The Ultimate Guide to Canning Tomatoes | Making Sauce.

Throw on an apron, some opera and a pair of rubber boots …  you’re about to learn how to can whole tomatoes with a tomato press!  Plan to set aside 22 mason jars and a day to do this (unless you come from a large Italian family with plenty of helping hands.)

Rows of large mason jars filled with tomato sauce on rustic barn board shelves.

Jump to Recipe

So, you want to press your own tomatoes do you?  You’re feeling like an Italian pioneer are you?  Good.  Glad to hear it.  But, I have to warn you that it can be a miserable, miserable job.  Pressing and canning tomatoes is a bona fide “thing” and not something you can do without a bit of planning and a bit of know how.  Luckily for you … I’m here to show you how to do it.

I’ve been pressing my own tomatoes since I was in high school because I had no friends. Because I thought canning tomatoes was fun. Just kidding. I had a lot of friends. They just didn’t think I was any fun.

I’ve always used the recipe passed down from my mother who had it passed down to her from someone else.   I used that very recipe right up until the day I realized that recipe could kill me.

For the first decade of making this I just boiled the tomatoes,  ladled them into a hot jar and stuck them in a cupboard.  That’s the way they did it in the olden days and I like to do most things the traditional way.  The problem is … things have changed since the olden days.

Does tomato sauce need to be pressure canned?

Tomatoes have changed since the olden days.  They’ve been “improved” and tweaked and hybridized to within an inch of their lives.  This tomato mutation has caused the pH level of tomatoes to change over the past century.  Where tomatoes used to be high acid, they are gradually becoming lower and lower acid.

Things that are low acid are dangerous to can without either pressure canning them or giving them a hot water bath.  And by dangerous, I mean could kill you.

I don’t know about you but if I’m going to die from self inflicted stupidity I’d rather it be something fun like inhaling too much laughing gas or some sort of Bouncy House mishap.  Not from eating botulism infused pasta.

You do NOT need to pressure can tomatoes, but you DO need to water bath can them.


Water bath canning means submerging the jars so they’re covered with a couple of inches of water and boiling them for a certain amount of time. You can do this with a water canning pot or even a regular pot if you have one that’s big enough.

Pressure canning means using a specialized piece of equipment – the pressure canner. Jars are put inside with a couple of inches of water in the bottom, the lid is locked and the pressure canner builds up pressure and steam inside. This build up changes the atmospheric pressure in the pot and the boiling point of the things inside it, which in turn kills pathogens. 


So … that is your canning lesson for the day.  What worked for gramma’s heirloom tomatoes (or any other veg/fruit) may not work for today’s Frankentomato.  The basic canning methods haven’t changed, but food has.

Large bushel basket filled with red Roma tomatoes.

How do you prepare tomatoes for canning?

Regardless of whether you grew your own tomatoes or are buying bushels from your grocery store or market, you have to prepare the tomatoes.

  • Tomatoes need to be washed before you put them through the press. If you don’t clean them thoroughly any dirt that’s on them will end up in the sauce. Not only dirt but bird poop. You can either lay them on a tarp and spray them with the hose or do what I do – wash them in the bathtub.
  • Before starting to press go through your tomatoes and cut any in half that are too big to fit through the top funnel. It’ll make your life easier later on when you’re pressing.

Do you have to cook tomatoes before canning them?

It depends. 

  • Some people put their tomatoes in a pot of very hot (not boiling) water to heat them up. The heat releases the juices from the tomato and makes them easier to run through the press with more juice being released.  This ISN’T necessary but it is a good practice.
  • After pressing the tomatoes have to be boiled for 15 minutes prior to their water bath canning.

 

How to Press Tomatoes.

Manual tomato press clamped to a black outdoor table over a stainless steel pot in outdoor courtyard.

To Process Tomatoes You Need a Manual or Electric Tomato Press.

A good quality tomato press is around $140.  Do not cheap out and buy a plastic one.  You’ll be cursing the tomatoes, the press and the person who sold it to you within 10 minutes.

Electric presses work much more quickly but are also more expensive.

This is the Electric Tomato Press I own and love.

This is the manual press I’m using in these photos.

Overhead shot of tomatoes being pushed into the funnel of a manual tomato shot

  1. Just drop the whole tomato into the press, skin and all (tomatoes that are too big to fit in the chute should be cut in half.)

You simply drop the whole tomato into the press and crank the handle.  You can fill the entire hopper up and just keep shoving them down the chute one by one.

 

Tomato sauce running out the chute of a manual tomato press with a red funnel on top.

2. Crank the handle and watch as the juice comes out one end and the discarded seeds and tomato skins out of the other.

The tomato press automatically filters the tomato pulp and juice from the seeds and skin. They come out of the end of the funnel as you can see. 

The seeds and skin come out one end, the good stuff out another.  Place a large stainless steel pot under the chute to catch the tomato juice.  Place another stainless steel pot or bag under the other side of the chute to catch the seeds and pulp.  Save them. You’re going to put those through the press another 1 or 2 times.

Very large stainless steel pot filled with tomato sauce simmering on a stove

3. Continue until all your tomatoes have been pressed.

4. Now take the seeds and skin you saved in a second pot and put those through the tomato press again. You can press the discards 1-2 times to get as much product out as possible.  The final time you run the pulp through it should be almost completely dry.

5. Fill a pot (or two) with your juice, put it on the stove and bring it to a boil. Boil for 15 minutes.

Once these steps are done you’re ready to process them.

How to preserve tomatoes in mason jars.

1.  Fill your canning pot with water and get it hot.

2.  Place clean mason jars (quart sized/4 cups) in a 210 °F oven.  (this prevents the jars from breaking when the hot tomatoes are funnelled into them)

3.  Line up bowls of brown sugar, salt and citric acid.

4.  Cover counter with dishtowels to sop up inevitable spills.

5.  Make sure you have a funnel and a ladle.  Jar tongs are handy to have too.

Canning tools on a white counter including tea towels, white bowls, ladles and funnels.

This whole event will be much easier if you have the proper tools, a funnel, a magnetic stick for picking up sealers out of boiling water (which you don’t need anymore since modern sealers don’t need to be heated before use) grabbing tongs for hot jars and a few other things. They aren’t expensive, in fact the entire kit of all the tools you need is only about $10, but they’re indispensable.

 

Overhead shot of small canning jar and bowls on red gingham tea towel.

  1. Once your tomatoes have come to a boil for 15 minutes, you can start jarring your sauce.
  2. Add 1 tsp brown sugar, 1/2 tsp citric acid and 1/2 tsp salt per quart jar.
  3. Put a funnel over your jar and ladle in hot tomato sauce to 1/2″ headspace* from the top of the jar.
  4. Wipe the rim of your mason jar with a wet paper towel or cloth to remove any drips that will interfere with the seal.
  5. Place the sealer on top and then the ring. Finger tighten only.
  6. Using tongs place the jar into the pot of hot water.
  7. Continue until the pot is full and then bring to a boil. Boil for 45 minutes.

*head space is VERY important. Too little headspace and your sauce will be sucked out of the jar and sealer while processing. Too much headspace and you might not get a proper seal.

 

Work with one jar at a time. Don’t try to do multiple jars.

 

Stainless steel ladle dripping tomato sauce into white funnel over jar.

Do yourself a BIG favour and cover your work surface with a few tea towels.  It’s gonna get messy.

 

5 mason jars in a pressure canner filled with water.

How many tomatoes do you need for canning?

1 bushel will get you 20-22 quarts of tomato juice.

2 bushels of tomatoes will get you 42-44 quarts.

Like so …

 

Two rows or freshly jarred tomatoes on barn board shelves.

These tomatoes will last me 2 years.  Now you’re probably wondering … what the hell are you supposed to do with them?  They are the perfect base for anything tomato related.   Just add spices and a little bit of tomato paste and you have a basic tomato sauce.  

Cook it for only an hour and it’ll taste very fresh and bright.   Cook it longer and it takes on a richer, smokier taste.  

Use them wherever you would use canned tomatoes or tomato sauce.   Like in chili (I happen to think my chili recipe is one of the best) or for a spicy tomato sauce or … best of all … for this … Gramma’s Spaghetti & Meatballs.  I also use this as the base of my homemade pizza sauce.  

Pressing & Canning Tomatoes

4.5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Servings: 22 jars
Calories: 27kcal
Author: Karen

Ingredients

  • 1 bushel Plum Tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup Brown Sugar 1 tsp. per quart jar
  • 1/4 cup Coarse Salt 1/2 tsp. per quart jar
  • 1/4 cup Citric Acid 1/2 tsp. per quart jar

Instructions

  • Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  This is your hot water bath and should be large enough to fit several jars of tomatoes.
  • Preheat oven to 210 and place glass mason jars in oven to heat them so they don't crack when they're filled with the hot tomatoes.
  • When ready to start canning, pull a hot jar out of the oven with tongs.
  • Put 1 tsp. brown sugar, 1/2 tsp. coarse salt, 1/2 tsp citric acid into  jar.
  • Place a funnel over your 1 quart jar and ladle in hot tomatoe sauce to within 1/2 ” from the top of the jar. The "head space" is very important to get a proper seal. 
  • Remove funnel and wipe around the rim of the jar with a clean dishcloth or damp paper towel.
  • Take sealer ring from hot water and place on jar.
  • Screw screwband on. Barely finger tighten only. Do NOT overtighten.
  • Once you’ve filled enough jars to fill your canning pot, place your jars inside the pot of water using your jar tongs. Your water should be hot … almost boiling when you place the jars inside. You can also place the jars in the pot one by one as you fill them.
  • The water needs to cover your jars by a couple of inches.  
  • Put the lid on your canning pot and bring the canning water back up to the boil. Once at boiling again you can start your timer.
  • Your jars need to boil for 45 minutes.
  • Allow the jars to cool slightly in the water bath and then remove them to the counter where they should stay undisturbed for several hours. You will hear the seals "pop" as the pressure changes indicated you have a seal. Any unsealed jars need to be reprocessed or kept in the refrigerator to be used first.

Notes

1 bushel will get you 20-22 quarts of tomato juice. 2 bushels of tomatoes will get you 42-44 quarts.

Nutrition

Serving: 1jar | Calories: 27kcal | Carbohydrates: 5g | Protein: 1g | Sodium: 1287mg | Potassium: 7mg | Sugar: 5g | Calcium: 5mg | Iron: 1mg

Tips for Canning

    • Get everything washed, organized, laid out and ready to go the night before.
    • If you don’t have a canning pot, just use a large pot and place a metal trivet on the bottom.  (the water needs to circulate around and under each jar)
    • If your tomatoes are muddy and dirty wash them in the bathtub.  If a few only have a bit of surface dirt, just wipe them with a dishtowel.
    • Some people also add in a basil leaf to infuse basil flavour  into the sauce.  I do not.
    • Play opera while you’re spending the day pressing tomatoes. Even if you don’t like opera.

I’ve done this so many times it’s second nature so if you’re unsure or think I’ve left something out let me know.

Now get out there, buy a bushel of tomatoes and give it a shot.

→Follow me on Instagram where I often make a fool of myself←

 

The Ultimate Guide to Canning Tomatoes | Making Sauce.

95 Comments

  1. Marie says:

    I have an old workhorse Champion Juicer. Will it work ok? Someone asked the same question but I don’t see a reply:
    Do you think you could use a juicer instead of a tomato press? Doesn’t it do the same thing-separate the juice from the pulp?
    Thanks so much!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Marie. I don’t have a juicer, so I can’t respond with any authority. All I can suggest is that you make tomato juice with it and see how it acts. Does it remove all the skin? (if not you may have to boil the tomatoes and remove the skin yourself) And will it remove the seeds? You probably don’t want juice full of seeds. Give those things a shot and see how it goes. I hope it works for you! ~ karen

  2. Jennifer says:

    Were my tomatoes supposed to separate? I have a bunch of tomato foam at the top of the jars, and a bunch of tomato water at the bottom. :( I forgot to boil them for 15 minutes before canning- is that why?

    • Karen says:

      That’s odd. When tomato juice separates the water would normally go to the top. I assume you gave them a boiling water bath? ~ karen

      • Jennifer says:

        No, I used the pressure canner with the rocker weight to make sure it was working correctly. I found my answer after I asked you- my tomatoes look like the picture.
        https://www.healthycanning.com/tomatoes-separating-jars/

        • Jennifer says:

          I am still struggling with this. I heated all the tomatoes before processing them. I didn’t boil them. More juice did come out, but I wonder how much was water? Because now both batches are extremely runny, even after heating them at the end. I am not sure what I am doing wrong?

        • Karen says:

          Hi Jennifer. It doesn’t sound like you’re doing anything wrong. What you’re making is basically a tomato juice. You then cook it to a proper thickness afterwards when you crack open a jar and are making a sauce. Does that help? ~ karen!

  3. Lisa says:

    I didn’t read every comment, but incase no one else mentioned this, if you have a kitchenaid stand mixer you can get the fruit/veggie strainer with food grinder attachment for around 100 USD. It fits in a shoebox for easy storage.

  4. Jen says:

    Because my tomatoes don’t seem to ripen at the same time, I pop them into a freezer bag and keep them frozen until I have enough to can. I’ve never used a press because I don’t care about seeds and the skins from the frozen tomatoes just slip off. Is there anything else you can use the tomato press for? Other than my canning equipment I really don’t like to have a lot of single use gadgets.

  5. Paula says:

    One tip is instead of tea towels, splurge on a plastic picnic table cover at the dollar store. When the job is done and the mess has been made you can simply throw it out and no cleaning necessary.

  6. Beverly says:

    First of all – my music selection would be the soundtracks from the Sopranos…enough said.

    Secondly, the choices of tomato/food strainers must be awesome, because both are pretty much sold out! But I will keep checking, as I love this post and embrace a gizmo that would produce sauce like this. Hubby loves pasta/sauce so would be all over this purchase!

  7. Kunyi Mangalam says:

    HI Karen, This is a fascinating post. I had no idea that tomatoes have actually changed. My mom does not water bath them, and we’ve not had any trouble, but nor do I want to invite any!
    I’m interested in the addition of the sugar. Is it for taste, or for the pH? I get the salt and citric acid. Or something else? I recently canned some black current jam, so I’m interested in trying my hand at canning tomatoes.
    Thank you for your useful blog.

    • Sabina says:

      Yes, I am interested in the “why” of adding brown sugar as well. This Sicilian does not like sweet red sauce. I have fond memories of summer days in the “basement kitchen” processing tomatoes with my mom and any given aunt. Good stuff. I have not canned my own since we never seem to get enough yield so I usually make a quick marinara but I would love to grab a bushel and do this – without the brown sugar if it’s not a necessary ingredient ;-)

  8. Barb says:

    Please just send me a jar! xo

  9. Kirsten says:

    I used to do all this. Now I just vacuum pack the whole tomato’s. When I need some sauce then I take a bag out of the freezer and into the vitamix it goes. Seeds, skin, all of the nutrient rich stuff gets pulverized and into my sauce. So much easier, and leaves me time do do roasted red peppers instead.

  10. sigi says:

    do you think you could use a juicer instead of a tomato press? Doesn’t it do the same thing-separate the juice from the pulp?

  11. Mary W says:

    Using the tomato press is the very best thing I ever did when I had a big garden. It does work just like you said – mine was aluminum from the hardware store and cost around $40 about 40 years ago – oh, gosh that sounds like a long time ago – I just realized how long ago it was. I gave it away when I moved into town and have wished I had it ever since. I put up enough tomato sauce to last a year and used a big jar several times a week! Usually planted 100 plants. Great advice and exactly how I canned the sauce back then. You are so right, as usual?

  12. Robin says:

    One trick I learned to get thicker, less watery sauce — rough chop tomatoes, throw them in a stock pot and cook for about 30 minutes. Put in the fridge overnight. The next day, there is tons of juice that can be strained off and saved for another use. Then run the tomatoes through the press and out comes yummy, thick sauce. I have a huge garden, but rarely enough to do massive batches, so I do it this way in batches, freezing it as I go. So handy to have on hand.

  13. Linda L says:

    What is the brand name of the strainer you are using? I’ve been searching the web and don’t see one that looks like it. All metal ones seem to be TSM or Squeezo. While Victorio seems to be a fave, it looks like it is plastic.

    • Karen says:

      I hate to say it Linda but I don’t know! It’s now relegated to the back of my basement because 2 years ago I finally broke down and bought an electric one and it’s great! It was on sale for around $180 at my local grocery store. I’ve found it on Amazon but it’s almost $250 there. It’s made in Italy and is much easier to use than the hand grinding one I have. If I find it in the basement I”ll let you know the brand of the hand operated unit. ~ karen!

      • Linda Lewis says:

        Karen,
        I think we found your hand crank model online. I believe it’s a Tre Spade. They have two models. The smaller one is Model – BT. Not sure what the model # ofthe one like you have is but the hopper is available in stainless steel also. I thought I’d like to have the other screen attachments also – just in case :) but I’m not sure they are available with the BT model. I can’t find any info on them. Are you interested in selling yours?

  14. Margaret K. says:

    I have the KitchenAid attachments mentioned by one commenter, but the press is what I use to process tomatoes. Mine is about 30 years old now and still doing it’s job well. Hand-cranked, but I only do a couple of canner loads at a time, from our garden.

  15. Marek says:

    I have a Victorio strainer with the tomato and salsa screen that I tried to use last year to make salsa, but I felt like I was just turning my tomatoes into juice. What tips do you have for using a press? That was my first time and I was intimidated, to say the least.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Marek – I have to be honest with you here. I have no idea what the salsa screen is, LOL! I’ve never even heard of one of these tomato presses being used to make salsa. They’re normally used to press the tomatoes, separating the juice and pulp from the seeds and the skin. So, sadly I can’t help you with your salsa dilemma, but hopefully someone else can. ~ karen!

  16. IslandFarmer says:

    Karen: I grow my own tomatoes on our farm and have been canning for years. I put them whole into a food processor and then cook up batches of pasta sauce using Barbara Kingsolver’s recipe (yes, the famous author). I follow it exactement. It’s fabulous with all her other ingredients and I can’t recommend her recipe enough. However, I want to can just plain tomatoes (for soup or other uses) but find that including the seeds and skins makes the plain sauce taste a bit harsh/acidy. (I’m not talking about ph canning levels, just taste). I assume that a tomato press removes the skin, and thus the remainder sauce is ‘sweeter’. Is this why folks use presses? Also, what are your thoughts on an electric press. Thanks so much for a very helpful blog!

    • Karen says:

      Hi IslandFarmer – I’ll have to look up that recipe. I assume it’s in Animal Vegetable Miracle? The reason I use a press is because it does indeed remove all the seeds and skin of the tomatoes. It makes a perfectly smooth, clear tomato sauce almost like tomato juice. I use it for everything I need to add a tomato based liquid like soups, chilis, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, etc. I also cook tomato sauce with whole tomatoes, but this pressed tomato sauce is my stape. I use a hand press, but if you can afford it the electric presses are supposed to be fantastic. And fast! ~ karen!

  17. Jenny says:

    First- you are HILARIOUSLY awesome. I think I spent about 2 hours last night perusing your website and just laughing- thank you! I needed a good laugh! i actually found you on a search for canning chicken stock- i used your method! Made so much more sense to me than others. You mentioned ( I think ) in that post that you can diced tomatoes also? Do you have a post on that on your site? I haven’t come across it yet, if you do. I started canning last year and attempted diced tomatoes and I was less than thrilled, to say the least, at my results. They taste fine, but they are too soft and not the chunk that I was hoping for. How do you do yours? Thanks so much!!!!!

  18. Pam says:

    I’m glad to know that someone else thinks that canning their own tomatoes is totally worth it!! Only mine don’t make it 2 years cause I give them away as gifts!!

  19. Querencia says:

    I didn’t see this addressed but for people who don’t regularly think of quantities in bushels that’s a bit over 50#s of tomatoes. I just wanted to throw that out there for perspective on the total awesome insanity of Karen.
    and I have bushel envy. Don’t think I’ve ever seen them sold that way around here.

  20. Dan says:

    We have owned both a Victorio and a Sqeezo and liked both. If you don’t like the squirts you sometimes get from the strainer, fashion a shield from a plastic bottle so that it fits right over the strainer cone. Mine was made from an empty coffee creamer container.

    Don’t be afraid of canning. The canner isn’t going to explode since it has a pressure relief valve. Your canned jars of tomatoes are safe from power outages, unlike frozen packages that will mush if your freezer is off for too long. The sight of the jars of canned produce is also very satisfying.

    We actually have two canners so while the first one is cooling, the second is on the stove building pressure. The whole process is a team effort and a good way to build relationships. Find someone with a canner and get together for a session.

    • Marek says:

      I attempted to use a Victorio last year but I felt like I was making more juice than getting strained tomatoes. I have both the tomato and the salsa screen and I was trying to make salsa. Does it make an insane amount of juice? I felt like I was doing it incorrectly and I’d like to try it again this year, successfully this time.

  21. Jo says:

    Thank you Evalyn! I’m off to buy another rack or separator. I do have several books on canning but none of them addressed the problem of keeping jars upright.

  22. Eva says:

    I decided to skip canning this year as I still have a good stock of everything but looking at pictures of filled bottles makes me wish I had something to stack on my counter.

  23. Evalyn says:

    Jo: put another wire rack or seperator on top of your jars, then put a larger jar, filled with water, but without a lid, on top to hold it down. Whatever you use as a weight needs to be heavy enough to hold the jars under the water yet let the water circulate. I use a jar with a ring to protect the edges, but no sealer. I also use water filled jars to take up spaces in the canner so the full jars don’t rattle against each other or move around in the canner.

    I would like to make a recommendation: Everyone who is interested in canning, please by a good canning book. My bible is the Kerr/Ball blue book, which I found next to the lids at my local Whatever Mart. It has everything about canning, freezing, preserving and even receipes. The new edition is actually yellow, but never mind that. Also, if you have access (in the US) to County Extention Service, they have people there who are just waiting to help you out. Call them, make them feel appreciated. Canning is not difficult, but it requires attention to certain details.

    • IthacaNancy says:

      Evalyn, thanks for your post. It is a great idea for holding down little jars, and your recommendation to process from the Ball book or the USDA approved So Easy To Preserve, and to check with the local county extension service is right on target.

    • Sheila says:

      Just an FYI. Don’t forget to update your Ball book every few years or so. The recipes DO change, as well as the timing, etc.

  24. Jonalynn says:

    OMG I love you so much right now!! I have had a doohickey sitting in my basement for over 12 years. My mom gave me all her old canning stuff, but didn’t tell me what any of it was. Since I didn’t can at the time, I didn’t care. I just kept moving it. I’ve been canning for the last few years and have used most of her stuff, but there was one thing I didn’t know the use for. I thought it was a sausage grinder, which seemed odd because my mom never made sausage. Oh, I should mention, that my mom died a few years before I started canning, so I couldn’t just ask her.(she was selfish that way. She also died before my daughter became a teenager that drives me crazy~stupid cancer!!) I HAVE A TOMATO PRESS!!! It’s old and looking a little sad, but I’m going to clean it up today! I REALLY, really, really wish I’d know this when I did tomatoes last week! I am SO glad I didn’t sell this at a garage sale! Thank you, thank you!!

  25. Jo says:

    I was delighted to see a segment on canning because I was hoping that someone would bring up a problem that I have. I usually make chutney, red pepper jelly, pickled grapes, etc. in small jars — 250 ml, sometimes even 125 ml. When I put them in the canner they float! No matter if I cram them into the wire lifter basket and lower them in or put a folded towel in the bottom of the pot and stand them on that. No matter if I cover the tops with 1 inch of water or 2 inches or 5 inches or fill it right up to the top. The jars all turn over on their sides and float! They are slippery and its difficult to lift them out with the jar tongs.

    Doesn’t this happen to anyone else? Is it just me? It’s just me, isn’t it?

  26. Cricket says:

    You are a lifesaver! This winter I bought a Squeezo II at the thrift store for $8. I was so excited because I figured it must be better than hand squeezing stuff like my mom did. She had a cone shaped strainer and a wooden pestle. But it didn’t come with instructions or recipes or anything. I planted about 80 bazillion tomato plants which are just not coming ripe (just in time for the first frost here in Maine). Now I know how to use it. Hooray! If I just want to freeze the sauce, would I just put int in clean jars, seal and freeze? I am terrified of killing my family. I tried canning jam this summer and it went so badly I had to freeze it all anyway.

  27. Jen says:

    ok…now i’m freaked out. my mom and i made salsa and tomato sauce this weekend. we did not boil our jars but we did boil the sauce and salsa. are we going to die???

    • Karen says:

      Jen – Um … well I wouldn’t recommend doing what you did. Have you done this before, or is this your first try at canning? Almost everything that gets canned needs to be processed in one way or another and you definitely need to heat your jars. If I were you, I’d keep the jars in the fridge and start planning your meals for the next 2 weeks out of salsa and tomatoes.
      ~ karen

      • Jen says:

        I meant we didn’t boil our jars after we filled them. We ran the jars through the dishwasher then filled them with hot tomato stuff then put the freshly boiled lids on. The ones that ‘popped’ we put in the pantry. The ‘unpopped’ jars we put in the fridge. Do you think we’ll survive?

        • Karen says:

          Jen – Did you add lemon juice or citric acid? ~ karen

        • Jen says:

          We added vinegar to the salsa. We used a prepackaged spaghetti sauce and just followed the directions. My husband is scoffing at me about botulism. Sassy pants.

        • Karen says:

          Jen – Was the packaged spaghetti sauce *meant* for canning? And poke your husband for me. This is serious stuff. Botulism has no taste, smell or other warning signs and it DOES kill people. If the spaghetti sauce was prepackaged specifically for jarring yourself I’m sure you’ll be fine. If it wasn’t made specifically for canning, and therefore didn’t have a proper pH level I would not use it, I’m afraid. I’m not being overly cautious … the fact that some of your jars didn’t seal is proof that things weren’t done quite properly. Personally, I wouldn’t risk it. I’d use the sauce you have in the fridge and give the other jars away to people to put in their fridge. They’ll last for the next couple of weeks in the fridge but not beyond that. ~ karen!

  28. Eva says:

    that’s a crazy amount of tomatoes…. i still have a half a dozen jars from last year so I won’t be doing it this year but next year, when I grow more of my own…..

  29. Nancy says:

    I canned quite a bit in my younger days Karen..I know how much work you put into this…The finished jars on your counter look so beautiful..It kind of makes me want to do this again…I must go lie down until this feeling passes…

  30. Stéphanie says:

    Aaaaaaaannnnnnnnd tomorrow, are you gonna teach us how to clean pressed tomatoe juice off of flagstones? ^^

  31. Evalyn says:

    My sister and I spent Sunday processing 120 lbs of tomatoes into juice. I’m getting me a tomato press!

    I don’t recommend supermarket tomatos, however. Famers Market or U-Pick is the way to go. We paid 50 cents/pound for U-Pick.

    • Karen says:

      Evalyn – A lot of supermarkets bring in bushels for “doing tomatoes”. Mine were $15 per bushel and they were fresh, local tomatoes. Depends on the supermarket I guess. ~ karen!

  32. Shauna says:

    I am so excited you did this post. I just asked for canning equipment and the blue book for my birthday. I have pretty much read it cover to cover and am now completely freaked out and excited to can something. Of course, now I have to wait to buy this tomato press so I can follow your instructions. All the blue book recipes talk about scraping the sides of the jar with a plastic utensil after the tomatoes (or whatever) are placed in the jars. Does this need to be done with your recipe as well? And, yes, I want to know the answer to the question someone else asked about adding other items like onions, etc. I assume (since reading my blue book) that it would then have to be pressure canned or just frozen?

    Great post. I hope you do more. I am thoroughly impressed that you were able to do this and take pictures. I’m freaked out about getting this all organized in such a way that things stay hot, etc. and I don’t KILL anyone. No pressure. Ha!

    • Karen says:

      Shauna – Inserting a wooden spoon or rubber spatula is to get the air bubbles out that might be trapped. It’s necessary when you’re canning something thicker than a pure liquid because anything thicker or something that has chunks (like whole tomato pieces) can trap air and make bubbles. That isn’t the case with this straight liquid sauce. So no need really to release air bubbles. They release themselves. And yes, whenever you can you have to use the regulations (canning/pressure cooking times) specific to all the ingredients. So if one item in the recipe only requires 20 minutes of a hot water bath, but another ingredient requires 20 minutes of pressure canning to make it safe, you have to do the 20 minutes of pressure canning. Understand? It’s hard for me to describe for some reason! ~ karen

      • Shauna says:

        I do. thank you. I thought about the releasing bubbles thing after I wrote it and realized that it was a silly question, but thank you for answering anyway:)

        Are you able to create your own recipes now based on what you know from books, or do you still have to use recipes from books? When I started all this, I had this vision in my head that I would be able to make my ‘famous tomato sauce’ and be able to can it, but am realizing that if I don’t follow a recipe exactly, I could kill someone. Is there anything anywhere that helps you be able to can your own recipes?

  33. Linda says:

    I’ve been doing this my whole life. My parents are freaks and do 15-20 bushels. We wake up at 5 am. I dreaded it when I was younger and thought of every excuse imaginable why I needed more sleep. However now I do appreciate it. We sit there, wash and cut every single tomato to make sure there is nothing rotten. By the end of that process my hands are prunes and I will have at least 1 finger that needs a tiny bandaid (I cut them like an Italian nonna with the knife towards my finger. Bad habit but I can’t shake it.) Anyway the dinner at the end of the day is always the best with the fresh sauce.

    We never use brown sugar, but I am intrigued and really want to try it.

    We always just put fresh basil in from the garden and some salt.

    This year we also changed our process and no longer boil the jars. We’ll see what happens :)

  34. Uturn says:

    Question….is it ok to saute things like onion, pepper, celery to cook down with the tomatoes prior to canning for extra flavor/texture in the sauces? Does that change the pH?

    • Karen says:

      Uturn – If you were to add onions or celery, you’d need to process the jars to whatever time those ingredients require. When you can you need look at all your ingredients and then process to the vegetable/fruit that requires the longest processing time. That’s why if you’re making sauce, you’re best to just make the base and then add your onions, carrots, spices, garlic etc. after. ~ karen!

  35. fabulous post, per usual karen. kudos to you and your canning self! i’m wondering if you’d be willing to share the brand of the tomato press that you’re using. i’d love to find a similar one for my own tomato escapades. thanks!

  36. cred says:

    I gotta get me a tomato press- wow! I’ve heard of this either.
    Another tip, although widely used in canning tomato recipes, is using bottled lemon juice to bring the acidity up. 1 tbsp per 500mL jar Or you can use vinegar- 2 tbsp per 500 mL.
    Not just the new-fangled tomatoes are low acid- many heirloom varieties are low acid. And the colour or the taste of the tomato is no indication of acidity. Yellow tomatoes, introduced to the mass market as low acid are not all low acid and not all reds are high acid. Those that taste sweet may have high acid but the higher sugar content masks the acidic taste & vice versa.
    So, blah, blah, blah… you just don’t know what you’re getting so add lemon juice, vinegar or citric acid to play it safe.

  37. Babie Knoop says:

    I have been canning for years and did not know about the press either….I just canned the whole tomato in a water bath too.
    I do have a pressure canner but I kinda hate it! Did beets in it this year. I am going to try your press and method this year for my tomatoes….getting ready to do them maybe tomorrow. Still have tomatoes out on the vine….(if they didn’t freeze last night)!!!

  38. Tracy says:

    Wow; I’ve got to go find me a tomato press!! Didn’t know such a thing existed. One tip I think is a ‘good to know’ — don’t use an aluminum pot or spoon. Something about the tomato reacts with the metal and you can get a funky taste. I dont know if that taste is obvious to everyone or just critical foodies, though, so maybe its not a biggie. Oh, and because of the lack of acid in tomatoes, I’ve also added some lemon juice; just enough to boost that acid level up a bit.

    • Tracy says:

      Wait – I just saw ‘citric acid’ in your recipe. Duh. That’s what that’s for! Forget the lemon juice!

      • Elgog Partynipple says:

        I use only stainless steel pots and pans. Aluminum and copper reacts with acids and create a metalic taste in things. It also discoloers the cookware. When I was a chef (for many years) we used only aluminum cookware. I don’t really know why that is. Also, the knives we used were the cheapest knives known to man. They would chip or shatter. When they broke, you threw them away and pulled out a new one. No sharpening. Watch cooking shows that show chefs working in commercial kitchens. They all use that white handled knife. That’s the cheap knife all kitchens use. It’s the same with all the beatup cookware. It’s all aluminum.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Tracy – You’re right …. no reactive pots or utensils. ~ karen!

  39. Langela says:

    I agree with needing the tomato press. I also have extra striners for berries, grapes, squash, etc. It is great for applesauce! I love the look of freshly canned jars of stuff lined up on the counter. They are so pretty and the feeling of accomplishment is amazing. BTW Karen, I really like your square jars.

  40. Mandy Y says:

    Can you use a mouli instead of a tomato press? Seems like it would do the same job :)

    • Karen says:

      Mandy – It can be done, but if you’re doing 2 bushels … or even 1 bushel of tomatoes I wouldn’t recommend it. It would be too time consuming. With the press the skins and seeds are automatically dispensed out one side so you can keep cranking and pressing for a long time. A food mill you’d have to empty the top out after every several tomatoes. Plus, with a press you extract every single bit of juice/pulp. More than you would with a mill. If you plan on doing this, an actual press is worth the investment! ~ k

  41. Brenda K-C says:

    I use a food mill rather than a press for the tomatoes because I really liker them chunkier than the press allows.But I agree with you that the tools must be well made to avoid frustration.

  42. Lui says:

    Opera adds the italian touch, isn’t it?
    I love your blog!

  43. Trysha says:

    Canning totally intimidates me. I’m afraid even if I do it right, we’re all gonna die of botulism. Or I will really excel at it and we’ll be eating jarred pumpkin butter/vanilla pear jam until the End of Days.

    I go from one extreme to the other. I’m hard to live with.

  44. Kitt says:

    Wow. I’ve never seen (or heard of!) a tomato press before. Now, of course, I want one in the worst way. I’ve peeled and seeded my entire tomato crop by hand, and then roasted and pureed them to make sauce. Which I froze.

    OK, bookmarking this post for next year. I swear.

    Brava on your productive day! You will enjoy the fruits of your labors, indeed.

    • Karen says:

      Kitt – That’s exactly the reason I did this post. An astonishing amount of people don’t know about the tomato press. When I was looking up how long I needed to water bath my tomatoes I didn’t find a single recipe that talked about using a tomato press. So, I figured I’d better do a post on it. Even though it’s already a huge, messy, annoying, exhausting job as it is – let alone having to do it and photograph it at the same time! ~ k

      • Uturn says:

        I do have a tomato press and used it once before reading this blog sent to me by a friend. I HATED it!!! It seemed like an acrobatic feat to get the sauce to go into the container. I had to use a cake pan to catch it because that’s all that fit underneath it. Seemed like the same amount of effort to do it this way as to boil them shortly and peel then throw in the blender. Also, all that goop coming out of the end of the press was a nightmare to control. I did try the bag like in the picture, but it did not work so well. I ended up using a cup which I had to dump frequently. I was also not happy when the crank wiggled the clamp off the table and the whole works came tumbling down. Yes, this is a good quality metal press from Fleet Farm.
        The worst part about the ordeal was the cleanup! That strainer didn’t come clean despite scrubbing and soaking. I ran it thru the dishwasher and now there appears to be some rust on it.
        This is only my first year of both gardening and canning, so I’m learning lots and was never shown by other generations so I have a lot to overcome. This was just one experience of many

        • Karen says:

          Uturn – If you have a good ($100 – $150) all metal press it sounds like you just don’t have it set up properly. Take a look at how mine is set up. You have to attach the press to something it can clamp onto firmly like a square edge table or 2×4. The spout of your press should hang over the edge of the table so you can put a huge pot underneath it. Depending on the size of your pot, you may need to raise it up a bit on bricks so you don’t get a lot of splashing. If you set it up like this, wrapping a full sized garbage bag around the chute the pulp and seeds comes out of should work perfectly. The bag will be long enough to rest on the floor and will collect the seeds and pulp from bushels and bushels of tomatoes. Lemme know if you have any other questions! ~ karen

    • Buvezdevin says:

      If you have a KitchenAid mixer, getting a couple of attachments will make it a powerful motorized tomato press.

      You need the “food grinder” and the “fruit & vegetable strainer” and while you don’t have to have the “food tray” it will hold a lot of fruit/veg for feeding into the grinder.

      Also, putting the skin/seeds through any tomato press for a second pressing will extract even more juice and pulp, less quantity but thicker than first pressing.

      • Karen says:

        Buvezdevin – I *do* have a KitchenAid and I also have a food grinder for it. Not the fruit and veg strainer though. Might look into it. I have put the skin and seeds through for a second pass, but I find for the amount of juice I get from it and how long it already takes to do 2 bushels of tomatoes, I’m fine to just feed them to the chickens, LOL. At the end of bushel 2, I’m DONE. :) ~ karen

        • Buvezdevin says:

          Oh, Karen, I meant a generic “you” for your fans who may be looking to buy a tomato press. If I had the press in your photos, I might not have bought the KitchenAid attachments. That said, I lurv them and put up my first tomatoes this year.

          I am bookmarking this page for tips and reminders for next time canning.

          Now, that we know you have ample homemade tomato purée, I am soooo looking forward to any further recipes using such, and will definitely be trying Gramma’s recipe you suggested above.

  45. Marti says:

    Ok, so I stumbled on a brand-new blue graniteware pot with a metal “steamer pot” in the bottom.

    I don’t think I can get this interested in tomatoes this year (bought a butt…er boat-load at Costco a while back that I still haven’t used), but other than that, am I good-to-go on canning stuff with that pot, K?

    • Karen says:

      Marti – Mmmm. I don’t know. Hard to tell w/out seeing it, but as long as the jars don’t touch the bottom and the pot is tall enough to get 2 ” of water over the top of the jars you should be fine. ~ karen!

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