Every Italian girl should can tomatoes at least once in her life to appreciate the soul and love that goes into making exceptional Marinara sauce. Well, OK, you don’t have to be Italian to love canning tomatoes. For me, it feels primal to harvest and put up a bushel of tomatoes for the winter. I feel like I have accomplished something special, and just love looking at the bright red jars in my pantry. I also love good imported canned San Marzano tomatoes (see my Marinara sauce recipe) but having my own canned local, organic tomatoes is very satisfying as well. At first it seems like a big deal but once you do it and realize how simple it is, you will look forward to harvest time every year with a smile.
The best tomatoes for canning are Roma tomatoes. They are more dense and less watery which produces a thicker and meatier sauce. However I used organic Beefsteak tomatoes from our local CSA (Community-Supported Agriculture), Sandhilll Family Farms. I had the pleasure of trying them recently at a Farm to Table dinner, and was captivated on how rich and sweet they were. Since the Beefsteak tomatoes were at their peak, I bought 40 pounds. I canned 30 pounds and used the rest for tomato jam, Caprese Salad, and BLTs. Please support your local CSA for the freshest, healthiest local produce you can get. Plus I like supporting local businesses!
Crushed tomatoes are ideal for sauce, soup and stew recipes. Crushing them also makes it easier to strain out some of the watery juice while canning, which I needed to do with the Beefsteak variety. The meat and flavor of the Beefsteaks were incredible.
Since food safety is very important with preserving and canning, I used the classic canning recipe from the Ball Jar Company, the maker of the canning jars. You can read more about canning at their website.
The following is a step-by-step look at the process. The printed recipe can be found at the end.
Wash tomatoes and cut a large cross on the bottom of each tomato.
Tomato Harvest: Canning Beefsteak Tomatoes
- 25 - 30 lbs tomatoes
- ½ teaspoon Ball® Citric Acid or 2 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each hot quart jar or ¼ teaspoon Ball® Citric Acid or 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each hot pint jar
- Salt 1 teaspoon salt to each quart jar or ½ teaspoon salt to each pint jar (if desired)
- Ball® Glass preserving jars with lids and bands
- PREPARE boiling water canner. Heat jars in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Wash lids in warm soapy water and set bands aside.
- WASH tomatoes. Dip in boiling water 30 to 60 seconds. Immediately dip in cold water. Slip off skins. Trim away any green areas and cut out core. Leave tomatoes whole or cut into halves or quarters.
- CUT tomatoes into quarters to measure about 2 cups. Transfer to a large stainless steel saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Using a potato masher, crush tomatoes to release juices. While maintaining a gentle boil and stirring to prevent scorching, quarter additional tomatoes and add to the saucepan as you work. The remaining tomatoes do not need to be crushed, as they will soften with heating and stirring. Continue until all tomatoes are added, then boil gently for 5 minutes.
- ADD ½ teaspoon Ball® Citric Acid or 2 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each hot quart jar. Add ¼ teaspoon Ball® Citric Acid or 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each hot pint jar. I used lemon juice.
- PACK hot tomatoes into hot jars to within a generous ½ inch of top of jar. Press tomatoes into the jar until the spaces between them fill with juice, leaving ½ inch headspace. Add 1 teaspoon salt to each quart jar, ½ teaspoon to each pint jar, if desired. Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace, if necessary, by adding hot tomatoes. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
- PROCESS filled jars in a boiling water canner for 35 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.