the canner to keep them warm.

13. Once the tomatoes have come to a boil, it is time to fill the jars. Remove one jar from the canner with the jar lifter and place a jar funnel in the top of the jar.  Use a ladle to scoop the tomatoes from the pan to the jar.  Leave the appropriate amount of headspace in the jar.  This impacts the seal, so it is important to follow the recommendations.  Using a washcloth, wipe the top edge of the jar, so no food particles remain as this will cause your seal to fail.  Add salt & lemon juice.  Place the metal band on each jar and turn to tighten snugly.  Adding lemon juice ensures that the pH is correct.

14. Once the jars have been filled, carefully place them in the canner with the jar lifter.

15. Place canner lid in place per the manufacturer’s recommendations. Each pressure canner lid may be secured slightly different.  My lid is placed by lining up the “open” lines, seating it and then turning to the “closed” position.

16. Allow the air to escape through the stopcock and once a steady “whoosh” is heard, place the appropriate weight on the stopcock stem.

17. Recommendations for pressure canning tomatoes are to can at 10 lbs pressure for 20 minutes. When using a weighted pressure gauge, the weight must jiggle a minimum of 4 times per minute.  Once the pressure is correct, you can set the timer for 20 minutes.  You will need to watch this closely and continue to evaluate the jiggling.  I find that I need to slowly bring down the heat of the burner very carefully to maintain the correct pressure throughout the process.

18. Once the 20 minutes are complete, carefully remove the canner from the stove and place on a cooling rack. Leave the weight in place.  Let the canner sit for up to an hour to allow the canner to cool and the pressure to come down.

19. Remove the stopcock weight and then the canner lid. Remove jars carefully with a jar lifter.  As the jars begin to cool, you will hear a “pop” signifying that the jars have sealed.


20. After the jars are entirely cool, evaluate each lid carefully to be sure it is sealed. It will be slightly indented and will not make a sound or move when you press on the lid.  Any lid that pops up and down is not sealed.  You can attempt to pressure can it again, by cleaning the edge of the jar, replacing the lid with a fresh one, tightening the band and following the above steps.  The other option is to use the contents immediately or place it in your refrigerator for use within the following week.

Remove the metal bands from the sealed jars.  Wash the sealed jars with warm, soapy water.  Dry the jars and write the name of the contents and date on each lid.

Place the jar in a dark, cool location to store.  Canned tomatoes should be used within a year.

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