Tomato Canning Correction

September 23, 2009(updated on October 3, 2018)

Okay kids, it looks like I’ve made a mistake about the processing time for the tomatoes. Commenter Maia pointed it out to me and when I double-checked my documentation, I discovered she was right. When you pack whole tomatoes in their own juice like I’ve done in the post below, safety regulations say that you must process them for 85 minutes. Tomatoes packed in water get processed for 40/45 minutes.

I’ve adjusted the post below accordingly, so make sure to update your recipes or alter your pack method to whole tomatoes in water. I apologize for the error!

Happy canning!

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24 thoughts on "Tomato Canning Correction"

  • I am one of those why people…. Is the difference between juice and water processing times that you’d add boiling water?

  • Christie, I don’t know exactly why it is that you have to process your tomatoes for so much longer when you pack them in their own juices. My guess is that it is because the tomato juice is denser than water, they’ve accounted for that.

  • The nervousness in general around canning tomatoes is interesting to me. I wonder what the stories are, and if there was one year of the great tomato sickness in the 1940s or something. But thanks for the clarification. 🙂

  • Lelo, I don’t particularly understand the nervousness around tomato canning and I personally think that 85 minutes in a boiling water canner is an insane amount of time, but I don’t want to be misguiding people, thus the correction.

  • Actually, there was a great sickness from a whole bunch of canned goods back in the 70s when it got really trendy. And I expect another one any time time because it is once again trendy, and people are not doing the proper reading before getting into it.

    The mistake made here is one reason I never list processing times on my website, and one reason why I ALWAYS re-read the appropriate material in my book at the beginning of every canning season.

    You should NEVER trust a website like this one or like mine. Or your granny for that matter.

  • Okay, so if I processed them for 45 minutes two days ago and shelved them, could I just pop them back in for another 40 minutes and call it good? Or would I need to re-process them for the full 85 minutes?

  • wondering what to do….my first time canning broiled tomatoes and peppers and i put 1tbl. per quart instead of 2 and only processed in water bath for 30min. do i need to throw it all out???

  • My understanding is that the tomatoes packed in their own juice are usually heated through on the stove, then packed hot into jars. True raw-pack tomatoes are put into the jars at room temp, so they take longer to get up to boiling inside the jars.

  • The USDA guide says that you can steam process some types of canned tomatoes. You have a pressure canner, so I was wondering how you feel about canning tomatoes in it? I’m considering picking one up myself.

    80 minutes of processing sounds like a big amount of time to monopolize a burner on the stove, so it seems like about 15 minutes in a pressure canner would be more convenient and also easier on the tomatoes.

  • I have my grandmothers Kerr Home Canning Book – from 1955. Out of curiousity – I looked up the tomato processing time. It makes absolutely no distcintion between sauce, water packed, juice packed – pretty much any type of tomatoes – the 1955 book says to process for 35 minutes. The only exception is tomato juice – which they say you only have to process for 10 minutes. The only difference I see with the tomato juice is that they ask you to boil it before packing.

    Obviously this info comes from guidelines from 50+ years ago, and is no longer USDA approved. But it does make me wonder – since I use this 1955 book as my “canning bible” – I wonder how much canning that I do no longer meets USDA approval.

  • I am just getting into canning, and like your first commenter, am a little fascinated by the “why” questions of it. My first instinct was that because the Ph of tomato juice is acidic, and much more acidic than neutral water, tomatoes packed in juice should be safer than those packed in water. But I suppose it has more to do with the time to heating. But now I’m wondering if it has to do with the point at which those liquids boil or something?

    A great mystery.

    Anyway, thanks for the excellent blog! The step by step pictures are so helpful to beginners.

  • Hi! I just started to have an interest in canning and pickling recently, and this blog has been a great help! I was intrigued by the great tomato debate, and I found this information from the Univ. of Minnesota on the increased processing times:

    “Some new tomato varieties are more solid or have less liquid. It thus take longer to transfer heat to the coldest point in the jar and kill the microorganisms present.”

    Happy canning!

  • I recently had a discussion with my friend about the processing time of tomatoes in their own juice. She was quite insistent that my pints should only process for 45 min. And that would be the reason I’m having trouble getting my jars to seal. I have adequate headspace, wiped the rims diligently, and processed them according to Ball’s 100th anniversary ed. But about 1/4 of my jars don’t seal.
    I’m pretty certain that processing time has nothing to do with it. Thoughts?

  • Followed your instructions (all of them), when the 85 mins. was met, removed jars from water and noticed water was red tinged and as I set jars of dish towed, noticed there was tomato juice on outside of jar. As they cooled and had all sealed, I thought I was home safe with a successful batch of whole canned tomatoes. WRONG! The liquid in every jar was only 2/3 to 3/4 still there. Apparently the liquid in the jar was now floating in the canner. Can I save all those beautiful tomatoes by turning them into tomato sauce? How do I adjust time needed for processing since they’ve already gone through it once?

    1. As long as the seals are good, your tomatoes are still fine and safe. You experienced some siphoning. It comes from not getting all the air pockets out of the jars.

  • I cold packed my tomatoes in their own juice and processed them for 40 minutes. Do you think that they are still safe to eat if I use them in cooking soups, etc? All my jars sealed

    1. As long as you acidified them properly, they are safe so long as the seals are good. However, keep an eye on those jars, as they will have a higher risk of mold/fermentation.

  • I just don’t understand why you have to cook the tomatoes double time in their own juice. My complaint is that they cook to nothing. You don’t even have a recognizable tomato left in the jar. Disappointing.

  • I cooked my tomatoes for 15 to 20 minutes but I only processed them for 10 to 15 minutes in hot water bath will my tomatoes still be good because they all sealed.

  • hello, I heated my tomato juice to almost a boil, put it in clean quart size hot sterile jars, processed them in a boiling water bath for 35 min. I miss read and 40 to 45 was the recipe. if I didn’t go 40 minutes is this something I should be concerned about? The water was pretty hot when I put it in the canner the lids were hot. I feel it would be ok? Has anyone else hd this happen?