This year I had envisioned growing enough tomatoes to be able to put up my own for the winter. Well, needless to say with the drought, extreme heat and lack of pollination that didn’t happen for me and many others here inArkansas. Even some of the large farmers from the farmer’s market have said when the crop that is on the plants ripens, it will be it for them this year. That is a sad thought but has prompted me to start canning what I have.
Here are the steps you will take if you wish to can either whole, half or quartered tomatoes.
First you want to start off by gathering your needed supplies. Be sure to check all canning jars for nicks or cracks that may prevent you from having a proper seal.
Wash your jars and the two-piece caps in hot, soapy water. Dry your bands and set them aside. You will want to have your jars heated when you place your hot tomatoes in, so either place them in a large stockpot full of water to simmer or run them though a heated cycle on your dishwasher. I also if I don’t have an extra stockpot available will place them in my water bathe canner to warm while I am prepping my tomatoes.
Fill your boiling-water canner half-full with hot water. Elevate your rack in your canner. Place your lid on and bring to a simmer.
Select fresh tomatoes at their peak! You will want to only prepare enough tomatoes for one canner load at a time. Wash your tomatoes and drain them. I find it easier to fill my sink with 6-8 inches of water and place my tomatoes in to wash.
Place your tomatoes in a large stockpot of boiling water. If you have a wire basket lower it into the stockpot for 30 to 60 seconds, just until the skins start to crack. If you do not, just gently place them in the water and remove with a slotted spoon. Remove them from boiling water and dip into cold water immediately to stop the cooking process.
I pack my tomatoes in water and to do so place your tomatoes in a large stockpot, adding just enough water to cover them. Boil gently for 5 minutes.
Remove a jar from the water with your jar lifter and place on a covered area. Add 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice to each pint or 2 tablespoons per quart.
Using your funnel, carefully pack your tomatoes into your hot jars, leaving ½ inch head space. Ladle your boiling water or cooking liquid over your tomatoes be sure to leave ½ head space. Add ½ teaspoon of salt per pint jar or 1 teaspoon of salt per quart jar, if you so desire.
Slide your non-metallic spatula between the tomatoes and the jar in an up and down motion. Gently press back on the tomatoes to release trapped air bubbles. I usually do this 2 to 3 times.
Wipe the rim and threads of your jar with a clean, damp cloth. Remove a lid from your saucepot using your lid wand. Place you lid on your jar and add a screw band. Tighten it evenly and firmly, just fingertip tight as this is not what seals the jar rather holds it in place during the canning process.
As you fill each jar set it onto the elevated rack in your boiling water canner. Be sure to keep your water at a simmer in the canner. After all the jars are full and on the rack, lower in into the canner. You need the water to cover over the lids by at least 1 to 2 inches so add more boiling water if necessary.
Place your lid on your canner and bring your water to a boil. Start counting your processing time once your water reaches a full boil. Process pint jars for 40 minutes and quart jars for 45 minutes. See the below altitude chart for the adjustments if you are above 1,000 feet above sea level.
Adjustments for Wath-BAth (Boiling Water) Canner
Altitude in Feet Increase Processing Time
1,001-3,000 5 Minutes
3,001-6,000 10 Minutes
6,001-8,000 15 Minutes
8,001-10,000 20 Minutes
When your processing time is complete, turn your heat off and remove your lid. Let your jars rest in your canner for about 5 minutes to allow them to cool. Remove the jars and set them upright on a towel in an area free of drafts. You do not need to retighten the lids. Just allow them to sit for at least 12 hours. During this time you may hear popping noises and that is actually a good thing, the lids are finishing their vacuum seal.
After your jars have cooled off, check your lids to ensure that you have a proper seal by pressing in the center of the lid. If the center is dented down slightly and does not pop back up, remove the band and be sure that you can not move the lid with your fingers. If it is still stable your lid has sealed properly. Wipe of your jars and lids.
Be sure to label the jars with the date and if not obvious, what is in them. Store your jars in a cool, dark place.