Let’s Can Tomatoes

by James R. Coffey

It is hard to believe August is here and Fall is around the corner.  Hopefully everyone is stocking their canning shelves with food for the coming Winter season.  This article will deal with several ways to preserve tomatoes by canning, juices, soup and sauces.  I am hearing that tomatoes are very plentiful so let’s start canning them.  Several sources for canning supplies are your local Walmart, Good’s Store in Quarryville, PA. And also Byler’s Store in Dover, DE.  Check at also local hardware and also within your bulk food stores if you are near an Amish/Mennonite community.

Plain Solid Pack Tomatoes

Peel, core and remove hard green spots.  Leave whole, halve or quarter.  Pack tightly into clean jars, pressing down so juice will cover them.  Leave 1” headspace.  Add NO water! Add 1 t. canning salt to a quart or ½ t. canning salt to a pint.  Add also ½ t. citric acid to each quart or ¼ t. citric acid to a pint. If you do not have citric acid use: 2 T. Realemon juice to a quart or 1 T. Realemon juice to a pint.  You may add also ½-1 t. sugar if you desire as well.  Do not omit either the citric acid or the lemon juice in any canned tomato recipe.  Wipe jar rims, seal and process by one of the methods below:

Hot Water Bath: Pints: 20 minutes; Quarts and Half Gallons: 30 minutes.

Pressure Canner: Pints and Quarts: 15 minutes at 5 pounds pressure or 10 minutes at 10 pounds pressure.  Half Gallons should be fine for the same time.

The USDA recommends all raw packed tomatoes be processed 85 minutes in the boiling water bath.  This is overkill in my opinion and results in mush.  My time follows the old recommendations and that in other areas of the United States.  Be sure not to can a low acid tomatoes.  I always use a high acid type to can.  For easy peeling, wash tomatoes and drop in boiling water.  Leave ½ minutes.  Remove and put in cold water.  Leave about 30 seconds and the skins will slip off.  I like mine still warm to peel quick. For all raw packed cold tomatoes, I have cold water in my canner and I do not time it until the water is at a rolling boil.  For all hot packed jars, use hot water.  If you forget, you will have broken jars either way.

Fancy Pack Whole Tomatoes

A good friend of ours, the late Mildred Nowland canned thousands of jars of tomatoes by this method.  It must be followed exactly or they may not keep especially if tomatoes are not perfect.  Sometimes whole tomatoes can be bad inside and you will not know it either.

Peel  and core tomatoes.  Leave whole.  Use tomatoes of equal size so they pack the best.  Place whole tomatoes tightly in jars.  Do not pack down in any way!  Add salt, citric acid and sugar if desired.  Fill to neck of jar with both tomatoes and cold water.  Seal and process in hot water bath for no longer than 5 minutes (pints and quarts).

Mrs. Purdy’s Tomato Juice

This recipe originated from Port Hermon, near Chesapeake City, MD.  My relatives lived there years ago and knew a lot of people and so did my aunt as well.  Her Mom got this recipe from Mrs. Purdy.

Wash tomatoes and cut them. Do not add water.  Boil them until well done.  Put through a sieve or Victorio strainer until nothing is left but skins and seeds.  Bring juice to a boil and fill jars.  Add 1 t. canning salt, 2 t. granulated sugar and pepper to suit to each quart (use half these amounts for pints).  Wipe jar rims, seal and process in hot water bath for 20 minutes.  I also add the citric acid as directed under solid pack tomatoes.  For plain juice, just omit salt, sugar and pepper.

Let’s Can Tomatoes

Another way to use tomato juice with no seasoning added is to can tomato soup.  The recipe follows:


Just Like Campbell’s Tomato Soup

This is one of our favorite new soups.  My late Mom liked it better than Campbell’s and so do a lot of other people.

¼ C. onions, chopped

1 ½ C. butter

2 ¼ c. flour

¾ C. sugar

¼ c. canning salt or to taste

1 ¼ t. pepper or to suit taste

6 to 7 quarts hot tomato juice


Saute chopped onions in butter until clear and tender(about 5 to 7 minutes).  Add flour, sugar, salt and pepper and cook until smooth (just like making a roux).  Add hot tomato juice gradually, using a wire whip and whisking until smooth.  Cook until thick.  Fill jars, leaving 1” headspace.  Wipe jar rims and process by one of the methods below:

Hot Water Bath: Pints (or) Half Pints: 45 minutes; Quarts: 60 minutes.

Pressure Canner: 10 to 15 minutes at 10 to 11 pounds (half pints, pints or quarts).

You can also make and can a vegetable juice as well.  You could use a vegetable juicer if you have one and then follow the directions below and can the juice.


Vegetable Juice


½ bushel tomatoes, washed

1 pound carrots

3 medium onions

5 stalks celery

2 large green peppers

1 medium head cabbage


Cook all together, then puree’ in a food processor, blender, Vita Mix or Victorio Strainer until smooth.  Fill jars, leaving 1” headspace.  Add salt, citric acid and sugar if desired as directed under solid pack tomatoes.  Seal.  Process by one of the methods below:

Water Bath: 2 hours (pints and quarts).

Pressure Canner: Pints: 35 minutes; Quarts: 40 minutes at 10 to 11 pounds pressure.

When you add vegetables in this quantity to make a juice like this it must processed like the vegetables they contain than like the tomatoes only.  You should boil and cool this prior to serving.



Spaghetti Sauce


1 peck tomatoes (8 quarts, peeled, cored and diced)

1 clove garlic

2 green peppers

1 ½ pounds onions, chopped

1 C. cooking oil

½ t. oregano

4 (6 oz.) cans tomato paste

1 c. sugar (or to taste, optional)

¼ C. canning salt

½ t. basil


Saute onions and peppers in the oil until tender (about 5 minutes).  Add everything else and cook until thick (about 1 hour).  Fill jars, leaving 1” headspace.  Wipe jar rims, seal and process by one of the methods below:

Water Bath: 1 hour (pints and quarts).

Pressure Canner: Pints: 20 minutes; Quarts: 25 minutes. At 10 to 11 pounds pressure.


Stewed Tomatoes


This recipe is for 1 quart:


1 T. onions, chopped (heaping)

1 T. green pepper (chopped, heaping)

1 T. celery (chopped, heaping)

1 T. sugar

½ t. citric acid

1 t. canning salt

Tomatoes, peeled, cored and quartered to fill jar to within 1” headspace.  Press down so juice covers.  Wipe jar rims, seal and process 1 hour in boiling water bath (pints and quarts).


For a Quantity recipe use:


2 C. onions, chopped

2 C. celery, chopped

2 C. green peppers, chopped

12 quarts tomatoes, peeled, cored and chopped


Mix all together and pack into clean jars.  Leave 1” headspace.  Add salt, citric acid and sugar as directed under solid pack tomatoes.  Wipe jar rims, seal and process in boiling water bath for 1 hour (pints or quarts).


I hope you will enjoy your tomato harvest for many months ahead.  Happy Canning, JR Coffey

PS—I have more tomato recipes in both of my books, Country Canning and Country Canning II.         

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