Canning 101: Tomato Float, Sauce Separation and Loss of Liquid

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Tomato canning season is here and so I’ve been getting a lot of questions from people who are canning their own tomatoes for the first time. They worry because their tomatoes are floating, their crushed tomatoes have separated or their jars have lost significant liquid in the canning process and now they’re not sure if their tomatoes are safe. Let’s take these three topics one by one and put your hearts at ease, shall we?

Tomato Float
Take a look at the jars on the left in the picture above. Those are the whole, peeled tomatoes that I canned last year. As you can see, the tomatoes are floating over a good inch of liquid and tomato sediment at the bottom of the jar. This one is absolutely no big deal.

Even the most seasoned canner is going to have some canned whole tomatoes that float. This is because there are air pockets inside those tomatoes and when you pack something with some internal trapped air in a liquid, it will float.

You can try to avoid float by using regular mouth jars (the shoulders of the jar help keep the fruit in place) and packing the jar as firmly as possible (without totally crushing the tomatoes). But really and truly, it’s no big deal.

Tomato Separation
Often, I will hear from people who are concerned because their crushed tomatoes have separated into a layer of liquid topped by a layer of solids. What happened here is that you heated your tomatoes for more than five minutes, let them cool and then heated them up again.

By doing this, you’ve broken down the pectin inside the tomatoes. In this situation, the pectin was there holding the structure of the cells together and once it goes, there’s nothing to maintain the integrity of the tomato flesh together and so pulp separates from the water.

I never worry about this one either. Just give the jar a good shake before using.

Liquid Loss
Back to the picture up at the top. Take a look at the quart jars on the right. You might notice that several of those jars lost a TON of liquid. I canned that particular batch in my pressure canner and during the cooling process, they siphoned like mad (that’s the official canning term for when liquid escapes).

Siphoning can be prevented by better bubbling of jars and a slower cooling process. However, even when you’re careful, it still happens sometimes. However, as long as your seals are good, jars with even significant liquid loss are still safe to eat.

You may experience some reduction of quality over time and when it happens to lighter colored foods (like peaches), the product that’s not submerged will begin to discolor. Put those jars at the front of the queue of jars to use and don’t worry about it.

Air Bubbles
Sometimes, you’ll preserve tomatoes and once the jars are sealed, you’ll notice that there are a few air pockets or bubbles in the finished product. As long as the lids remain sealed and those bubbles aren’t actively moving around on their own, the jars are fine. Once a jar is sealed, air pockets are only a problem if they seem to bubbling independently of you moving or tapping the jars, as that can be a sign of fermentation. Otherwise, all is well.

What other tomato questions do you guys have? Let’s hear it!

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393 responses to “Canning 101: Tomato Float, Sauce Separation and Loss of Liquid”

  1. perfect timing! i canned my tomatoes this weekend using your guidelines, and was concerned when they separated. fortunately someone in the comments section put my mind to rest, but it is also nice to have it addressed here, thanks!

    • I grow a variety of tomatoes and over the years I have learned how to handle the different varieties. I can the big juicy ones (heirlooms and hybrids) and freeze the Roma for making sauce during the cold winter. I take care of the tomatoes in the quickest manner when they are coming in fast and save the more elaborate recipes for cooking on cold winter days. I have just so much shelf space for canned veggies and freezer space for frozen items plus I like to have something comforting cooking away on a bitter day.

      Also over the years I have learned not to fuss over how my canned goods look. I still follow the book that came with my Mirro pressure canner that I bought about 35 years ago. I’ve had it in to the extension service a few times for testing and it is still fine. I used to can for my family but now I can a smaller amount just for myself. Occasionally I use a water bath canner if I have a very small amount. I use a tall stock pot with the PC rack in the bottom. When local produce is abundant it is to your benefit to preserve it for your family and for yourself.

  2. Yay! I haven’t canned tomatoes, yet, but it calms my fears about the yellow beans I canned a few weeks ago that were floating and were affected by what I now know is “siphoning”. Thanks for the information!

  3. Well, you already answered several of my questions, so thanks! It never occurred to me to pack the tomatoes in tightly to prevent ‘float.’
    When you say siphon, does that mean the liquid actually comes out of the jars? I had a few quart jars (of tomatoes) last week that started leaking liquid right when I pulled them out of the water, but they sealed just fine.

    Do you know why canned tomatoes that you buy at the store never have separation issues, even when the only ingredients listed are tomatoes and salt?

    • Yes, siphoning means that liquid escapes from the jar during processing or cooling. That is exactly what you experienced with your tomatoes. As far as the store bought tomatoes go, commercial processors have it down to an exact science. If there’s an error, we never see those tomatoes.

    • I think the answer to your question about the store bought canned tomatoes is that they have equipment that does it all in the blink of an eye.

  4. From what I learned there should not be a large headspace like in this photo, as this allows bacteria to form. Isn’t it a 1/2 inch headspace for a quart jar?

    • When those jars went into the canner, their liquid levels were at the recommended 1/2 inch headspace. They lost liquid during processing.

  5. Super helpful, thanks! One quick question about the peaches you mentioned above. If and when the whole canned peaches do discolor (due to liquid loss/ or floating), are they still safe to eat? And for how long? Great blog!!

  6. The thing about siphoning that worries me is that post-siphon, all the goop from in your jars is now in your canning bath and the next batch you pop in there on a mad canning spree. Does the bath water ever go back INTO the jars?

  7. This is so very timely! We canned our first batch of tomatoes for the year and had both tomato float and a bit of siphoning, despite being very careful to bubble our jars. Never thought that regular mouths could prevent the floating, that makes sense!

  8. Very timely and extremely helpful! Thank you so much for taking the time to share your wisdom and experience. I just started the canning process this year and have found your blog to be a huge confidence booster. I too had siphoning and float and feel much better now knowing that all is right with world since my seals are good! I’m ready for the next batch! Thanks again!

  9. Here is my question, I canned some tomatotes a few weeks ago. I went to get a jar of them the other day for ratatolie, and they smelled “off”. But the taste was ok. Is that something to be concerned with?

  10. zThe other night I had a jar (tomato sauce) break during canning. So a pint worht of sauce was in the canning water -will that hurt the other 3 jars that were in there canning?

    • Get the broken glass out of the pot as soon as it is practical. You run an increased risk of more broken jars if you leave it in there to bang around and it may also break into smaller shards. That turns clean-up into even more of a chore. However, when you’re doing a standard boiling water bath and it’s nearly done, you can let it go to completion and deal with the clean-up once the other jars are finished.

  11. I have a question regarding canning tomatoes although pertaining to homemade ketchup, so perhaps slightly off topic. This is from a friend of mine and I didn’t know how to answer her, because I have never attempted ketchup and haven’t experienced this first hand…
    “Why does my ketchup and red pepper relish darken slightly over time when it is in jars? It is still sealed and tastes fine but it looks unappealing. Am I not filling the jars far enough or should I be processing them finished jars in a hot water bath instead of filling hot jars with hot preserves and sealing them that way?”

    • That is a natural darkening that happens to some canned food products. It happened to my peach and apricot butters this year. Skipping the processing step has nothing to do with the darkening, though the USDA would prefer that she process her jars.

  12. A friend and I are going to tackle our first tomatoes next weekend, so this post will absolutely ease my mind when some of the above inevitably happen! Thanks!

  13. Thank you so much for posting this. We had similar questions re: siphoning come up when we made some salsa and pickles (the 13 qts. of tomato sauce was fortunately okay!). Tattler says siphoning can happen when lids are too screwed down too tight during the canning process. Too much internal pressure, maybe?

    Glad to know those pickles and salsa are safe to eat. I couldn’t bear to throw those jars out, but I wasn’t sure what to do with them, either. I did a Google search and asked around, but not having a name or reason for the phenomenon made finding any searching difficult.

    • When the lids are screwed down too tightly, the air has to work harder to escape and so will often take some of the liquid with it as it forces its way out of the jars. The presence of air bubbles can also lead to siphoning.

  14. Question: for years, I’ve been substituting red wine vinegar for lemon juice to increase the flavor as well as the acidity. Taught that way and we’ve never been sick from canned tomatoes or sauce. From things I’ve read lately, though, I’ve come to question that process’s safety. Anyone know if there is a significant difference in acidity levels? Thanks!

  15. Whenever I can tomatoes I end up with a scaliness on the jars after I pull them out and the jars have cooled, is this from the siphoning?

    • Do you experience that scaliness with other canning projects, or just with tomatoes? I find that the minerals in water can sometimes leave residue on the outside of the jars. Splash a little bit of white vinegar into your canning pot before processing in order to help prevent that. And then just wash your filled jars once they’ve cooled.

      • Mostly just with the tomatoes, strange. I have been using the white vinegar to clean out my canning post & the jars but I’ll try adding it first so I don’t have to clean it off. Thanks!

  16. Great information and very reassuring. I noticed that you are using some tatler lids. I am still having trouble finessing their use for succesful seals (and getting frustrated in the process!). Any hints on using them successfully?

  17. Thanks for this post, and for answering the questions I sent to you! I feel much more confident about the 25 cans of tomatoes we put up this weekend.

  18. This was very helpful! I might have done a silly thing… I did not cook or blanch the tomato’s before I canned them just cut them up and put them in the hot jars with the lemon juice then processed them. I was going for crushed tomatoes like you get at the store so I squished them in the jar so their own juice filled in the jar. Was that ok??

      • Well I though I had.. the book I was using did not say how to prep the tomato’s for canning assuming you read the whole book that talked about that part in the first chapter and it was not until after I was done that I realized that there was special prep… I was my first time doing anything other then jam and jelly so I did not know I was doing something wrong.

        • I’m in the middle of a batch done just like that, based on a recipe I used last year. They were fine, so I wouldn’t stress over it. I just cut them up, added salt and acidity (vinegar/lemon juice), smushed everything in, and processed in a hot water bath.

  19. Made two batches of jelly, first muscadine and then apple. I followed everything in the instructions and they gelled fine before canning. The jars all sealed and now there is nothing but liquid in them. What is going on with this, it really has me upset.

    Also, a lot of people I know – including me – are scared of pressure canning. I took a canning class but they did not cover that because even the instructor was scared of pressure cookers. I want to can vegetables and most of them require pressure canning.

    • Jellies can take up to a week to fully set. I recommend putting a jar into the refrigerator and see if it sets up in there. The cold will advance the setting process and give you a peek at what’s to come. I am curious how you knew the jellies were setting when they were still hot and you were filling your jars.

      • I did the sheeting test and temperature like we did in the class. I actually had the “jelly” form on my spoon for the muscadine jelly.

        If neither set up, I have read I can use the “liquid” as a glaze or syrup. Is that correct? I hate to waste what I have.

    • I really wish folks wouldn’t be so afraid of pressure cookers and canners. They really aren’t the dangerous contraptions people fear them to be as long as you read the directions and understand what’s going on. In fact, they can’t really “explode.” Usually, what has happened is the safety mechanism has kicked-in (a rubber plug blows) because the user wasn’t following the directions.

      I recently wrote an entire post in my own blog on the subject if you’d like to stop-by and read it. It pertains to cooking in a pressure cooker, but the same safety concerns apply with pressure canners. In fact, most pressure canners are even safer because they come with pressure gauges so you can see what’s going on inside the pot.

      I *love* my pressure canner. I use it to can homemade soups, homemade marinara (for Ragu-like convenience), and even all my tomatoes because the processing time is shorter.

      • I have been reading about canning, i love canning, find the food very tasteful in the winter, but i beg to differ with a pressure canner not blowing up, mine did not the rubber plug either, the whole lid flew off of it straight up in the air, i will never use a pressure canner again.

  20. Thank you so much for this! I did my first jars of whole plum tomatoes from my garden (just two pints thus far but my plants are loaded!) and had some serious loss of liquid in one of the jars. My seal was good but I was still concerned…but no longer! I’m always grateful for the useful information that I get here. Thanks so much for sharing our knowledge with all of us!

  21. My couzin told me that she does a thing called cold pack which her neighbor told her about. I’ve never heard of it. She cleanes her jars, sets them on a clean towel until ready to use, the she boils down her tomatoes and puts them into the clean jars and sets the lids and rings on ad tightenes them finger tight. She doesn’t process them in any other way. Just lets them sit and then when they ping and they are cooled, she puts them away. My question is……is this safe? I haven’t canned in years but I was always taught that you had to process anything you canned, either in a regulaar hot bat canner or a pressure canner. Would love to know the answer to this. Thank you in advance, Sharon

    • Yikes. It is not safe at all. Tomatoes should always be acidified and processed. If nothing else, she should be sterilizing her jars.

    • That is Open Kettle canning and it is not safe at all. I have a few old “family heirloom” recipes for pickles like that, and I do not use those for long term pantry storage.

  22. Thank you for the informative post. I had separation when I canned my tomatoes last week but now I know it’s okay. I do have some questions after reading your post and the comments. First, in the Liquid Loss section, you write “Siphoning can be prevented by better bubbling of jars”–what do you mean by “bubbling of jars”? Second, someone commented that extra head space in jam jars will allow bacteria to form. Do all jars always need to be filled to the top with the exception of the 1/2 inch or otherwise specified headspace? Thank you for such a helpful blog.

    • “Bubbling of jars” is the process of removing any air bubbles from your jars before applying the lids and rings. If you allow trapped air bubbles to remain in the jars during processing, they will try and escape during cooling and will potentially take a lot of liquid with them.

      Please disregard the commenter who mentioned the growth of bacteria. Headspace has nothing to do with growth of bacteria. If you process your jars correctly, all bacteria should have been killed, so the headspace doesn’t play a role there. Typically, jars are filled to either 1/4 or 1/2 inch, unless otherwise specified. Never fill jars all the way to the top, you need to have some air in the jars in order to create the vacuum seal.

  23. This is so well-timed!
    Last year I had some float and a little siphoning with my tomato halves. I’d briefly heard about both and figured they were all safe since they sealed and never developed any off flavors or colors.

    I do have a question though. Are there any tips or tricks for quickly peeling large amounts of tomatoes?
    I blanch, peel, and stuff into quart jars. I assume the tomatoes were hot, then cooled while I handled them, then were reheated during processing.
    How do I avoid that?

  24. Is there a particular reason that in your picture none of the jars have the ring left on them. When I used to can peppers and tomatoes I left the rings on them even after cooling and they had popped. Just curiosity on my part.

  25. two questions: must you peel tomatos for canning, & must you add lemon juice – my mom always canned & never added anything.

    • Conventional practice is to peel. However, I do know of people who skip that step with no negative results. You do need to add lemon juice. Tomatoes have been bred to be less acidic over time, so those that were once just fine for canning, now do not have enough acid to prevent the growth of botulism. Always acidify.

  26. Thank you for the advice on acidifying tomatoes using commercially bottled lemon juice. I recently used freshly squeezed thinking it would be better, then I read your recommendation and explanation– I ran out, bought bottled lemon juice, then reprocessed the whole lot. Thank you Marisa.

  27. I’m SO GLAD you posted this particular post today because I canned a whole bunch of crushed tomatoes the other day–in the pressure canner–with tattler lids as you have, and ended-up with over 2 inches of headspace after siphoning (again, just like your photo). I knew they’d still be safe to eat as long as they were sealed, but I was afraid the exposed tomatoes at the top would end-up getting mushy and/or brown.

    Against my better judgment, I opened them all, added hot liquid, cleaned the rims and lids, re-warmed the jars, and re-processed. About half the jars worked correctly this time but 2 or 3 siphoned heavily AGAIN and one didn’t re-seal (and it’s now sitting in the fridge…guess it’s getting used for Friday’s pizza night).

    I’m starting to think it’s the tattler lids with their “loosen the band 1/4 turn” rule. I’m curious what your thoughts are. I’ve been using them for soups for awhile now and have had off and on problems with siphoning–particularly with densely packed soups like bean or lentil soup.

    I’m almost tempted to tighten them “finger tight” the next time I use them and hope for a good seal as an experiment.


    • This is from Patrice Lewis’ Rural Revolution Blog when she first used her Tattler lids. She was making refried beans. Please note that the maker of Tattler lids says 1/4 INCH not 1/4 TURN. Big difference. Also the suggestion to try finger tight.
      “Within half an hour, I had a reply from Brad Stieg at Tattler. “Try applying the metal bands finger tight and DON’T reverse them before processing,” he wrote. (If you remember, when using Tattler lids the rings need to be loosened a quarter-inch before processing.) “The metal bands need to be finger tight/snug, but not so tight as to prevent pressure release, hence the direction to reverse the band 1/4″. What we are finding is that we do not need to reverse the metal band, so long as we are not getting them too tight to begin with.”

      A later conversation clarified this issue. Apparently a lot of canners tighten the rings on their lids before processing. And I mean TIGHTEN. Since Tattler lids need to vent a bit during canning, the instructions are to loosen the rings a quarter-inch before processing. But if the rings are merely finger-tightened – not TIGHTENED, if you know what I mean – then the quarter-inch reversal isn’t necessary.”
      Hope this helps.

  28. Thank you so much for this post. I am teaching myself to can ,Have a a few problems, and no one to talk to about them . Where are all the recipes for everything on the table? It is hard to know which recipes are tried and true. I am in Florida and my area doesn’t have a place to go to when in doubt. So I go to the internet. I only wish that there was a site that covers all canning need as you did in this post. And when you have a question there’s a button to post a question. I’ve done carrots and they turned out to mushy. I’am in Florida and sometimes I think the processing time or the pressure cooking is too much because the stuff seems to be over cooked. My manual said go by recipe. Its confusing . Thank you so much for your time and effort in this site.

  29. Opinions on peeling/seeding? I see that nearly all recipes call for tomatoes to be seeded and/or peeled, but I’m wondering if there is any downside to leaving it all in and then pureeing with an immersion blender, or something like that?

  30. This actually answers some of the questions I’ve had this week as I’ve been canning whole tomatoes. I have canned them several times before, but sometimes things turn out a little differently as you mentioned. Thanks for the info, very helpful!

  31. I’ve heard of people preparing crushed tomatoes for water-bath canning using a food mill in a way that requires no peeling or seeding… I’m very interested in this! Any advice? Do I cook the tomatoes first? I’ve only canned whole tomatoes before… any processing differences when they’re crushed? Thanks!

  32. Last Sunday I put up a bunch of tomatoes, however, some did not seal. They have been in my fridge ever since.
    Is it possible to reprocess them?
    I won’t be able to get to then until this weekend (I am sick). Do you think they’ll turn out OK? I was planning to have them come to room temp before I put them in newly cleaned/sanitized jars, then proceeding as usual.

  33. Perfect timing for me, too. I just started canning this year and have had no issues with multiple batches of jam, but I tried salsa (4 pints), and only one sealed. All of them siphoned and separated. I think I’m just going to freeze the other three and use it in cooking later rather than just with chips.

    I honestly don’t know what went so terribly wrong– I bubbled and wiped the rims well. I know that one jar fell over during processing, so perhaps that was part of it, but I’m still miffed at the other two. Could my rings have been too loose? They were fingertip tight, just like my jam.

  34. My Ball canning book said to put 1/2 tsp of citric acid into each quart. I found citric acid in a brewing store. Is this the same as the stuff I should use during canning?

  35. i put up 6 quarts of tomatoes today and since they were heirloom types i didn’t peel or core them…husband was having fits! now i have proof that they aren’t ruined…:) it seems such a bother to peel them and i just didn’t want to

  36. Thanks! I’ve never canned tomatoes before, but I can tell you that all of those things would bother me if I hadn’t read this article. Sometimes it’s nice to know when not to freak out.

  37. Thank you! I canned tomatoes for the first time two weeks ago and all four jars are floaters. I’m glad it’s normal and not a big deal.

    Also, it took a lot more tomatoes than I expected it would. I have to go back and buy another case or two of tomatoes. 🙂

  38. I’m canning Pickled Garlic for the first time ( I harvested 35 pounds and need to do something with it). My Ball Canning book calls for dried oregano. Can I substitute fresh rosemary and/or fresh Bay leaf?

  39. I just looked at a web site that said it was never save to store pickled garlic. It said that I need to freeze it, or refrigerate it after hot water or pressure canning. Other sites, and my Ball book, say to store it in a cool dark place.

    I can switch gears and put it in the food dehydrator, but I really want to try pickled garlic. How can I make “Killer” garlic without it becoming “Killer” garlic?

    • I’m not Marisa but…you can’t can plain garlic put you can safely can pickled garlic. You can’t go wrong following the Ball book.

  40. The other day I pressure canned beef stew for the first time. I brought the water to a boil, added the jars, and made sure there was water over the jars like the water bath method. Later I realized that I had too much water in the canner. I had processed under pressure for the recommedned time, but with too much water and siphoning, are they safe?

    • If you got to the right pressure and processed for the right amount of time AFTER coming up to pressure and the jars are tightly sealed, they should be safe. However, I’ll bet it took forever to get up to pressure, so it might be a tad overcooked. It’ll probably taste okay but your veggies might be a little mushier.

      A little about the science… Pressure canning raises the boiling point of water from 212 to around 240 degrees. That’s the temperature at which the low-acid nasties (namely, botulism spores) die. Normally, you just need enough water to create steam, which creates pressure, which raises the boiling point of the liquid part of the food itself to 240. Since you used a mostly full pot of water, you had to get the food AND all that the water up to 240.

  41. Hey Lovely-
    Miss Rosie goes through a *ton* of ketchup, so this year I though I’d do my own to cut her sugar intake, as the sugar-free stuff in the store is pricey. The Ball recipe has a cup for 4 pints, can I cut the sugar safely? If not, do you have a low or no sugar ketchup recipe? Thanks!!

  42. Can you please expand on “slower cooling process”?

    Though my siphoning experience is minimal, I’d like to imprint the correct process. Anything I should add or change to the steps?
    -Tighten rings till they just begin to have resistance, then add a quarter turn.
    Leave the jars in the water 5 minutes after processing time and move to a towel to cool out of drafts.

    This is my first year of canning and am loving it. Due so much to the information you provide on this site with all the facts needed in an easy to understand dialog and good photos. Thanks so much! Glad to have found you.

    • Hi…sorry this is a response to such an old post but its the only way I could figure out to contact you!!
      My daughter and I just put up our first batch of crushed tomatoes and I have a question….. I had a little left over and filled only half a jar so I stuck it in the fridge to use right away since I wasn’t sure if you could store half a filled jar…
      SO anyway I opened it after about a week and it bubbled!
      I wasn’t sure if I could use it or if something went wrong! Now I am afraid to use any of our tomatoes!!!
      Any help or advice for a newbie?
      Thank you

      • It sounds like those tomatoes that you put in the fridge started to ferment. The tomatoes that you processed should be fine, but because the tomatoes you put in the fridge didn’t get the same heat process, there was some bacteria in them that initiated the fermentation process. It’s actually not harmful and you could potentially still use them, no matter the bubbles.

  43. Thanks so much for posting pictures with this blog post! I did my first tomatoes yesterday. I lost liquid and the tomatoes are floating. So, I’m not worried about that.

    What my question is though, the tomatoes are floating pretty high and I think they are touching the lid, which concerns me because of the BPA in the lids, which is the whole reason I wanted to do my own in the first place….
    Is there anything I can do about this? Or, should I re-process them with a tighter pack?

    Thanks so much!

    • Oops, I just removed the jar rings and the tomatoes are not touching the top and the seal is great! So please disregard! Thanks so much!

  44. While working on a patch of tomato sauce in my pressure caner, I realized that the previous batch was processed for 10 minutes, not the required 15. Do I toss that batch or just use it first.

  45. Very informative post, thank you so much. Could you address two questions for me when you have the time?
    1. My small-batch canning kettle is aluminum. Should that pose a problem for my tomatoes? The water bath must have trace aluminum in it, and so must the jars since I boil them in there before I drain and fill them.
    2. A couple of years ago I used citric acid while canning tomatoes, and they ended up tasting pretty harsh. Does adding sugar to the jar really balance the flavor? Would I be taking my family’s lives into my hands if I added a leetle bit less than the full measure?
    Many thanks!

    • It’s okay to use an aluminum pot as your canner, so long as you’re not cooking the tomatoes in it.

      I’ve not used citric acid in my own tomatoes, so I can’t speak to ways to balance its flavor. I tend to stick with bottled lemon juice for my own acidification needs.

  46. I’ve never seen anyone explain this, and I’m finding my canning to be a very difficult, discouraging experience.

    I had a bunch of tomatoes yesterday. Peeled and cooked to hot-pack.
    I had my hot jars all ready, and found that it filled 7 pints just fine. That’s all my hot water bath canner would hold. Since that was going to take a Looong time to process, I had no idea what to do with the rest of the tomatos still in the pot. I didn’t know if it was safe to ladle it into jars and just wait till the first batch was done. Or just have to freeze all of that.
    I just put it back in the fridge. Is it now safe to re-heat added to the next batch of cooked tomatoes and start over. I don’t want to cook them over and over, but I don’t know how long I can leave it out, or how long I can leave a full jar before I process it in a bath. I’ve found everything about canning to be exhausting and fearfilled so far, I’m afraid. I have a bunch of jars of lovely tomatoes that I’m now scared to eat for one reason or another.
    I have this same frustration/fear with my jellies. If I’m going to put up food, by god, I don’t want to do 7 jars a day and that’s it.
    Thanks so much for your help!

    • It’s totally safe to just let it sit out until you’re ready to pack the next round of jars. Just bring it back to a boil before filling the jars.

      Don’t be scared of your tomatoes. As long as you’ve properly acidified them, they should be just fine.

  47. Is it okay to use 8 oz jars for plain crushed or diced tomatoes? Most recipes I use in cooking call for less than a pint and I don’t know how much would go to waste if I opened up pint jars in these cases.

  48. thank you! I just experienced the pectin problem, and so many sources tell you what happened and how to avoid it (duly noted), but not whether or not this batch is ok to use. I’ll shake them up and use ’em! thank you!!

  49. I am so frustrated. I am new to canning and am all excited about it as I come from a family of canners. I did my tomatoes this weekend and had the problem of them floating to the top and seperating(after reading your blog i know what i did wrong and am glad they will be ok) and some even bubbled out of jar and tomato was stuck under some of the lids. Even though it sealed i chose to open them and make spaghetti sauce out of them to be safe. The thing i am frustrated by is every place I look for processing times it is different. My book says 45 min for hot pack in a water canner, my sisters is 2 editions before mine and says 15 min but she does 35 min.My mom used to do 25 min. I was looking on other sites and one said 80 min and another said 50 min. I just dont understand why there is such a huge difference and how are we suppose to know which ones to go with? Also can you safely add onions and garlic and make a spaghetti sauce and process in a water canner? one site said yes and one said no you would have to use a pressure cooker because veggies are low acid.Thank you

    • The shorter times are old instructions. Newer research calls for the longer times. And if you’re adding onion and garlic, you need to be following a tested recipe if you’re going to can in a boiling water bath canner.

  50. I canned 8 quarts of crushed tomatoes last weekend and they siphoned, though not too much. However, when I went to take the rings off I noticed there was some tomato goop underneath the ring and between some of the lids and jars… all the lids are sealed as tight as can be – but are they safe to eat?

  51. I would like to poach my sweet 100’s in olive oil. I can find recipes for this, however, i want to then can them in that olive oil following. I cant seem to find any recipes for doing this. Can you help?

  52. That photo is perfect – I was able to see the “issue” I am having with my raw packed tomatoes – and I see that the dunking process of peeling is more than likely the cause.

    Hubby introduced me to canning tomatoes over 20 yrs ago but this year he has left me on my own – and I wanted to make sure he wasn’t about to have a ‘gotcha’ moment on me!

    Thanks so much for a nice clear photo 😀

  53. I hope you can help. I canned tomatoes in the summer for the first time. I cold packed, peeled, crushed tomatoes in pint jars with a tbsp of vinegar and processed for 45 minutes. None of the seals have broken but all of them have white sediment on the top surface of the tomatoes and/or bottom of the jars. They separated like yours did. They smell fine and look fine. Stored properly. It’s not clearly mold but I can’t tell if this is normal – I’d hate to throw them out.

    I hope you have the time to reply. Thanks for your time.

    • Erin, did you pack them in water? If you have hard water, it could be that the mineral solids are separating out from the liquid.

  54. I had gotten as far as pureeing tomatoes and had to put them in the refrigerator, could not return home for 3 days – can I still use those tomatoes for canning? Should I just toss them and start over? Thanks a bunch. (First year with a garden, new to canning)

    • Susan, if you bring them back up to a boil, you can still can them. Just know that the tomato fiber may separate from the liquid. It’s find, it’s just that the look of it sometimes throws people.

  55. I water bathed my tomatoes last year and they are still red and beautiful, taste great! This year I obtained a pressure cooker and processed per directions. I did have a great deal of float, but not to worried about this. My question is why is the water bath tomatoes so pretty and red and the pressured ones are orangy looking. Not pretty at all. I haven’t tasted them but they don’t look so good.

  56. I am new to canning and did my first batch of tomatoes today. I accidentally read wrong and put 1 tsp of citric acid instead of 1/2 tsp in the jar. 🙁 Do you think this will affect anything? Totally using lemon juice for the next batch!

  57. Over the last two weeks, I have made and canned 7 batches (42 qts) of tomato sauce. I did not use an approved recipe… mine was tomatoes, olive oil, salt, and oregano. I cooked for about an hour and processed in hot water bath 45 mins. When I canned my whole tomatoes, I added bolttled lemon juice, but did not to the sauce. After reading that I should have pressure canned, I am very concerned. Would it be safe to re-cook the sauce (boiling for at least 10 mins) and reprocess in a pressure canner, or should I do the boiling at the time I use it? Thanks

  58. I water bathed my tomatoes last year and they are still red and beautiful, taste great! This year I obtained a pressure cooker and processed per directions. I did have a great deal of float, but not to worried about this. My question is why is the water bath tomatoes so pretty and red and the pressured ones are orangy looking. Not pretty at all. I haven’t tasted them but they don’t look so good.

    • The amount of cooking pressure canned tomatoes receive is more intense than those done in a BWB. So they end up looking more cooked.

  59. Thank you so much for posting these pictures!

    I started canning in June of this year and I finally got a pressure canner last week. I tried hot packing tomatoes in the pressure canner yesterday thinking the shorter processing time for hot pack tomatoes would be a big time saver. Followed instructions carefully and added lemon juice to be safe. Unfortunately, all 14 quarts of tomatoes siphoned during the pressure cooking process.

    I was up staring at my jars this morning wondering if I had ruined all those beautiful tomatoes. I’m reassured after seeing your photos and reading comments here but I think I will try to can whole / crushed tomatoes in WB and save the pressure cooking for sauces. WB tomatoes definitely look better and did not lose liquid.

  60. I just canned 14 jars of tomato sauce (tomato, garlic, onion, chopped carrot, peppers, spices etc)…..did mostly 1 1/2 pint jars w/a few qt jars.

    I processed for 30 mins and everything sealed perfectly. Used hot jars, hot lids, hot contents and then processed.

    This should be fine, shouldn’t it? I don’t understand how our grandmother’s lived through canning the “old fashioned way” (everything hot, then turned the jar upside down until it sealed and then turned upright)….

    Will 30 mins be sufficient?

  61. My Grandma taught me how to can last summer. She doesn’t put her stewed tomatoes in a water canner. She just boils everything, puts the tomatoes in hot, and lets them seal up on the counter. Is this not an approved method anymore? She’s been doing this for 60 years and has never had a incident. I’ve talked to many others who also do it this way.

  62. Every recipe I find says to select whole unblemished tomatoes to preserve. My garden has produced lots of tomatoes that look like the one in your tomato post picture. There are brown cracks around the stem. The tomatoes taste great, and I’d like to cut off the brown, dice them, and can them. Is there a reason why all the recipes call for “unblemished” tomatoes? Is there bacteria etc. that could be dangerous?


    • Julie, I think that people are concerned about bacteria. However, with the amount of heat exposure that canned tomatoes receive, it’s hard to image that any bacteria survive. What’s more, perfect tomatoes are really hard to come by. I use the slightly cracked ones for preserving on a regular basis and have had no ill effects.

  63. My tomatoes are floating all the way to the top and touching the lid. It did make a good seal but I’m guessing I used too much water. Should I open these and eat right away or will they be ok?

    • They are fine. It’s not the optimum result, but as long as the seals are good, they are shelf stable and safe to eat.

  64. I appreciate all the great info here!

    Yesterday, I followed the Ball instructions for canning crushed tomatoes. I used the bubble remover to push out any bubbles and processed as instructed. Now there are still pockets of air throughout every jar. The seal seems fine, but I am worried about these air bubbles!

  65. Quick question: I decided to make spaghetti sauce really late in the day (bad idea). Now, I’m hoping when it’s done cooking I can put the pan in the fridge and bring to a boil tomorrow before putting in jars & processing. Do you think this would be okay/healthy?

  66. Thanks for the note about the siphoning, I followed your ideas for canning whole tomatoes in their own juice, but obviously let them heat up for more than 5 minutes initially, so I ended up with both separation and the siphoning contained a good deal of tomato matter. The seals appear to be good though (upside down and held by the lid) so I’m going to call them good!

  67. I just canned 12 quarts of tomatoes. I cold packed them adding 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 Tablespoons of bottled lemon juice. I used my Ball book and it is evidently old because it says to water bath them 45 minutes. Now I see the recommendation is for 80 minutes.

    All the jars sealed fine. Should I water bath them longer? Would I have to break the seal or could I just but them in a bath again? I have some float but they look good.


  68. We canned 7 quarts of whole tomatoes. Did the normal steps….boil in water for a minute or less to get the skins off, cut out core and quarted the larger tomatoes, put them in quart jars and crushed them down til there was 1/4 at the top and used 2 tbs of lemon juice in each. We put in the water bath method for 85 minutes and we got the separation solids on top water on bottom. Based on what I read here I’m not concerened about the separation, but what concerns me is the tomatoes floating at the top have seemed to develop air bubbles. We’re not sure if we should be concerened with this. I’m considering turning them upside down once they cool to let the water work its way back into the tomatoes, but would prefer the advise of a seasoned canner to confirm whether or not that would be ok.

  69. I have just prepared my tomatoes using a very different process & am worried that I certainly did something wrong. I quartered & seeded tomatoes, seasoned them with salt, pepper, oregano, olive oil & then roasted them in the oven. Once roasted & softened, I allowed the tomatoes to cool, removed the skins & pulsed chopped them in a processor. I then added a bit of water to a saucepan with the tomatoes & basil & cooked them down. I sterilized my jars, bands & lids in a hot water bath & then filled the hot jars with the hot sauce. I then placed them back in a hot water bath, allowing to boil for 40 minutes. My BIGGEST concern is that i did not add any citric acid. Should I plan to eat the tomato sauce this weekend b/c it will never last?! Also, I think i may not have left a half inch between the lid & the sauce. I guess I should have did my reading first! How safe is my process? Thanks for this informative site!

    • Gigi, the two biggest concerns with your tomatoes are the facts that you didn’t add any additional acid and that you added olive oil, which can can also harbor botulism growth.

      • Wow Marisa. Even though the garlic was slivered and roasted in the oven for about a half hour at 400 & then cooked on the stove top presents botulism as a possibility? Okay, now i am scared. I had heard about raw garlic sitting in olive oil being a problem – but never thought cooked was an issue.

  70. Marisa, If I add a citric acid to the next batch & eliminate the olive oil (add it after I open my canned product while heating & immediately prior to eating) I will have resolved the two crucial issues, right?
    Your tip / suggestion is appreciated: What kind of citric acid do you recommend that will not impact taste, and would you please provide the ratio of acid needed to ounces of cooked tomatoes? Thanks Much!

      • Gigi, red wine isn’t citric acid. And no matter how long you cook it, garlic is still a low acid ingredient. The rule of thumb with citric acid is that you add 1/4 teaspoon for pints of tomatoes and 1/2 teaspoon for quarts. I think you need to read the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s page on canning tomatoes.

  71. Canning tomatoes is new to me as well this year. I don’t have a good feeling about what I’ve canned so far. I don’t think that there isn’t enough space between the tomatoes and the lid and there are bubbles. I didn’t heat them for five minutes after I removed the skin but I process them in a waterbath for 45 mins. after I filled them and they did seal. I canned them on Thursday and Friday but now I’m afraid to eat them. Is it too late to re-can them tomorrow? The lack of space at the top under the lid and the tomato debris inside around the band are what concerns me. What should I do?

  72. Hi! I followed directions for your cold plum tomatoes packed in their own juices. I processed three jars – 1 sealed and 2 didnt. I also did 3 jars of Dilly beans – 2 sealed and 1 didnt. Any thoughts on why some sealed and some did not?? Thanks!

    • It could be that you didn’t simmer the lids long enough, or that your lids were old, or that there was crud on the rims of the jars, or that you didn’t sufficiently bubble the jars and some product escaped and impeded the seal. There are a number of reason why seals fail.

  73. Marisa, Why would I want to do a hot pack with my tomatoes versus a cold pack? Both options are in my Ball book, and the cold pack just seems like one less step. Is there any difference in the finished product? Thank you!

    • Some people report that they get more tomatoes into the jar and have less tomato float after processing when they do the hot pack. However, I always do the cold pack, because I just want to get the tomatoes peeled and into the jars.

  74. One of my jar of tomatoes has separated and there are tiny air bubbles in the jar. Should I be worried about the air bubbles? Someone else posted this question (number 83), but I didnt see an answer.

    Also…I accidentally used iodized salt instead of pickling salt – what will happen?

    • Like I said in this post, the separation is normal and comes from when tomatoes are heated, cooled and heated again. The only time you should worry about air bubbles is if they are active and moving, as that can indicate that the product has begun to ferment. However, inactive trapped pockets of air are entirely benign. The iodized salt could cause some discoloration or fogginess, but it won’t cause any true harm.

  75. Hi. Today, I water bathed whole tomatoes in tomato juice for 85 minutes. I left 1/2″ headspace while using new lids and jars. The jars didn’t seal and some of the tomato juice escaped from the jars and into the pot of boiling water. Can I reprocess these jars or are they contaminated? Should I add more citric acid to safeguard against any citric acid that might have been lost in leakage during the first process? Anything else I should be doing in regard to keeping this batch from going bad, or is it just as easy as wiping rims, heating new lids and reprocessing? Thanks in advance.

    • Stan, the jars aren’t contaminated, it sounds like either your lids were bad or there was some siphoning of the product that impeded the seal. You can rebubble the jars, apply fresh lids and reprocess.

      • Thanks, Marisa. Quick question. Today we sanitized new jars by boiling for 10 minutes; boiled and then simmered new lids for 10-plus minutes; packed warm jars with contents from the jars of yesterday’s batch; cleaned rims of jars thoroughly; and then put warm lids on and banded finger tight. We decided to pressure can the jars this time. All seven jars sealed and we heard each lid pop within 10 minutes of removing jars from canner. So all seems good. My only concern as a newbie canner is that the water in the canner has a bit of tomato floaties in it. Is this normal when canning? Does some of the product leak out, and if so do the lids still get a good seal when tomato juice has seaped over the rims of the jars during processing. Again, thanks in advance, Stan

        • Totally normal. There is always some liquid loss during tomato processing, particularly those done in a pressure canner. Often, little bits of tomato also sneak out during the siphoning. As long as the seals are good, it doesn’t matter.

  76. Thank you, Marisa. I definitely feel better about this batch than I did the first batch. Hopefully, they’ll still taste good after twice having been cooked to death. 🙂

  77. how long do you need to boil the tomatoes before canning? I have tried canning salsa many times and really didn’t know that you needed to “cook” the salsa before canning so I have not had luck with the salsa staying good. any “basic” canning information would really be helpful! I would love to start canning more! Thank you

  78. Thanks so much for this post! I made my 1st batch of cold packed tomatoes last night and I had some bubbling out of the jars and now some liquid is below the level of the tomatoes… so I was worried. But not anymore! Ready to take on the rest of the box! Thanks!

  79. Hello! I know this was an older post, but I need some canning advice. Help! 🙂
    Yesterday I processed about 100 lbs. of tomatoes, some of which I turned into a seasoned paste using my oven to reduce the sauce down. (Thank God, ’cause it took like six hours!!) I followed directions I found on the internet for canning the paste. I used 1/2 pint jars and left a 1/4″ headspace as per the directions, added 1/2 tsp. lemon juice per jar, and processed them in a boiling water bath for 45 min.This morning I went to clean my jars and check the seals, and discovered that paste had leaked out of the better part of my jars-not a ton-the jars are properly full, but it left sticky paste under the rings on the outside. My seals are nice and tight-I triple checked-but now I’m freaking out. Obviously the recipe should have said 1/2″ (I think), but are they safe? And why aren’t there more recipes for canning paste out there?

  80. Thank you sooo much for this wonderful post! I have canned with a friend before, but today canning by myself I experienced siphoning for the first time. I had no idea what had happened and felt like a total failure, so sad! I thought they were ruined, and I’d have to reprocess them. I am still a little worried, it’s my nature to be a worry wart, but I’m following your advice on making sure they’re SEALED, and I think everything will be fine. Thanks again!

  81. Thank you so much for this post. I had separation and slight liquid loss. I wasn’t sure if that was a bad thing or not. This was very reassuring.

  82. I can tomatoes every year(water bath) and have never had any trouble. One jar this year became slightly cloudy. It was not immediate. I keep my canned goods in a pantry and notice this jar about 1 or 2 months after processing. Should I throw them out? Thank you for your attention.

  83. I pressure cooked the first batch of tomatoes and I went against directions and pulled the weight off early to release pressure faster after processing time because I had so many tomatoes to run through and I didn’t want to wait. I got the tomato float and loss of liquid, so that’s my fault. The rest I just waterbathed (I added extra acid to ensure safety) and they turned out beautifully like usual. I was pretty sure that first batch would be ok, but now I am very confident, so thanks for addressing it in your post! Sometimes it’s hard to find specific, direct answers about canning. I prefer waterbath to pressure canning just because it takes so long for the pressure canner to get to pressure and to release pressure at the end, it takes longer than waterbath. I wonder why that is? Maybe my sea level? Not sure.

    • Pressure canners just take a long time to release their pressure. Mine can take up to an hour. This is why I don’t really recommend pressure canning for tomatoes that, as long as they’re acidified properly, can easily be done in a water bath canner.

  84. Hi: I’m am canning for the first time and I don’t have a pot of water big enough to submerge my cans when heating them. Is that going to hurt the process?

  85. Hello, I canned a few jars of tomatoes the other day but 4 of my 6 jars didn’t seal after processing. I didn’t have any time to process them again so I put them in the fridge. I had another set of unprocessed canned tomatoes too that I did not immediately process. I covered them with the lids, put them in the fridge. Now it’s been 3 days since I initially canned the tomatoes. Can I still process them now? The ones that I processed that didn’t seal have now seemed to ferment a little bit as when I opened one of the jars air and juice came hissing out. Did I waste all these tomatoes??
    Thank you for your help!!

  86. HELP! There must be a easier way to make saulsa. I blanced the tomatoes, peeled them then took out the seeds and I had a mess. I used a lot of tomatoes to get just 3 pints of saulsa.

    • Hi Vicky…Salsa is very labor intensive for sure! But it is so worth it come winter. My family really loves it! What I have found out is that I do the hard stuff first. That (for me) is chopping all the “hard” ingredients. I usually do those in the morning, then stick it all in a freezer bag and put them in the fridge. If I get busy with something else, I don’t have to worry about them getting too soggy. They are going to cook down anyway. I have even did that and then finished the next day. I have also had great luck with putting the tomatoes in a blender for a spin or two, then dumping that into my pot. Do that for about half of the tomatoes. This will cut the time a little. The trade off is that your salsa will not be really “chunky”. Add the remaining “chopped” tomatoes to the pot along with the rest of the ingredients and process it like you normally would. Canned salsa is normally not like the “fresh” chunky salsa that all of us love in the summer. I use the Ball blue book recipe and play around with the peppers. I haven’t had one complaint yet and many family and friends ask for it a lot. I will also admit, because it is so labor intensive to make, I rarely “give” jars away…:-) Good luck and try it again!

      • Will blending the whole salsa make a difference? I am going for super traditional Mexican salsa, which, in my case is usually made with boiled tomatoes and chiles, which are pureed with the rest of the ingredients. In other words i want a thin salsa. Not chunks. If i follow the recommended recipes can i puree all the ingredients before simmering on the stove?

    • I am in a similar boat… My pressure cooker wouldn’t come up to pressure so I had to abort the canning process. By this time it was almost midnight and I didn’t have time to reprocess immediately. Everything I’ve read says to reprocess within 24 hours, but do I need to refrigerate the cans? Do they then need to come up to room temp before starting again? I was canning raw pack tomatoes no added juice or water…

  87. Canned a batch of tomatoes and didn’t hear a pop. Don’t know if they sealed. Also when I put them up in my pantry I noticed the lids weren’t screwed on tightly. Do you think this batch is lost?

    • Just because you don’t hear a pop doesn’t mean that your jars didn’t seal. Press the lids. If they’re firm and do not wiggle, they are sealed. The rings don’t need to be tight for the jars to be sealed.

  88. I just pressure canned a batch of tomato pasta sauce. I let the jars cool in the canner for quite a while after the pressure was released but when I opened the lid, there was tomato pulp on the sides of the canner and in the water. Only one of the jars sealed. The rest now have lots of airspace and look like paste instead of sauce. What did I do wrong? I processed @ 11 lbs pressure for 25 min as the directions on my canner told me.

    • It could be that you didn’t wipe the rims sufficiently. Or that you didn’t let the pot rest long enough (I tend to let mine sit overnight before opening). Or that the lids were old. Or that you didn’t remove the bubbles from inside the jars well enough. You also have to tighten the rings just a little bit more when you pressure can than you do when you can in a boiling water bath canner.

  89. I water-bath canned tomato sauce yesterday, and when finished, one of the jars had lots of bubbles at the top. The lid sealed, but I’m wondering where all the bubbles are coming from? When I did tomato sauce last week, none of the jars had any bubbles. I’d guess that I didn’t get all the air pockets out?

    • Hi Jenny

      your question about the air bubbles in the tomato sauce is from 2013. but did you ever get an answer. we have air bubbles in our tomatoi sauce. lids are sealed, the bubbles don’t move unless a person shakes the jar.

      • Bubbles aren’t a big deal unless they are actively moving on their own. The bubbles that only move when you shake the jar aren’t a problem at all.

  90. Thank you so much! This was my very first time canning, and I had what you described as tomato separation. I was completely depressed, since these were garden tomatoes and I thought I’d completely botched it.

    I think my problem is that I had already lightly pureed them, and then I cooked them for 5 minutes and THEN had the water bath. Sounds like I shouldn’t have pureed them, but kept in chunks. I might have also had too high a boil.

    I’m simmering down now…thanks again…

      • I’m wondering about this too. Why do you have to fill and process on the same day? Once successfully canned, doesn’t food stay at the same level of “freshness” as it did when it went into the can?

        • The reason you fill and process the same day has to do with the quality of the product. You are going to have the best consistency and texture for your tomatoes if you keep them hot once you get them hot. If you filled the jars with hot tomatoes, cooled them down and then reheated them again, your texture is going to be heavily compromised. You also risk more jar breakage and seal failure by doing it that way.

  91. two weeks ago I canned some tomatoes and tomato soup in a hot water bath. Today while canning green verde sauce the recipe said to hot water bath process at the same time I canned tomato sauce the tomato wanted pressure cooked. So I called the extension office asked if I could pressure cook the verde sauce. While on the phone I told her I had canned tomatoes hot water and why this recipe asked for a pressure cooker. She said I would have to reprocess the tomatoes and soup by opening all the jars and reheating to a hard boil for 5 minutes and then pressure cook. Everything I find online about reprocessing says it has to be done within 24 hours. Are my jars of tomatoes and soup going to be ok not that I reprocessed them. I am almost scared to eat any of it even though I followed the extension office directions to reprocess.

      • I wouldn’t be so sure about the extension office being right. I found out that the girl answering my question at the local extension office had never canned and had no idea how to go about it.. She looked everything up in a book she had. You know, I can do that myself.

  92. I canned 30 quarts of vegetable soup 5 days ago and for the past 2 days, I’ve had jars hissing and leaking…15 jars to be exact. Half of my batch is gone. What happened? I’ve never had this happen before. What should I do with the other 15 jars? The broth looks clear, there’s still a nice head-space on the jar. I’m crying. 🙁

    • The soup is spoiling. It is not safe to can low acid foods like vegetable soup in a boiling water bath canner.

  93. I should add that I did this in a water bath…as I always have. The jars I have thrown away get cloudy. The ones that are still on the shelf tonight are clear. 🙁 Still crying…

  94. Thank you! Just canned Roma tomatoes for the first time and carefully followed the directions. Thought I had to throw them out because all the tomatoes were floating. Now they are safe for a winter soup!

  95. Last year I made tomato sauce for the first time in a long time. Every time we used it, it was kind of unappealing because it separated into solids and liquids. You couldn’t use it on pizza dough because it was all gooey. It didn’t taste very good on spaghetti and left a puddle on your plate. Can you tell me what I did wrong?

    • Tomato sauce often does that if you cook the sauce, then cool it off, and then reheat it to can it. Once you start heating tomatoes, you need to keep them hot right until they go into the canner.

      • Actually, that’s how I prefer to make my tomato sauce. I make it a day ahead, then let it cool off, then I store it in the fridge. The next day, which is the day I can, I remove the pot of sauce from the fridge and siphon off the clear juice that sitting on top of the tomato “meat” mixture on the bottom. I actually can the clear tomato “juice” separately, which can be used as broth for vegetable based soups. Next, I take the “meat” and cook it down to the consistency I want, and can that hot. Then, I have no separation issues because I’ve already separated it!

  96. I have a question that may or may not have been discussed already. There’s over 100 comments…so forgive me for not going through all of them. I processed my first batch of tomatoes this year and followed all the rules: packed tightly, 1/2″ headspace, 1/4 tsp citric acid for pints, 1/2 tsp salt, removed bubbles with a chopstick, wiped rims, processed 85 mins. My tomatoes do float, but I read plenty on this beforehand, so that didn’t concern me.

    Is there a good explanation for what appears to be tomato residue in my water bath water? I could smell tomatoes as they were processing and feared the worst: a broken jar. That’s not the case. While all the jars have indeed sealed, I’m thinking I misjudged the headspace. That’s the only reason I could think of…too full and while heated in the canner, the product boiled up underneath the seal and leaked into the water.

    So…how safe is my product? I don’t really want to reprocess and am content with freezing/refrigerating if necessary, but are they at all shelf stable? Secondly, I have…oh…about another 30 lbs. of tomatoes to process. Suggestions on getting the headspace issue solved so this doesn’t happen for all of them?

    Any advice is most appreciated. Your blog is one of my new favorites and I’m slowly making my way through all your recipes, both here and in your published books.


    • As long as the jars are sealed, they are safe. There is always a little bit of liquid loss during tomato canning and so it’s normal for you to have a little bit of tomato product seeping into the jars. It’s not that you overfilled the jars. It’s just that when you process the jars for 85 minutes, a goodly amount of pressure builds up in the jars. There’s some oxygen trapped down within the tomatoes and so that oxygen pushes up to the surface, escapes from the jars, and pushes some liquid with it. No need to worry.

      • Thanks, Marisa, for the feedback. I went ahead and processed my 2nd batch before your reply, and I had no issues with that one.

        You’re definitely right about liquid loss. It’s crazy how much, considering they appear full when you’re packing them.

        Lastly, keep up the good work! Your blog and books are so inspiring and certainly unique. The last generation of canners in my family died before I was even a thought, and even my homely grandmother doesn’t can. My family thinks I’m crazy at 25 and canning, but hey, they’re reaping the benefits too! 🙂

  97. Oh! I’m so glad to have found your post on tomato canning issues! I’ve canned pickles and jam for years, but this was my first go round with tomatoes and I have been feeling really uneasy about my results. I blanched, cored, peeled, added acid and stuffed my hot jars(pints) with tomatoes (1/2 inch headspace), poked them for air pockets and waterbathed them for 85 minutes. I had a TON of siphoning happen with all 8 of my jars, even after I pulled them out of the hot water and separation of tomatoes from the liquid in the jar. The jars sealed, so from what I’ve read they’re safe to keep, but I’m trying to figure out how to keep it from happening again. I’ve gathered that it has to do with how quickly they cool, so does that mean I should let them sit in the hot water for a time after they’ve processed? Also, I didn’t put my tomatoes in an ice bath after I blanched them, is that part of the reason they separated after the water bath? Thank you so much for your help! I’m really trying to get the hang of this!

  98. Hi!

    I just wanted to say “thank you” for your wonderful blog and your “Food in Jars” book.

    I started making jams a few years ago, to use up the berries I’d picked in the summer and frozen and also *ahem* to make cheap Christmas gifts. They were a huge hit.

    My mother, who gives me a cookbook annually as my Christmas gift from Santa, gave me your book a couple years ago, and I just branched right out into pickles and things. I also started doing a BWB, which I’d never done before (the one canned product that we have always made in my family was never BWBed, so I never did it. Thank goodness none of my jam ever went bad).

    In 2012, I found that I can no longer have commercially-canned tomato products, due to BPA issues, and I worried that all my beloved tomato-based recipes would be gone from my life. I waited until tomato season and canned a batch of crushed tomatoes, just as a test, from your recipe.

    They were fantastic! I promptly made up another 20ish jars of varying sizes, amusing the heck out of the vendor at my farmer’s market with my weekly purchases.

    This year, I’m busy making tomato sauce as well as crushed toms. I’m glad to read, in this post, that the separated sauce is no big deal. Pretty much all of my sauce has separated, so far. I’ll do my best to keep it heated between the pot and the BWB next time.

    There are also plenty of other delightful things in my pantry that owe their existence or inspiration to your recipes.

    So, again, thank you very much! And my family and coworkers thank you, too. 😀


    • Because ripe tomatoes contain more water, so they are denser than unripe green tomatoes. If you want an easy way to check this, pick up a ripe and an unripe tomato of the same size; the ripe one will weigh more.

  99. Hi All,

    Need some help! I waterbathed all my tomato sauce for sealing, they were sealed but during the process I realized some of the water enter my jars. Is this a problem, are my jars (sauce) contaminated or can I still store them.


    • It’s quite unusual to have water get into your jars. Are you sure it’s not just a little condensation? Are they filled to the top with water? If they are filled to the very top, you should probably open the jars, remove the water, heat the sauce, and refill and process the jars.

      • Thanks for your prompt response

        I will double check to see if they are filled to the top, is it possible that I have separation of the sauce and water. If this is the case do I still have to reprocess

        • Hi There, I looked at my jars and on the bottom level (approximately 1/2 inch) is water, is this separation from the sauce due to water-bathing. Thanks

  100. Hi,

    I didn’t completely cover the jars with water while processing. My water level was at the neck of the bottle instead of an inch over. I still processed them the accurate time and they sealed fine, what should I look for if they are spoiled???

  101. Hi,

    I water bathed my jars and noticed after the cool down period that the bottom portion, approximately 1/2 is water. It seems to have separated with the sauce, Should I do something.

    I Also see little air bubbles in the sauce, is this ok


    • Like this post says, separation is totally normal. The air bubbles are not a concern unless they are moving actively on their own, without any agitation of the jar from you.

    • New canner! Tried Mrs. Wages salsa, and when done had liquid on bottom, but a bunch of air bubbles, the lids seem sealed (no ping or anything), but still wondering if we should just refrigerate and eat in the next couple of weeks or so instead of putting on shelves for later this winter.

      • The picture didn’t come through, but as long as you followed the recipe, processed the jars as instructed, and the lids sealed, the jars are shelf stable.

  102. New canner here! I canned 4 quarts of tomatoes yesterday. When they were in the water bath, the temperature dropped! Once I discovered this, I got the heat back up….and processed for at LEAST 85 minutes. I had what appeared to be water at the bottom of the jars! Well once the jars appeared to be sealed, I gave them all a good shake. They are downstairs…..I haven’t looked at them since last night. If the jars ARE SEALED TIGHTLY, ARE THEY SAFE TO EAT. I bought a huge box of tomatoes to can, and if I can’t be sure they are okay, I’d rather go on and make sauce now and freeze it! Thanks so much for your advice! A worry wart here!

    • If you processed the jars for the required amount of time and the jars are well-sealed, they are safe to eat.

  103. Hello,

    I am new to canning and tried whole peeled tomatoes for the first time yesterday – but I think I made a really bad mistake – I accidentally used the canning magnet instead of the spatula to get out the air bubbles ( I know….duh!) It seemed like the bubbles were out, I processed the jars for the right amount of time, and the seals are OK. I did notice some bubbles this morning though…. My concern is that every post I am reading on this topic now is saying to use a non metallic spatula. Are the tomatoes safe to eat? Or should I throw them all out? So upset right now!

    • The canning magnet will work just fine for removing bubbles, so your mistake isn’t bad at all. The brief contact with the magnet should not have imparted a metallic flavor into the tomatoes. Keep the tomatoes, they should be fine.

      • Thanks so much! I was really hoping you would say that – Tossing 16 jars of tomatoes would be so frustrating!

  104. Thanks for this post. I just canned my first batch of crushed tomatoes and I cooked them longer than five minutes. The jars took longer to sterilize than I had thought. I know better for next time and can relax that my tomatoes separated. There are also air bubbles but they are not moving. Thanks again.

  105. Hey! I made salsa and canned them. It seemed that they sealed fine, but when I opened the jar the salsa expanded, spilling out of the jar. When I tasted the salsa it left my tongue tingling, but did not smell bad. I had several quart jars that did this, and several smaller jars that were fine. Any idea why this happened?

    • Tiffany, it sounds like the salsa fermented in the jars. Did you increase the processing time for the quart jars? Any time you can a product that is designed for canning in pints, you need to up the processing time by five minutes if you use quarts instead.

  106. I tried pressuring canning tomaotes for the first time. When i took them out of the canner there was about 2-3″ of clear liquid on the bottom and the tomatoes were on top.Could having them in the hot water for too long to blanche caused this problem? I also put 2tbl. of lemon juice and 1 tsp. of salt in the bottom of the jar. I saw the picture you included with the post but my cans have a significant amount of clear liquid on the bottom. Any help is appreciated!

  107. Hi,

    Thank you so much for your detailed responses to these questions! I’m sorry to bug you with another one. I just canned a bunch of crushed tomatoes today and many of the jars did not seal. I’ve done crushed tomatoes twice before and they’ve always worked out in the past 🙁
    It was a full day of canning and I’m leaving them as-is overnight. Is it possible to re-process them tomorrow (or to empty the jars, re-heat the tomatoes, re-pack, re-process?) I don’t want to put all this work to waste!

    Thanks in advance!

    • Here’s what you can do. Remove the lids that didn’t seal. Wipe the rims and apply new lids. Apply rings. Place jars in a canning pot filled with room temperature water. Put it on the stove and slowly bring it back up to a boil. Once it boils, start the timer and process as you regularly do. The tomatoes will be a bit softer and you may see some significant water separation, but they will be safe.

  108. I just retired so I am trying to learn to economize by canning garden produce i would have previously wasted. I tried canning tomatoes, cut in quarters, in 28 ounce jars in a water canner. NEVER have canned before. I was shocked to see 1 1/2 inches of what looked like water on the bottom of the canned jars making me think I screwed up and should toss them. The tomatoes are floating above the liquid but the lids are sealed fine. Did I not tighten the rings enough when canning and the water over the jars got into the canned tomatoes? Are they safe to eat?
    Thank you.
    “Canning Cluts”

    • The water in the bottom of your jars came from the tomatoes, not from the canning pot. You tightened your jars just fine. This happens and they are safe to eat.

  109. Many thanks, my first batch of tomato canning went fine, but the second batch had one can that sealed well, but had air bubbles – so I know that that one is ok.

    This was a very useful series of explanations!

  110. Hello! Thank you for making this very helpful website! I wondered if you could give me any advice- I have spent the afternoon/evening making tomato ketchup. It’s taken a lot longer than I anticipated (as usual), it is still thickening and reducing and I don’t think I’m going to have time to can it tonight. Is it ok to turn it off, cover and finish the thickening and processing tomorrow evening when I get home from work? Thank you, any help much appreciated!

  111. Help! This is driving me crazy! Lately we’ve been making home made tomato sauce out of our own canned tomatoes it looks fine in the jar and in the pot but when put over the pasta it separates and it’s just awful. I’ve gotten used to the taste but the seperation is just god awful.

  112. Hey, I’ve just sealed a bunch of whole peeled tomatos via your instructions with much success via my water bath, although one of the jars has air actively bubbling inside it, almost looks like it’s boiling inside the jar, it’s been an hour since I’ve taken it out of the water bath. What’s going on?

    P.s – love all your helpful information!

    • Give it a little more time because it sounds like those are cooling and settling bubbles. You really only need to be concerned about bubbles that move on their own after days or weeks, because they can be signs of fermentation. There’s no way that your tomatoes are fermenting an hour out of the canning pot.

  113. Hi, Hoping you can help. I canned 30 lbs of diced tomatoes last year, all jars sealed well. Our family enjoyed them for 1/2 the winter then one day I went to use a jar and the lid wasn’t sealed. Out of the eight or so jars left some where not sealed and all of them had a weird sweet smell. I packed the diced tomatoes cold into hot jars with lemon and salt, and processed them as per the ball recipe book in a water bath canner. I stored them in my pantry that is the same temperature as my home and it is not always dark. I would like to can tomatoes again but want to be sure where I made my mistakes so that my work is not wasted. Any help you can provide would be much appreciated. I have both your books and really enjoy them. Thank you for bringing this important skill into the modern age!


      • I checked out the link you sent and they recommended a much longer processing time for raw pack than I did. Maybe I will be brave and try again! Thanks for the link.

  114. I canned a batch of stewed tomatoes on Friday afternoon, I thought all the jars had popped, but when I came back home from a trip on Sunday afternoon, I realized one jar hadn’t sealed! The jars were kept in a cool, dry, dark place while I was gone, can I put this unsealed jar in the fridge and use it later or should I just toss it?

  115. I think I’ve done the dumbest thing ever. I have several ill family members and am always tired. My first time canning tomatoes, I fell asleep while my jars were boiling. Not 30 mins, but 3 hrs and half of the jars were exposed and the tomatos rose to the top in the jars with an inch or two of liquid in the bottom. I’m heartbroken. Are they ruined?

      • They did seal just fine. I am so exhausted as a caretaker and was making them for family. Like so many women here, canning tomatos for the first time and having a mishap is heartbreaking and can bring you to tears. Thank you for your rescue forum. I had no one to call and then found your site. I so much appreciate your rapid response. I learned a lot from all the posts. Thank you sooo much.

  116. I canned a batch of tomatoes; however, during the process, my stove broke down. The jars were only processed about 20 minutes but the jars have a good seal. Are they safe to use? Can I put them back and process for the remainder of the time with a sealed lid?

  117. HI – I canned tomatoes and read the instructions incorrectly and only had in boiling water for 25 minutes. The Jars sealed but I am worried I didn’t leave in the water long enough.
    What do you think I should do?

    • You have to use your own judgment here. Because you didn’t process your jars long enough, there is an increased chance in spoilage down the line. The chances of that happening are relatively slim, but present.

  118. I canned whole tomatoes yesterday…late at night. They all have a lot of liquid loss, even though I filled them with boiling water (with headspace of course) and added 2T lemon juice to the cans. Now when I try to re-can them, Should I combine jars or add more boiling water to make up for liquid loss? And I shouldn’t have to add more lemon juice right? I was just panning on reheating the contents, filling the jars. Adding a new lid and reprocess. Is that correct?

    • How much liquid did they lose? You probably don’t need to recan them. The texture is going to be really bad if you do.

      • I forgot to mention that my 4 jars in question also didn’t seal. So I have to do something. I’m trying to decide if I need to repack and reprocess (hot water bath) or should I just make a big batch of chili instead. I have 6 quarts that sealed. Although the sealed jars have also lost liquid. They’re probably ok since they sealed right? Even with the extra space at the top (about 1 inch more than usual) since they sealed those are probably safe I’d guess. It’s just the 4 that didn’t seal. Repack and reprocess? Or chili for dinner today?? 🙂

        • Ah, then you do need to do something with the jars that didn’t seal. The ones that did seal are safe. For the ones that didn’t seal, maybe make sauce with them and can that, so that the texture isn’t an issue.

          • Thank you!! I actually just threw 3 jars into quart bags, then tossed in in the freezer. I’ll dump them in chili sometime. And we had chili for dinner yesterday with the 4th jar.

            Love your site!

  119. I misread my recipe and didn’t boil my raw packed tomatoes long enough (45 vs 110 min). All of the jars sealed. Should I open them and redo the canning process?

  120. My question is what if my good tomatoes were sitting in a bucket with some rotten tomatoes, is it bad to can the good tomatoes still ?

  121. I processed tomato sauce last night and when I was in bed I realized I forgot to add the citric acid. I did add white wine while cooking the tomato sauce. Do I need to reprocess today adding the citric acid.

  122. This post was so helpful! I’m new to canning and I’m still somewhat nervous about getting everything right. The first time I canned whole tomatoes I used pretty big ones and everything turned out well. The second time I used smaller heirloom tomatoes. I think I have both tomato float and siphoning. Is that possible? The bottom inch of the jar is all liquid, the tomatoes seem to float, and the top inch of the jar is dry even though I was careful to leave 1/2 inch of headspace.

  123. I canned my stewed tomatoes in a pressure canner the same way I did for the last 6 years. I never had a problem until this time. Only four of the 20 jars sealed! I followed ALL directions to the letter. I thought I had a bad batch of seals until I realized that all the jars I had done in my water bath canner had sealed perfectly. I don’t know what happened, but now I have to determine what to do with these stewed tomatoes. Can I reprocess them? I reprocessed some spaghetti sauce last week that I had the same problems with and the sauce got VERY strong and bitter tasting. Will that happen to my stewed tomatoes too? Any other suggestions?

  124. I have some canned tomatoes I’d like to use (canned this summer, but not by me). They didn’t appear to have bubbles when I picked them up, but once I sat them on the counter, I saw bubbles around the top of the liquid. I will be using the sauce in a meal that my one year old son will be eating, so I’m nervous as to whether the canned tomatoes are safe to use. Thanks in advance!

    • Surface bubbles aren’t an issue. It’s only trouble if the jars have been sitting still and untouched for some time and there are bubbles that are still moving.

      • I canned raw tomatoes according to the Ball canning recipe. When quartering the tomatoes I scooped out a lot of the clear gel with seeds. I packed the jars full and removed air bubbles. I pressure canned them to be safe. When they were done and I removed them from the canner (most seemed to have ‘popped or sealed already in the canner) and they were cooling on the counter, the jars were full, tomatoes on top and liquid on bottom. Pretty quickly, I noticed air bubble rising to the top of the jar. About 2 hours later, I noticed the liquid on the bottom, solid tomatoes in the middle and about an 1-2 inches of air on top. No more air bubbles are rising. Are they safe? How will I know if they are not? Thank you.

        • They are totally safe. You’ll know that they’re not safe if the seals break or if the jars have been sitting along for a while and there are actively moving bubbles rising towards the top.

          • What about if you go to use a jar and open it up and the tomatoes come up over the jar and spill out and you see bubbles bubbling

            • That means that the tomatoes fermented and you shouldn’t eat them. Somehow, bacteria survived the canning process.

  125. I processed 8 lbs. of tomatoes for stewed tomatoes by blanching them and peeling them first. I stored the chopped tomatoes in my pantry overnight. I think the temp was between 40-50 degree. It felt pretty cool. The next day I didn’t get to the tomatoes u til around 3pm. By that time I notice a slight off Oder and some of the solids had floated to the top while the liquid was at the bottom. Also, when I put it in the pan to boil I noitce some bubbles. Not a lot but, enough to be concerned. I pressure canned the tomatoes for 15 mins at 10 lbs. of pressure (elevation under 1000) but, I’m thinking I should throw out the whole batch. It’s not worth getting sick over. If I did use them I would boilg them out of the jar for 10-20 minutes. Anyway, my question is would the pressure canning destroy the organisms of the beginning process of fermentation? I think commercial canning equipment goes to 250 d and home canning only goes to 240 which can’t destroy everything. Just wanted some other canners opinions. I do know the saying…when in doubt throw it out. lol

    • The pressure canning should have killed off any fermentation process. I don’t think these tomatoes will make you sick, but they may have developed some off flavors during their room temperature rest.

  126. Hi Marisa,

    Great article. My father is a seasoned tomato canner and has been for more than 50 years. He re-uses old jars from bought tomatoes, jams, jellies etc. Some top the jars he has used over and over for 10+ years and he’s never had a problem. This year I decided to join in and canned my own with his help. We water bath as my dad has always done.

    Here is the problem. I bought 200 brand new preserving jars and the supplier told me they were fine for what I was doing. So we sealed all the jars (we are burley men so I know we did them up tight!) We boiled them for about 1.5hrs And when we pulled them from the 44 gallon drum the old trusty jars were perfect…but the new jars were not so much. Out of the 200 new jars, more than half had filled with water and the lids had become loose. Even the good batch had slightly loose lids but not enough to let water in. I tightened up all of the lids on all 200 jars and the ones that had let water in have now expanded (lids not the jars) and are now sealed very tight. I have two questions. Is the purpose of water bathing to remove the air from the jar and making the jar airtight therefore preserving tomatoes? Now that water has got into the jars, they clearly weren’t airtight so does this mean there is a good chance the tomatoes will go rancid? I also have some of the jars that have a milky white looking substance at the bottom of the jar (on the inside of course). Would love to hear your take on this incident. We worked so hard to preserve 300 jars and now I’m really disappointed.

    • HI Dominick, I see Marisa didn’t have a chance to reply so I wanted to try to help you. I think ew need more information before we can try to answer your questions.

      First, I am concerned that the jars ‘filled with water’. There should only be about a half inch of head space (empty space) at the top of the jar after you fill it with product. If you are using a raw pack method, you need to fill the space around the fruit with water or tomato juice before you put the lids on.

      Second, whether you are using the two-piece lid system (a band and a lid) or a lug lid designed with a water-bath sealant, you should not crank the lids down tight. They should just be closed, not tightened (sometimes called fingertip tight.) This is because during the water bath the air in the headpace expands and escapes from the jar. Then when the jars cool, the air in the headspace contracts and pulls the lid down tight, creating an indentation in the plastisol sealant on the inside of the lid where it is pressed against the jar rim. This creates the seal. If the jar is too tight when it goes in the bath, the air can’t escape and the jars won’t seal properly.

      Someting to mention is that it is fine to re-use canning jars but you have to use a new lid each time so you have a fresh plastisol seal.

      Once you take the jars out of the bath, do NOT tighten the lids or otherwise mess with them. You risk breaking the seal. If you are using two-piece lids it is ok at this point to gently remove the bands, leaving the lids in place.

      When the lid is sealed properly, you can tell because the button is depressed. If the button pops up the jar is not sterile.

      If the white cloudy material appeared in the jars while they were in the canner, I can only guess. If it appeared later, it is probably mold and they should be discarded.

      One thing to mention, it is important to add a little citric acid into the bottom of each jar of tomatoes because some tomatoes are not acidic enough to keep botulism from growing, and the hot water bath isn’t hot enough to kill botulism. See this FDA page:

      It has been a while since you asked so hopefully you already figured out what to do. In the future, if your jars don’t seal properly, you can put new clean lids and bands on them and re-process them. Do this the same day before the product has a chance to cool down or to spoil.

  127. Hi Marisa,
    Thanks for the great information. I found your pictures of canned products especially helpful as mine were looking exactly the same. So much easier when great pics explain it all!
    Glad to know all my hard work isn’t going to result in throwing them out to the chickens.
    Sue – Townsville Austrailia

  128. I canned some tomatoes in 2013 and the seal on the jar is still good. Noticed in one jar that some the tomato seeds are now dark, they weren’t when I canned them. That did not occur with my other jars, have the tomatoes gone bad somehow?

  129. Very helpful article. Thank you. I have a question. I have been told not to transport my jars of tomatoes for several days after canning. For years I have carefully placed the jars in crates and not moved them from the kitchen into the cellar for several days. Is this a myth or true? This year I have an opportunity to use an industrial kitchen for canning, but am concerned about transporting them in my vehicle while they are still warm.

    • That’s a myth. You just don’t want to move them while they’re hot and the seals are still forming. Once the seals have formed and the lids have cooled a bit, they are fine to transport.

  130. We did a standard 7-jar canning of tomatoes and were 1″ shy of filling the last quart jar. We processed it the same as the others and it sealed with a click just perfectly. Normally we put anything that’s “out-of-processing-limits” in the fridge – and use it first – to eliminate the possibility of spoilage but this time I want to question why, if the seal made and the process was followed in every other respect, the air gap rules don’t allow for this much air gap. What are the risks of leaving too much air in the jar? Thank you in advance.

    • There are a couple issues around leaving too much headspace. The first is that during the processing time, a jar typically vents all of its air. This venting voids the jar of air that can carry microorganisms and thus helps prevent spoilage and possible surface oxidation during storage. This venting is also what leads to the formation of the seal during the cooling phase. If you process a jar with too much headspace, the risk of spoilage and oxidation increases.

      Second is the fact that if you have too much headspace in a jar, there is a possibility that it will float in the canning pot. Admittedly, this only happens when you’ve left far more headspace than you did. But floating jars often end up breaking during the canning process, as the boiling water buffets them around the pot.

      Since you only have a bit more headspace than is called for, I think your jar will probably be fine and entirely shelf stable for some time to come!

  131. Canned tomatoes in their own juices. I water bathed some for 45 minutes and pressure canned some for 25 minutes. I have since read that if I cold pack slices in jars in their own juices I should water bath for 85 minutes. Only read this in one article. Is it ok that I only processed for 45 minutes in water bath canner?

      • So, The jars that I just canned with tomatoes had about half natural tomato juices and half water. I did also add lemon juice according to that same website. As long as it’s not all natural juices, am I fine boiling for 45 minutes?

        • Yes. You’re really just trying to break up the density of the tomatoes with the water. There’s always a little bit of natural tomato juice that gets in there.

  132. I’m in the process of making tomato juice with a juicer and the tomato and water are separating on raw juice.

  133. I have a question for anyone who can answer for me. I am a new canner and I am learning so please be nice and remember when you were once new.
    Here is my question. I was told it was okay to can my tomatoes in a regular pot. She said she has done it for years this way. I did this, I have been reading online and see this is not the best thing to do. I need to know if the jars I have already done are okay to use or if I should toss them? They all have sealed. Very limited amount of bubbles, color looks great. How do I know if they are okay to eat? I have been checking them daily to make sure they have stayed sealed. Also will mention I did add salt and lemon and processed correct amount of time.
    Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
    I now understand this is wrong, But is it so wrong I ruined 12 quarts of tomatoes.
    Thank you

    • Tell me more about what you did. You can certainly use a regular pot as a boiling water bath canner. Were the jars fully submerged in the water? And how long did you process the jars?

  134. I’m preparing to can some san marzano and other plum tomatoes from my garden in a couple of weeks. I have a Wolf steam convection oven with a setting for preserving jam that I’ve used for jams and chutneys and am wondering if I can use this setting (it steams for 1/2 hour) to successfully process tomatoes. If it’s a matter of the length of time, I could always run the program twice. Do you have any thoughts on whether this ‘steam’ method is safe?

  135. I just removed my jars of tomatoes that I water bathed for 85 minutes. I noticed that a little tomato escaped from the jars because its’ on the cloth they are cooling on. I’m absolutely certain I cleaned the rim of the jar prior to placing on the scalded lid/rings. There is a little tomato residue in the pot of water I used to process them. is this normal as long as they seal when cooling?

    • I have canned 32 jars of tomatoes now. And only 6 have sealed.
      I have followed the directions perfectly.
      The reason that so many jars have not sealed, is because the tomatoes boil out of the jar into the water bath.
      I have no idea how to prevent this from happening.
      So frustrating. 🙁

      • Carol, it sounds like perhaps you’re not removing the air bubbles from the jars thoroughly enough. What technique or recipe are you following?

  136. Can you reuse lids as long as they aren’t damaged or pierced? I was worried that they wouldn’t seal more than one time.

    • You are never supposed to reuse lids. The sealing compound doesn’t have the strength and flexibility to give you a good seal more than once.

  137. I just pressure canned a bushel of tomatoes 2 days ago and just removed the band’s. I noticed the rims of all my jars have tomatoes residue on them which I’m sure means there’s tomato sauce between the lid and rim of the jar. The jars are sealed tight though. No lids are clicking. Are they still good even though it’s obvious tomato sauce has managed to escape?

    • That is fine. As I mentioned in this post, some liquid loss during canning is totally normal, provided that the jars still seal.

  138. I canned whole tomatoes raw packed in water for the first time and had a question on color. I processed the tomatoes (straight from the garden!) for 45 minutes and added lemon juice before processing. The color of my tomatoes is not the beautiful deep red color, but rather a orangey/ light red color. I also recently canned salsa with similar results in color. Are the tomatoes safe? And is there are reason they did not become deep red while processing?

    • There’s nothing about the canning process that should turn your tomatoes red. They are whatever color they are. As long as you added the proper amount of acid and processed them for the correct amount of time, they are safe.

  139. I processed my tomatoes in their own juice and misunderstood the timing thinking the raw pack with water was the time to use so I only processed for 45 to 50 minutes. They sealed okay so are they okay to use?

    • As long as you put the proper amount of acid in them, they’re not going to become unsafe. The shorter processing time does mean that they have a higher risk of spoilage, though.

    • It’s not a great idea. When you heat, cool, and then heat tomatoes, you break down their pectin and they end up separating. You get jars that are half pulp and half water when you do it that way.

  140. I have never had this happen to me befour,I did a water bath added my salt lemon juice took out air bubbles clean rims,when they were done I ended up with about an inch of white at the bottom of my canned tomatoe jar,
    Is this ok why would it do that? please help I don’t want to get sick.

  141. Is there a danger in overprocessing tomato sauce? My gas grill burner went out during processing so I processed them 85 minutes after return to boiling.

    • If the seals went bad after nine days, you’re probably experiencing some spoilage. There’s really nothing you can do at this point.

  142. HI I have a questions. I just started canning this month with our garden tomatoes. Everything online is stressing me out about bacteria and botulisum. My neighbor taught me to can stewed tomoatoes (diced tomatoes, green peppers, onions and salt with some lemon juice) then process in a water bath. Theyturned out lovely.. water on the bottom a few inches and tomatoes all up to the lid nicely packed. After reading online and getting worried my sis in law showed me how to use a pressure cooker. They tomatoes did not turn out the same at all… they all have a huge headspace gap with some water on the bottom and some just having no liquid at all at the top. Should I be worried? Also, is it ok to do water bath for tomatoes because it is way easier and I prefer it but worry that it needs teh pressure cooking?? please advise thanks

  143. So appreciating your generosity with answering so many questions! Here’s mine: every time I’ve canned tomatoes, I’ve ended up with about 1.5-2 inches of liquid at the bottom of the jar. I understand that’s not a problem, but I see your photos and it’s clearly possible to end up with a jar that’s perhaps MORE full of tomatoes. Is there anything I can do to try to eliminate some of the air bubbles in advance? Looking at the 3 lovely pints I did last night, I’m wishing there was one more tomato in each jar–but last night, as I filled the jars, they really seemed stuff to the brim with tomatoes. ANy advice? Or should I just live with my 2 inch floaters?

  144. First time to can tomatoes using water bath. I packed tomatoes(uncooked) added salt& lemon juice and brought to a boil then boiled for 20 mins. Found this site and saw where they were cooked much longer. Mine are sealed and beautiful – do you think they are okay?

  145. Can you tell me, I canned some salsa last year and do not like the consistency, the taste is good. Can I empty those jars into a pan and add more chunks of tomatoes and reprocess?

    • Salsas are carefully balanced for safety. It would not be safe to add additional tomato at this point. You could open the salsa, cook it down, and then recan it. But I’d probably just drain or puree each jar upon opening, rather than remake the whole batch.

  146. I peeled tomatoes and put them in a stainless steel pot (ordinary stainless not 18/10). After 1 or 2 hrs i transferred them to another container as was chopping them. When all the tomatoes were transferred there was about 1 or 2 inches liquid on the bottom of stainless steel pan. Half an hour later when i took the pan to wash i noticed the tomato water had turned into a gelatine like substance. I do not know what that is., Are those tomatoes safe to can nd eat?

  147. I have been canning tomatoes for 45 years and have never had a problem. I cut and put thru my kitchen aid juicer, cook tomatoes and place in hot sterile jars add one teaspoon of kosher salt place lids and process for 30 miniutes. Last year because of the acid concern I added citric acid. It tasted terrible and I through out my meatballs and sauce. This year I did my old way and now I am worried. Could I place the seal processed jars in the refrigerator not enough space to place in the freezer?

  148. Hi i have just started to learn how to do tomatoes the video i watch told me to peel cut in half and water bath for 50 minutes in jars . It sealed but there are alot of bubbles that move freely. Plz help are good to store for winter use ?

  149. Thank you for a wonderful page Marissa. While canning some Roma tomatoes, I had to stop canning for about four hours. The jars had been washed in the dishwasher and the crushed tomatoes were in a large pot on the stove. When I returned, I reheated the crushed tomatoes on the stovetop and brought them back to a boil, but forgot to consider that the jars in the dishwasher had cooled. Dishwasher was not opened, so no exposure, but I canned directly into room temp but sterile jars. Cleaned the rims, added lemon juice concentrate, and water bath processed for required time. Will everything be OK even though the jars were room temp and I had to reheat the tomatoes? Thank you

    • As long as the jars didn’t crack, all is well. Your tomatoes may end up separating a little since you heated, cooled, and heated them again. But as long as the processing step went off without a hitch, all is well.

  150. I have just canned salsa for the first time and my head is ovèr a 1/2 inch. The jars did seal. Is the salsa still safe to eat?

  151. I peeled and quartered about 30 lbs of tomatoes Monday, ran out of time so I refrigerated them in a large, sealed bowl. It’s Wednesday…is it safe to raw pack and process them or did I miss my chance?

  152. I have a question, I made 7 quarts of tomato sauce last night, woke up and realized I forgot the lemon juice! is it ok for me to open them up today, reheat the sauce and then reprocess them after adding the lemon juice?

  153. I have a question, I made some chili sauce last week and now I am seeing these little white looking “spores”? on the side of the jars.
    not sure if that is what it is. I am just worried because I don’t know if it is spoiled.

  154. I canned tomatoes using the hot water bath method, the lids on each jar are pushed up in the middle as if there is too much pressure built up in the jar. What would have caused this?

    • If the lids are pushed up in the middle rather than being concave, the contents of the jars are spoiling and should be discarded.

  155. I canned a bushel of tomatoes a week ago, checked the lids the next day and reprocessed the few that weren’t sealed, as I’ve done for years. Today, my husband heard a tiny hissing sound walking past the pantry, and noticed some jars (while still appearing to be sealed) were leaking. 🙁 I have gone through and rechecked all of them to make sure the remainder have a firm seal, but am unsure about the safety of the others. Can I stick in the fridge for quick consumption or make them into a sauce to can? And do I need to do anything with the jars that seem ok? Obviously, I don’t want to do something stupid, but I hate having to pitch anything that I could salvage.

    • If the jars are leaking, they are spoiling and shouldn’t eaten. I’m not sure what you should do with the rest of the batch besides keep an eye on them.

  156. Just canned 38 quart of spaghetti sauce and part of them have pinkish bubbles on top when I took them out of canner. I’ve never seen this before. Lids are sealed. Wouldn’t think they start spoiling before I set them on the counter. What do you think?

  157. I have some canned roasted garlic tomato sauce that I canned two years ago. I’ve opened 4 of the 8 jars and all so far have very small amount of orange foam on the top. Not a lot but a little bit on all of them? Is this normal and / or safe to eat still? Thanks!

    • Was it properly acidified? Were you following a recipe from a tested source? Did you can it for the proper amount of time? Then it’s probably fine.

  158. Marisa–I hate to admit that I did this but here goes–I had done everything your supposed to do to can cold pack tomatoes. I had rapid boiled for 85 minutes (it was late in the evening) thought I would wait a couple of minutes before lifting my rack to sit my canned tomatoes on the edge of the water bath pot. Well as you probably can guess I fell asleep and the tomatoes was still completely submerged still in the water bath pot. They was cool to the touch had apparently been submerged for 6 to 7 hours. All the can tomatoes are sealed. Are these going to be good to eat? Has anyone ever done this before. Help I’m really concerned about this.

  159. Hi: I made tomato sauce at the end of September. When I opened the jar at the bottom was a milky substance. The sauce did smell different then the other ones (not necessarily bad but very different). I threw it out. Any Idea why this happened?

    Thanks so much

  160. I have solved the problem by cooking my tomatoes for a few hours on a really low flame (gas range) and reducing the tomatoes down. You can always add the water back if need be. I cook the tomatoes down by almost half before canning. I use my home canned tomatoes for chili and pasta sauce, so it works for me.

  161. I have canned tomato salsa & forgot to hot bath afterwards. I don’t use a pressure canner But didn’t think anything of it until I realized I hadn’t heard the popping sound like I did when I canned my juice two days after. I’ve checked lids & they seem to be sealed but I’m worried about it. How can I tell if salsa is good when I open jars.

  162. I just finished canning some jalapenos and two of the lids came out with a small crease on the edge by the ring. Doesn’t look as though there is any liquid loss and it seems the lid is concaved. Have you experienced this and do you have any suggestions? I haven’t removed the ring yet as they’ve only been out of the canner for a couple of hours.

  163. So I just canned 7 quarts of tomato sauce, and like another reader, forgot to add the lemon juice. I was planning on reprocessing them with the lemon juice, but decided to call the Ball help line to ask just in case, and they said they cannot be reprocessed, why would this be? I’m seeing a lot of sources, including you, say you can. What should I do? I my kids (1 and 3) eat this sauce so I want to make sure it’s safe!

    • What they probably meant is that you can’t reprocess the full jars. You need to open up the jars, reheat the sauce, add the proper amount of lemon juice to the jars, fill them with the sauce, and then reprocess it.

      • Thank you! That’s what I’m going to do. How many tablespoons would you use? I have seen recipes that call for 1 and recipes that call for 2. I put one in my second batch, and have done in the past with no problem. Thanks again!

  164. I am raw packing tomatoes. I have them all in jars with lids and rings in place waiting to go into the pressure cooker. I noticed the table under the tomatoes was wet and upon inspection have found that the tomatoes are foaming/frothing and spilling out of the closed jars. What is going on? Is this normal? Is it okay to go ahead and process the tomatoes in the pressure cooker after cleaning the lip of the jar, lids and rings?

  165. I’m trying to understand and make sure I am canning properly but every recipe I read is different. First thing is I read to process my salsa for 45 minutes but the lids were popping when I opened the lid to check on them, so I only had them in the water bath for 25 minutes as soon as I pulled my rack up the lids all popped , is my salsa going to b ok. Also when I boiled my recipe I didn’t remove the red film is that ok?

    • You never stop a boiling water bath process in the middle to check the jars. Of course they will seal. The process isn’t just about getting the jars to seal. It’s also about proper heat penetration and sterilization. Once the process starts, you leave the jars in until the timer rings. Because you shortened the processing time, those jars now have a much higher risk of spoilage. And what red film?

  166. I have just canned some tomatoes , first timer and I am doing pint size jars. I was under the impression when reading that pints water bath for 35 min? is that not correct o did i miss something? i added salt and citric acid i just want to make sure as i saw in a comment to water bath for 85 min?
    thank you

  167. I have read that you can do a water bath or pressure cook whole tomatoes is that correct? I ended up pressure cooking my tomatoes for 25 min once desired pressure was reached. Will my tomatoes be safe to eat?

  168. Hi, this is my first time canning anything and I have started with Roma tomatoes. My question is in regards to the processing time. Do you include the amount of time it takes the water to boil in the 45 minutes or is it 45 minutes once the water comes to a boil? Thank you for your time.

  169. I just pressured canned 24 quart jars of quarted tomatoes using a regular pressure cooker. I am not sure of the pounds of pressure. It is a Fagor and has a 1 or 2 dial. After it came up to pressure on the 1 setting I cooked for 20 minutes then I read I could pressure cook for 15 minutes. I kosher salted 1 t. with 2 T. Lemon juice in each as well. I did the last batch 15 minutes now I am worried that 15 minutes was not long enough. All sealed well. Is 15 minutes okay pressure canned. Thanks.

  170. I pressure canned 30 pounds of tomatoes in 1 quart jars for twenty minutes at 11 pounds of pressure. This is my first time doing this. Was twenty minutes long enough? I don’t want to kill anyone. I packed them raw and removed all the bubbles like I was supposed to do, and they look kinda beautiful. But I noticed a they were water on the bottom and floating. I shook them around to mix them, not all but some before I came to my senses and resisted doing the rest. Are they okay to eat? Should I boil them in a pot for another 20 minutes before I make pasta sauce? I had enough sense to add lemon juice and salt before i pressure canned them.

  171. I realize that I processed my pint jars of tomatoes for only 15 minutes from boiling point two days ago. Can I open them and reseal?

  172. Hi! I water bath canned some lilikoi (passion fruit) curd and by the next morning it was starting to separate into a thing layer of water on the bottom and the solids on top. I know this is quite different from tomato sauce, but could this be something similar to the sauce separation issue?

    • I don’t believe that passion fruit curd is high enough in acid to be safely canning in a water bath canner. Generally, curds don’t do well in a water bath. They tend to curdle.

  173. I have been canning for 40+ years with both the water bath method & pressure canning without any problems. Today I used my new pressure canner for the first time when processing my cold pack whole tomatoes. When I opened the canner I saw that on one jar both the lid and ring were completely off & there was a giant tomato mess everywhere. The other 6 quart jars sealed perfectly, although they were covered in tomatoes from the open jar. Any idea what caused the lid & ring to fly off?

    Thank you for this great site. Best practical information I have ever come across.

    • That happens occasionally when you haven’t tightened the rings tightly enough. You need to exert a little more force than with boiling water bath canning.

  174. I had canned 4 quart jars from my first harvest of our tomato plants. They were sealed, I thought, and put down cellar to be stored. About 4 days later i noticed some water under the jars. I picked them up and turned them up side down and more water came out. I checked the seals and they were loose. I tasted the contents of each and it did taste okay and there was no smell. However after reheating and sealing them again, I noticed that the liquid part that separated from the solids is cloudy. I have done several more quarts and all of those have clear liquid. Are these 4 quarts spoiled?

  175. Help, we have always timed the boiling/processing time, it would go off, we turn everything off, then raise the rack/jars carefully and put them on the wire rack to cool. Tonight, the timer went off, I turned off the stove and took off the lid and was going to have my husband help me lift out the rack and jars. We got distracted, the jars sat in the canner for like 25 minutes, the water cooled of course…. is this OK? Just making pints of stewed tomatoes..

  176. Your post is wonderful. I will subscribe. If you answer me how do I find this answer? Do I come back to this website and look for it or will you email me. I am new to canning tomatoes, I haven’t had any issues. My issue is I use Romas and Marzano‘s and I have tons of liquid left over. I fill the jars with crushed tomatoes and the liquid from the tomatoes in the pot. Hot packed whole tomatoes, and crushed tomatoes and both batches left me with well over 6 quarts each of tomato liquid after canning. Is this normal? I haven’t seen this question anywhere and I’ve been searching. Why do I have so much liquid? And since I’ve already boiled it to process tomatoes is it safe for me just go ahead and Can as tomato juice? Second question would be if I canned as tomato juice with citric acid in it can I use tomato juice as a liquid canning future tomatoes

  177. My question is when I cooked spaghetti sauce some of the cans had the sauce siphon out onto the exterior of the jar and you could tell sauce was underneath liid but the seal held, should I be concerned, or will it be safe

  178. I have been having problems with a lot of siphoning when I do my whole tomatos. I never use to have a problem and it seems to be a waste. You mentioned bubbling above…can you please explain that to me and if it helps. I was taught to cold pack them for 55 minutes but the local extention service advises 95 minutes so I changed to that time. Everything else that I bottle is fine. Thank you for any help that you can offer.

    • Bubbling your jars means to use a chopstick, plastic knife, or bubbling tool to remove the trapped air bubbles from your jars before processing. However, I think the issue is really the increased processing time. To reduce the siphoning, I suggest that when the processing time is up, you remove the lid from the canner and turn off the heat. Let the jars cool slowly in the pot for 10-15 minutes. This slower cooling process will reduce the amount of liquid that siphons from your jars.

  179. Hello, I so appreciate your time and kindness creating this helpful blog. I have read through most of the responses of the last five years, and I think you actually answered my question with your first, and the photo of various results of your own canning. But just to be sure….

    I just finished canning four quarts of tomatoes. I squished them into the jars but still, after cooking in a water bath, there is a very large head space, at least two inches in each jar, as the tomatoes dehydrated a bit during cooking. The tomatoes are san marzanos. I have one jar left to go.

    Will the tomatoes in the jars turn brown? Spoil? Should I open and repack them together, more tightly, creating less jars of them and recook? Thank you so very much.

    • Just leave them. You may experience some discoloration on the surface, but as long as the jars are sealed, they will be good.

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