Canning Whole Peeled Tomatoes

pile of tomatoes

Before tomato season comes to a close, I want to talk about my favorite way to preserve tomatoes. I typically only can them one way – (mostly) whole and peeled, in their own juices. I do them this way because I like the versatility they retain when put up in this manner. Later down the line, I can choose as to whether I want to puree them down, make a chunky sauce or just crush them with my hands and use them to top homemade pizza (Mmmm).

One thing to note is that my tomatoes aren’t perfectly whole. I do crush them a bit while cramming them into the jars, in order to generate enough liquid to totally cover the ‘maters. I find that I’m able to get three romas into a pint jar and six into a quart. On occasion, I’ll cut a tomato in to thirds or halves in order to finish off a jar and still have the proper amount of headspace.

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Take your tomatoes and core them. This isn’t an absolutely necessary step, but I hate dealing with the cores when it comes time to use the tomatoes on the other end.

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A cored tomato. Seriously easy.

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Make two shallow cuts on the bottom of the tomato, to ease the peeling.

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Drop cored and scored tomatoes into a pot of boiling water (don’t put too many in at once, or you’ll drop the water temperature drastically and it will take forever to return to a boil). Blanch tomatoes for 1-2 minutes, until the skins start to blister or loosen.

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Put your blanched tomatoes into a boil of cold water, to halt cooking and to make them handle-able.

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Peel tomatoes. The skins should slip off easily after the blanching and the cold water dip.

filling jars

I put the tomatoes into the jars as I peel. Two standard sized romas typical fit at the bottom of the jar.

smashing tomatoes

You may need to give them a little help. I use my hand when filling wide mouth jars, but when dealing with regular mouth openings, I employ the handle of a wooden spoon.

full jar

Look! A jar that’s filled with tomatoes! All the liquid you see here came from the tomatoes, as I gently smashed them to fit the jar.

2 tablespoon measure

Don’t forget to acidify. It’s one tablespoon of lemon juice for pints and two for quarts. I pour it on top of my filled jars, and then use a chopstick to remove the air bubbles from the jar and work the lemon juice down into its contents. You should have approximately 1/2 inch of headspace remaining after you add the lemon juice and de-bubble the jar.

After that, I wipe the rims, apply my lids (carefully simmered for 10 minutes at around 180 degrees), screw on the rings and lower the jars into the heated boiling water canner (remembering to use a rack so that the jars aren’t resting on the bottom of the pot).

Quarts of whole peeled tomatoes get processed in a boiling water canner for 45 85 minutes. Pints get processed for 40 minutes the same amount of time. Tomatoes that are packed in water are processed for 40/45 minutes.

Because my life is busy, I rarely do my tomatoes in one great, big canning day. Instead, I stretch the process out over several post-work weeknights. I’ll do four quarts at a time, because that’s how much my stock pot can hold during processing, and it keeps me from feeling overwhelmed. I find that a 25 pound box of tomatoes will make approximately 12-14 quarts of tomatoes, and so I do four jars a night for three nights in a row. It keeps me sane and keeps my pantry filled with wonderful, local tomatoes all winter long.

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137 Responses to Canning Whole Peeled Tomatoes

  1. 51

    [...] peeled crushed tomatoes (Food in Jars) – 2 quarts, 12 [...]

  2. 52
    Christine says:

    Just wanted to tell you how much I have enjoyed the tomatoes that I put up this past summer! I’m already looking forward to next summer and planting our garden, that we tripled in size in the fall, planting many more tomato plants and putting up many more jars because this summer I wont be hugely pregnant so I will have more energy to do it! My family and I both thank you!

  3. 53
    Anissa says:

    Hi Marisa! I’m a new canner, and I’m about to try this. My question is, what do you use canned whole tomatoes for? Sorry if that’s a stupid question – I’m really trying to get to a place where I rely less on commercially preserved foods for my cooking, but I don’t use canned whole tomatoes too much.

    Thanks!

    • 53.1
      Marisa says:

      I use them is soups, stews and pasta sauces. They are my go-to canned tomato. However, if they’re not something you use in your cooking, you might want to look into canning a different kind of tomato. Maybe tomato puree is more your speed?

  4. 54
    hugin says:

    Thanks so much for posting this! I was looking to start canning tomatoes (I’m a new canner), and it’s very helpful to have a per-jar amount to go for, and a method that is straightforward and doesn’t require dedicating a whole day (or carrying home cases of tomatoes at once). I’m seeing myself more as canning some here, some there, and so it’s nice to hear you do them stretched out. :)

    • 54.1
      Christine says:

      Seconded! I’ve been wanting to try tomatoes for a long time, but found them unaccountably intimidating. This seems wonderfully straightforward, and I think I know what I am doing this weekend!

  5. 55
    Stephanie says:

    Your 100lb tomato story inspired me to try my own. Made a few small batches last night and I have to say the jars look BEAUTIFUL! I can’t wait to try them out…I don’t think I will be going back to the can stuff anytime soon! Thank you for your inspiration and for making canning scare-proof (lol!)

    Now to find a local farmer to sell me some amazing cases….

  6. 56
    deah scarlett says:

    if I canned tomatoes and added lemon juice do I have to add lemon juice when I use my canned tomatoes to make tomato juice?

  7. 57
    Charity Allen says:

    Hi there,

    I used this recipe tonight to can about 5 pints of whole, peeled tomatoes. After a 45 min hot water bath, I pulled the jars out and noticed some settling. The jars now have about 1/2-1 inch of yellowish liquid at the bottom. Is this normal? I wonder if it’s just some of the juices of the tomatoes that have settled. What do you think?

    LOVE your website!!

    -Charity

  8. 58

    [...] Canning Whole Peeled Tomatoes – A basic tutorial that will walk you through the steps of canning whole tomatoes packed in their own juices. This is my preferred method for canning tomatoes for use throughout the year. [...]

  9. 59
    Kelli Biehle says:

    Thanks for all the info. I use your website as a jump off and resource regularly. For canning the whole peeled tomatoes do the jars need to be “prepared” ( as in hot…)?

  10. 60
    new canner says:

    You mentioned heating the lids before using. Is this necessary to sterilize, or get a good seal?

  11. 61
    Janet says:

    Though I can tomato sauce, I’ve always stored my whole tomatoes in the freezer.

    After reading your post, this might be the year to can the whole tomatoes as well!

  12. 62

    [...] of grape tomatoes and larger-than-life-I-forgot-what-I-planted tomatoes I used her posts on canning whole peeled tomatoes and how to slow roast grape tomatoes. Since I had a few more questions on what to do it and when, [...]

  13. 63
    rita says:

    I was under the impression that tomatoes had to be canned with a pressure canner. This makes me very happy!!!

  14. 64
    jessica paulsen says:

    Have you ever canned whole tomatoes with basil and garlic in the jar? I added a tablespoon of vinegar in each pint as well.

  15. 65
    Melanie says:

    Is the process time on quarts 85 minutes or 45 minutes? I am a bit thrown off by the time crossed out. Thanks!

    • 65.1
      Marisa says:

      If you pack the tomatoes in their own juices, as demonstrated here, the processing time 85 minutes. If you pack them in water, the processing time is 45 minutes.

  16. 66
    Jamie says:

    Hi there,
    I was wondering why it is a drastically longer processing time for tomatoes when they are in their own juices…. I do more fermentation preservation and therefor I am less knowledgeable when it comes to canning, but I also do not want to add unnecessary heat time if it is not needed. It does seem like such a long time… 85 min. for pints too… wow.

    BTW I love your courage in attempting to use the glass top bailing lid jars… I have been wondering about this. I do believe that since the major processors came in, we have been led to believe that we must leave food prep and processing to the so called experts in order for it to be “safe” and wholesome. I have found the pedantic brainwashing a trend in many areas. It is quite awakening when one realizes this. I was raised on processed manufactured food, but today I enjoy local, biodynamic food, raw milk, grass fed meats, fermented veggies, homemade yogurt and rarely make a trip to the grocery store. Now I am looking forward to canned tomatoes and peaches in my root cellar this year! Thank you for helping in this effort to reconnect with our nearly lost traditions. :)

    • 66.1
      Marisa says:

      Jamie, it has to do with the density of the contents of the jar. The more dense it is, the longer it takes for the heat to penetrate to the very center of the jar. Processing times are set by the USDA, so it’s not just me randomly selecting times for products. :)

  17. 67

    [...] pounds of tomatoes from my garden (making salsa, tomato sauce, and tomato basil soup as well as canning whole tomatoes). I’ve also spent time preparing my classroom and lessons for the new school year. So sad to say [...]

  18. 68
    arpi says:

    Is it ok if I squish the tomato into the jar so there is no space in between? My tomatoes aren’t very juicy and I don’t want to add water.

    thanks!

  19. 69
    Camile says:

    Do I need to peel the tomatoes before processing them? I usually blend all my tomatoes before using them because my kids don’t like them and will try and pick them out. I tried blending them before processing them and I had problems like those you described as caused by not bubbling your jars adequately.

    • 69.1
      Marisa says:

      I find that I like the quality and flavor of the finished product better if I’ve peeled my tomatoes, but you don’t HAVE to do it. I’ve been told that tomatoes can become bitter if the peels are left in the product, but I’ve never noticed it myself. Leaving the peels on the tomatoes will not impact the safety of the finished product.

  20. 70

    [...] I like the canning tips at pickyourown.org and the photos and instructions for tomato canning at Food in Jars. Beginners should also check out the videos and instructions here.2–1/2 to 3–1/2 lb (1 to 1.5 [...]

  21. 71
    Emil says:

    Marisa, would it also be wise to add some oil to canned tomatoes? Helps seal out air in case bacteria needs the O2, as Ive been told. But then again there are anerobes that grow well without O2 as well… But I’ve found that the oil bubbles up and out leaving an oily mess in the canning water. Also another poster asked if it was ok to can basil w/ their tomatoes as well- will the basil darken and discolor? Thx.

    • 71.1
      Marisa says:

      Emil, it is actually unwise to add oil to tomatoes. It can compromise the seal if it sneaks out during processing. You can add a basil leaf to your jars, though I don’t find that it contributes much in terms of flavor.

  22. 72
    Lauren says:

    Do these need to be kept refridgerated? Or can I keep them in a cool, dark place? Also how long would they last? Thank you!

    • 72.1
      Marisa says:

      They do not need to be refrigerated. The canning process makes them shelf stable. A cool dark place for a 12-18 months is best.

  23. 73

    [...] pounds! Yep, I’ve been busy in the kitchen cooking and canning tomatoes for the past few weeks: whole tomatoes, roasted pepper & garlic tomato sauce, garden fresh sauce, roasted tomato & basil soup, [...]

  24. 74
    Anita says:

    How long do I need to process in a water bath for 2-quart jars?

  25. 75

    [...] Lots of good stuff. Not to mention an overload of tomatoes–which I’ve turned into whole canned tomatoes and this awesome tomato sauce I wrote about last year. As for the cherry tomatoes, oven-dried all [...]

  26. 76
    Andrea says:

    I just realized I didn’t process my tomatoes for enough time last night – 45 minutes, rather than 90 minutes. After I finish swearing at myself, what should I do to re-process? Can I just open, replace the lids and re-process for the correct amount of time? Thanks,
    Andrea

  27. 77

    Thanks for this post, just in time for taking advantage of all the great looking tomatoes at the end of season farmer’s markets. I’ve never canned whole tomatoes before, so I’ll use your process and let you know how it goes.

  28. 78

    [...] Her ‘Basic Mexican Rice’ doesn’t tickle my fancy as written, but with some canned home-grown whole tomatoes, peppers from the garden, and the last of the pickled cherry tomatoes from 2011, it turned out far [...]

  29. 79

    [...] started off following this recipe from Food in Jars, however the times in her post aren’t.. the clearest (85 minutes? 45 minutes? that’s a [...]

  30. 80
    Niki says:

    If this has already been asked I appologize. I have a TON of yellow tomatoes, Is the process the same for canning them? I thought I read somewhere here that they have less acidity than red ones. Thanks!

  31. 81

    [...] followed the directions of a website that I found, with easy enough steps to follow. I had a bunch of fresh basil from my [...]

  32. 82
    Amy says:

    I just did my first batch of tomatoes and ran into a few issues. I realized after packing the jars (1 qt jars ) that they just barely fit in the stockpot with very little space left at the top for the water. They were covered with water the entire time, but not the 2 inches I’ve seen recommended. I went ahead and processed them anyways, for 85 min. But I was wondering how important the amount of water covering the jars is? I also noticed afterwards that there are a lot of bubbles in the jars. I saw on your applesauce post that bubbles are ok, as long as they don’t rise when I open the jars. Does this apply to tomatoes too? Thanks!

  33. 83
    miss_chelsey@hotmail.com says:

    Hi everyone

    Just tried this and two of my jars broke 45 min or so into processing. I was reading that it may have been due to the uncooked/headed contents being placed in boiling water? Should the water in the canner just have been hot? Then slowly brought to a boil? I’m heartbroken and would love any suggestions. I took the other two cans out early and will just freeze them this week. I was too worried they would break too.

    Thanks

    • 83.1
      ChristinaBakes says:

      Were your jars free of flaws, cracks, chips, etc?

      I am new to canning. When I put the jars in the canner, the water is hot and gently simmering. I bring it back to a boil after all the jars are in place and begin timing at that point.

  34. 84
    ChristinaBakes says:

    I was very tired last night, and kind of dazed. I just realized this morning that I processed my whole, peeled tomatoes for 75 minutes, not 85 minutes. The lids are sealed. Will the 10 min make or break my tomatoes? Should I reprocess them tonight? Thanks!

  35. 85

    [...] leaves from the garden. I’m thinking it will be great as pizza sauce!? I referenced this whole peeled tomato method from Food in Jars but didn’t peel or seed my tomatoes and did a hot pack (boiled first [...]

  36. 86
    Jeff says:

    I proceesed my entire tomato harvest in pint jars in there own juice with the exception of three quart jars. I did most of the tomatoes in julhy and august with the exceptions of some that I did today. I did 35 pint jars and 3 quart jars for my harvest. However I have messed up big time. I proessed the tomatoes in there own juice at the times if they were in water so instead of 85 minutes I did them for 45 minutes except for this recent batch after i looked at the reipe. Did i just waste an entire harvest is there anything I can do? Can i reboil the jars. Need help big time someone please help I’m am besides myself that I may have wasted all this food. thanks

    • 86.1
      Marisa says:

      Jeff, did you add the required acid to the jars? If so, then I would leave them as-is and watch them carefully. As long as the proper amount of acid went into the jars, the worst thing that can happen is that a jar or two could experience some bacteria growth and spoil. If you pay close attention, you won’t accidentally eat those spoiled jars. However, if you didn’t acidify the jars (one tablespoon of lemon juice per pint jar), then they could be quite dangerous.

      • Jeff says:

        Marisa,
        Thanks for the info. So you recommend basically not doing anything. I will probably give ball canning a call on monday and see what they say to. I actually did somthing correctly by adding lemon juice and salt to the jars as the ball blue book says to. One tablespoon lemon juice for pint jars and two tablespoons for quart jars. Anything I should look for when I open the jars smell etc.? This was my first season canning and I am so mad that I mixed the recipe up for tomatoes in water and tomatoes in own juice very disappointed. I know I should boil the tomatoes from the jar for ten minutes when I open it according to the ball blue book. I will probably eat these tomatoes myself as I was going to give some to relatives but now I’m not sure. Thanks for your hekp much appreciated.

        • Marisa says:

          Jeff, that’s essentially what I’m recommending. If you call Ball, I’m fairly certain that they will tell you to throw them out. Since you properly acidified them, the worst that will happen is that in six months, one of the jars could start to mold or ferment. There’s nothing to look for in them now.

  37. 87
    Jessica Risser-Milne says:

    I tried to can whole tomatoes this year because I find them to be much easier to cook with / give the most flexibility. I didn’t see your tutorial and was using a different method. I froze the tomatoes and then thawed them just enough to get the skins off. However, when I pulled the jars out of the pressure canner, I had half water, and half tomatoe pulp in each jar. FRUSTRATING! Do you think my method was flawed, or is this just something that happens occasionally? We did the pressure canner method rather than water bath. I know it isn’t your method, but it was so easy to peel the tomatoes! Suggestions?

  38. 88
    Ginny Kinne says:

    Marisa, I bought 35lbs. of Tomato ‘seconds’ at the very last farmers market sale today while it was 30F with a 15F windchill. I can’t wait to put them up tomorrow. As a wee-little one I remember my mom, grandma, and aunt canning BUSHELS of tomatoes for an entire weekend and finish with over 100 qts. between the 3 of them. Mom would put them in soups, stews, chili and dad would even eat them as a “vegetable” with dinner! Thank you for sharing your love of canning with us.

  39. 89
    Mike says:

    I found this discussion when looking for shelf life.
    Glad to know I can use for many years. My wife and I are fraily new to canning and freezing also dehydrating. We process in a presser caner and follow instructions for presser and time. We are using canned tomatoes three years later and are still very good after in the pantry.
    One thing has me curious, I do not use acid to can. I use salt, smashing the tomatoes in the jar using my wife’s smaller hands.

    • 89.1
      Marisa says:

      You really do need to add some acid to your tomatoes when next you can them. Modern tomatoes have been bred to be lower in acid that older strains and so may not have enough acid to ensure safe preservation.

  40. 90
  41. 91
    Tara Sawyer says:

    I made the canned tomato’s last night following your recipe. It was my first time using a water bath I thought I was supposed to cover the jars with water 1/4 of the way up the jar (that’s what I thought the canner direction said). Anyway I was using 500ml jars and so left them in the bath for 45min. I didn’t see any bubbles in the jars before I sealed them and had used a spatula to move things around to get any out. This morning I was getting ready to put the jars away I see bubbles in the jars did I do something wrong are they going to spoil. The seals are all nice and tight.

  42. 92

    […] tomato sauce to freeze, but perhaps you are thinking about canning whole peeled tomatoes. I love this simple how-to in photos and words from the Food in Jars’ website author, Marisa McClellan. Note that she has updated her processing […]

  43. 93
    Joanna says:

    I have referred to this web page often in the past couple of years. We used to have home grown tomatoes come in faster than I could use them, but not fast enough that a “Canning Day” was merited. Being new to canning, I just assumed it needed to be an all day event! Thanks for challenging that notion and showing me how to responsibly manage my back yard harvest. I love knowing my tomatoes came from my own back yard.

  44. 94
    Natalie says:

    I have been scared to try canning tomatoes in the past, but this year I have decided to give it a try (since my tomato plants have produced so much more fruit that I can keep up with!).
    I just did a small batch of whole tomatoes, but now I am slightly concerned. I used lemon juice from concentrate, and I just read elsewhere that it is a no-no.
    Is this going to compromise my tomatoes?

    Thanks!

  45. 95
    Jenny says:

    My husband and I were gifted a large box of large tomatoes- like, as-big-as-your-face tomatoes. We can’t get one into a quart jar, let alone six, so can we chop the huge maters into large, Roma-sized hunks and successfully can them? Or does cutting them compromise the texture, shape, etc.?

  46. 96
    Catherine says:

    Hi! I’m a big fan and followed this recipe last year and my tomatoes were delicous all winter. On Sunday I preserved about 8 jars worth of tomatoes and this morning I noticed some of the tomatoes are growing mold? Do you know why that would be? I use a foodsaver sealer and it sealed perfectly but my lemon juice might not have been that fresh, do you think that could be the reason?

    I appreciate your help! Thanks!

    • 96.1
      Marisa says:

      Did you process your jars in a boiling water bath? Or did you just put the tomatoes in jars and seal with the foodsaver?

  47. 97
    Kelvin says:

    Dear Marisa,

    I just started canning tomatoes for the first time today — made ten 1L jars using the hot water bath method, boiling for 85 minutes. I made an error in judgement about the size of my jars (thinking my 1L jars were 500ml), and so only used one tablespoon of lemon juice per jar. The rest of the liquid is tomato juice/water strained from the seeds.

    Will the lower acidity be a problem? I’m boiling my almsot last batch right now, so I can only correct the one last jar that hasn’t gone into the pot yet. Should I break my seals, add another tablespoon, and process again?

    Thank you for any advice you can give me!

  48. 98

    […] canned about 55lbs of tomatoes.  I used to do it this way, but now I’m totally doing it this […]

  49. 99

    […] also gave some of the preserved whole tomatoes a go. I found them much easier as you don’t need to worry about squashing the peeled tomatoes […]

  50. 100
    Eleanor says:

    As I haven’t been able to find tomatoes jarred I, too, am going back to doing my own. The difference is that I will freeze mine. Wash, core and put in bags or containers in the freezer. May be air thawed or in a glass bowl in the microwave. The skin comes off as they thaw. So fast and easy!

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