Canning Whole Peeled Tomatoes

September 22, 2009(updated on October 3, 2018)

pile of tomatoes

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

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


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


A cored tomato. Seriously easy.


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


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


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


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

filling jars

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

smashing tomatoes

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

full jar

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

2 tablespoon measure

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

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

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

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

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166 thoughts on "Canning Whole Peeled Tomatoes"

  • Great step by step breakdown. I wish I had seen your technique earlier in the month when I was looking for different things to do with the tomato glut.

    Thanks for the great site!

  • Oh, nice. I’ll remember that next year and plant an extra tomato plant or two.

    I’d given up on home-canned tomatoes ever since I tried a friend’s mom’s jars and found that they tasted too much of vinegar and weren’t as pleasant as the cans I could buy in the store.

    But if you are acidifying completely with lemon juice instead of vinegar, I am tempted once more.

    Thank you.

  • So all of the literature I’ve found says to process for 85 minutes with this method. Why is your processing time so short?

    I just canned tomatoes a couple of weeks ago using your same technique and processed them for the full 85 minutes recommended by the Ball book and on various websites… I’d love to have had a shorter processing time!

  • Hi there, lovely tomatoes πŸ™‚ I did 20 quarts of sauce and 9 quarts stewed which brings me to a totoal of 29 stewed and 20 sauce, I still have anothe 25 sauce to go and another 10 pints of salsa and then I am officially TOMATOED OUT!

    I’ve been posting a bit about my canning and also keeping a list of my yearly canning goals on my blog….come for a visit πŸ™‚

  • Hi! I’m new to your blog (through Ree) and I’m really enjoying your beautiful site! My family has “put up” in a variety of ways for generations, and just in the last few years have I started doing this in earnest myself. I’ve found that there is simply nothing better than opening a home-canned quart of tomatoes in February – it’s like a time-warp back to August!

    I’m curious to know, though, if you ever do any pressure canning. I do some hot water bath, but mostly I do pressure. I really appreciate that I can get through a couple canners full of jars in one evening after work during the week and still have some down time.

    Thanks for your great step-by-steps, and for all the great ideas!

  • Since I grow my own tomatoes, it takes a while to get enough for me to make a big enough batch of sauce to can. As my romas ripen, I just pop them into a ziploc freezer bag. When it comes time to make sauce, I take the bags out of the freezer – as the tomatoes thaw, the skins pop right off.

    Unfortuneately this year has been a bust for my tomatoes. They just aren’t ripening. I think I’ve gotten a dozen total red tomatoes – and that’s from 8 plants. Next week I’ll be desperately looking for ideas for green tomatoes!

  • Hi, I canned 25 lbs last night and only processed the tomatoes for 40 minutes based upon your instructions in canning class. What would you do with the tomatoes in this situation? Thanks for any thoughts you have to share.

  • Hi, I love your site. I am new to canning, and have recently learned how important it is to have the freshest produce. Otherwise you end up with a jar of mushy gunk! So, I was wondering if with tomatoes that is quite so important. We don’t have much fridge space as we share the house with another family.

  • Amanda, I’ve been canning tomatoes for several years now just as Marisa described and always used the water bath for 45 minutes for whole tomatoes (also my favorite way to can tomatoes – so simple, so versatile). I’ve never had a problem with a jar spoiling.
    I do think home preservers need to be careful, but I think the Ball book and other officials get a little over the top. My mom raised me on home canned applesauce that she canned using the open kettle method. And all my cousins – 30 of them! – were raised the same way. I actually do water bath my applesauce now, but I do wonder: how could it have been safe for us back then? What changed??
    heh. I guess I’m getting off subject, but I would be interested to hear what other experienced canners say. . .

    1. I asked my extension office the same question while getting my pressure lid tested. It is my understanding that the tomatoes of years ago (like the 1950 Ball book I adore) were much higher in acid than the varieties of today thus needing more acid added. I have also always added a teaspoon of sugar and a 1/2 teasp of salt into each jar. It all dissolves in the processing.
      I have my work cut out doing pickles. green and pears this week and tomatoes, and carrots next week Oh and not to forget applesauce too !!

  • Daisy Mae, I had the same problem!! I’ve heard you can wrap green tomatoes in newspaper and then, around Christmas, check on them. They should be completely ripe. My husband says the old-timers call these “Christmas tomatoes.” I might have to try it since I have so many green ones and don’t feel like frying them.

  • Margo: I think the thing is that the new food methods are meant to be more failsafe. The thing is that in home canning, recipes and canning methods take many precautions to make sure that spoilage does not occur. For example, jam is loaded with sugar, acidic, sterilized in boiling water and sealed. Just two or three of the above would be enough to stop most pathogens, so even if someone does something wrong or uses a flawed method, chances are they will still be okay.

    Canning with paraffin has fallen out of style not because of a rash of food-borne illness, but because food scientists had found that the wax had microscopic perforations in it that could, in theory, allow germs to get in. The fact it was mainly used on jams and jellies meant that they weren’t high risk in the first place. However, everyone makes mistakes, and it’s good to defend against the worst case scenario. Thus, the modern system pretty much only advocates using mason jars.

  • Tim M, thanks, that was interesting. I would like to see more people who understand canning like that. Instead, friends of mine who want to can panic over getting ever detail straight. So maybe if people understood the biology and physics behind it, they would be more confident. I know canning intuitively from watching my mother, aunts, and grandmothers, but still, I like knowing the reasons why it’s done that way.
    For example, I never bother to water bath things with vinegar in them. I just use the open kettle method (gasp).

  • I’ll have to try the lemon juice method, as the jars I’ve canned with citric acid(per BBB instructions) tasted too tart!

  • I recently took pictures of my tomato canning planning to do an instructional blog post like this, but your pictures are so much prettier than mine! πŸ™‚

    I use citric acid instead of lemon juice or vinegar. I have not found a tart taste… I just taste the tomatoes! I prefer this over adding a lemony taste, besides which, most bottled lemon juice has added sulfites.

    I hadn’t thought of scoring the tomato BEFORE blanching. That’s a great idea.

    And your Romas must be huge to only get 6 into a quart! I have a lot of little Romas from the Farmer’s Market, but even my home-grown ones which are larger, aren’t big enough to get 6 into a quart!

    I’ve been ripening green tomatoes indoors this year, I just have them sitting out in a big bowl, and they’re ripening beautifully. I also have a couple whole plants hung upside down in a closet, also ripening beautifully. It almost doesn’t seem to matter what I do with them, they ripen beautifully heh πŸ™‚

  • I’m bummed. It must be cold in here or I need to work faster next time. I peeled and packed six pints of red and yellow tomatoes from my garden. As soon as I put them in the canner, two jars broke. Wah! They must have cooled down quite a lot and the boiling water was just too much. So much work, literally down the drain.

    I just cleaned the mess up and refilled the canner. I put the four remaining jars in to heat up with the water. Then, another 85 minutes plus extra for altitude. This is going to be awhile…

    Just wanted to share to vent πŸ˜‰ and to warn others not to let the tomatoes cool too much.

  • I have always processed my tomatoes in boiling water for 40 minutes (pint jars). I have never had a problem. I purused around the internet for a few minutes, and many sites recommend the 40 minute time as well.

    Gorgeous blog! Thanks for the inspiration.

  • I am so glad I canned as many tomatoes as I did. I am starting to use my canned tomatoes and can’t believe the incredible fresh-tomato smell when I open up a jar. We will be planting more tomatoes next year just for more canning tomatoes.

  • I know this is late for a comment…. I bookmarked this last year and just tried my first batch of canned tomatoes following this method. After processing for the full 85 minutes, the tomatoes seem to have separated from the juices; the bottom 2 inches or so of each jar look like water and the tomatoes have floated to the top. Is this normal? Perhaps you have some suggestions on how to prevent this separation from happening?

  • I’m puzzled by the time difference, as well–I am doing halved tomatoes but my second round over-blanched as I was worrying about something else; unlike my first batch, these were softer and oozed out juice as I crammed them in the jar. I still topped them with hot water and used my butter knife to remove air bubbles and move the water through. Does that make these juice-packed and in need of an 85 minute bath? Or are they still water-packed and get 40? Or do I just split the difference? Aye.

    As for your question, Leslie, the pick your own website says this:

    What about the reverse: liquid at the bottom and solids at the top? That indicates too much preheating (more than 5 minutes). Pectin breaks down when it is overheated; then separation results. If separation occurs, just shake the jar before opening or decant the water off.

    References: Ohio State University

    Mine did the same thing. I’m not going to sweat it!

  • I am new at canning. This is the best instructions I have found on the internet. It is a shame there was no printer friendly app.

  • I have a question I hope you can answer, I am new at canning, this being my first year. I have made 2 batches of salsa, my first one turned out great (made 2-weeks ago), I though my second one did as well (made 1 week ago) until I opend a jar last night and it did not spell right. When looking at the salsa i noticed that it is seperating, I look at all the other jars form that bactch and most of them seem to be doing the same thing. I did not do much different between the batches (I added more peppers and some cherry tomoates for extra flavor). Did this happen because I did not get all the air out or were the jars not sealed correctly? I would like to make a new batch this weekend but now I’m worried I do not want to waist that amount of food again.

  • Great resource recipe – I am going to follow this with the exception of the lemon juice and use my pressure canner instead! Nice cross-trainign by Marissa for the recipe and Doris & Jilly for the pressure-canner info.

  • Hello, I have been “canning” tomatoes for over 30 years and see that there is confusion in the posts above as to the time to process whole tomatoes in quart jars by the water bath method. Some say 45 minutes and some say 85 minutes. The time is dependent on whether you use the “hot pack” or the “cold pack” method. See the web site address below for a description of the the methods. Happy canning!!!–1293/canning-tomatoes.asp

  • Have you ever tried to can tomato sauce without peeling the tomatoes? I have seen where you can just remove the stem and blend the tomatoes into a smoothie and cook. I’m not sure how the texture will be.

  • Your post on 8/8/11 had a link to Simple Bites where I saw your post on canning whole tomatoes. And I see this post too. As I continue to up the anti on canning, I’m puzzled by the variety of opinions on temperature of water when processing tomatoes. I was recently told by a master food preserver to hold the temp at 180F the entire time. However it doesn’t seem necessary when you will use your tomatoes for sauces, etc. I haven’t canned enough other veggies/pickled items to see if holding the lower temp makes a difference in product crispiness vs. getting mushy. Curious about your experience Marissa- thanks!

    1. Processing food at 180F is called Low Temperature Pasteurization. It is typically recommended for fragile foods that will degrade in the heat of boiling water. I have NEVER seen it recommended for tomatoes though. Just for those easy-to-wilt vegetables like cucumbers.

  • Just got finished doing 3 quarts! This was so much easier than I thought it would be! I thought it was easier than doing jam! Thank you so much!

    1. Good lord. It was a fully sealed package that happened to be defrosting in my kitchen sink. No harm was done.

  • Thanks so much for these instructions! I am new to canning, so would not have known to add lemon juice, or use a spoon to smash the tomatoes down. Just canned 7 pints of mixed heirloom tomatoes, and next we’re doing quarts of red tomatoes! So excited to have self-preserved local tomatoes all winter!

  • Am I supposed to heat the tomatoes (after they’re peeled and cored) before I pack them in the jars? I just don’t want them to break in the BWB. Thank you!!

  • I love this site. I am new to canning since this is my first year completely away from home. The instructions are so helpful, and my pantry is slowly filling with wonderful garden items.

    Just bought a half bushel of tomatoes and have 7 pints in the HWB right now. They look great.

  • I usually cold pack whole tomatoes, but I wanted to avoid all the water I end up with in my jars so I am boiling down the whole peeled tomatoes right now. Can I leave out the lemon? How does this change my process? I am at 9,000 feet so I usually can for 60-70 min.

      1. Marisa, you seem like an expert.. why do we end up with some of the water from the canner inside the jars? Is it even safe? Is there a way to avoid it? the lids and screws are tight, what are we doing wrong?
        Also, I’m at sea level in CT, do I still need to process for 85 min?
        Also – sorry, I’m somewhat new to this πŸ™‚ – while in the canner my tomatoes split from the sauce, they end up at the top of the jar while all the water goes to bottom. Makes for an ugly jar.. What am I doing wrong? HELP PLEASE!!! Thank you in advance!

        1. Elle, you should read this post:

          85 minutes is the processing time for tomatoes packed in their own juice canned at sea level. I don’t think it’s water from the canner, tomatoes also release their own water into the jars during the canning process. As far as ugly jars go, there’s not much I can do to help you. That separation happens to me too on occasion.

          1. Marisa, I have another question. This is regarding a recipe I came across in an Italian cook book. Sometime you see whole unpeeled tomatoes packed with lots of greens, peppers, spices etc in a clear brine (those fancy jars sold in italian specialty stores). The recipe suggests cold packing method: packing tomatoes in hot jars along with dill, parsley, basil, garlic, black pepper corns etc; pouring boiling water into each jar and leave it until they cool off, for about 2-3hrs. Then pour the liquid back into the pot, bring it to a rapid boil and pour back into each jar, having added salt and vinegar to each jar. Then seal the jars, leave them overnight in a warm wrap (like a blanket) and put them away for about a month and a half. Notice, there is no water bath process. I have never come across this method in any of the US canning recipes. Do you think it’s safe? Thank you!

          2. I guess I should be more specific:
            The peppers are: a hot dry pepper or black pepper corns, not bell peppers.. Also, for a 1L jar the recipe calls for 2tsp salt and 1Tblspoon vinegar (5% or higher acidity).
            I mean.. we all look for inspiration in other cultures.. if we were to “translate” this recipe using American methods and guidelines for canning however preserving the taste this recipe produces, how would you make it? I hope it’s not too much of a question πŸ™‚ These tomatoes are wonderful, they are salty but yet not vinegary at all! I kept looking for something similar in our cookbooks but can’t find anything remotely close. Would you be able to “invent” an American way for this recipe? Thank you a billion times!!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Hi there,

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

    LOVE your website!!


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

      1. After the 85 min boil time and jars are removed, if the lid can be pushed in and out making a popping sound, does this mean the jar isn’t sealed well?

        1. The jars should seal within 10 to 15 minutes of the jars coming out of the canner. However, if some time has elapsed and the lid wiggles in and out and makes a popping sound, that means the jar didn’t seal and isn’t shelf stable.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Hi everyone

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

    I appreciate your help! Thanks!

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

  • Dear Marisa,

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

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

    Thank you for any advice you can give me!

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

  • I just caned 3 pints of tomatoes following your instructions. A couple things happened that I didn’t expect: 1) a lot of water separated from the tomatoes and collected at the bottom of the jars and 2) some bubbles have appeared in the jars even though I was careful to be rid of bubbles before putting the jars in the water bath.

    Did I do something wrong or is this normal?

  • If you were going to do a ‘big canning day’, or if you don’t have enough tomatoes because your garden’s small, would you recommend freezing them first (I have a vacuum sealer, it’s instructions take the tomato all the way to being ready to put into jars, but after blanching, peeling, and reserving the squished out juice to freeze seperately you bag/vac/seal and freeze until canning day).

    Can you tell me, if I froze them, then what steps would I need to take to thaw and prepare to hotpack before processing?

    Thank you for any guidance you could give!

    First time Canner,


    1. When you freeze whole tomatoes, the skins just slip off as they defrost. So you can just chuck them in a freezer bag until you’re ready to can. Then defrost them and use them to make crushed tomatoes or sauce.

  • So, I canned tomatoes this way but didn’t have quite enough to cover themselves in juices/eliminate a large amount of head space. There is an inch and a half of space at the top of the jar. Do I have to throw it out? Lid is sealed right & I added the citric acid but I’m not sure because there is so much airspace.

    1. They increased it around 1988-89. I don’t know why they increased it so much, but I imagine they found that the extended heat exposure was necessary to kill all the bacteria.

  • I was looking at the Ball website and they still say 40-45 minutes of processing time, so I’m not sure what to do. You mention that tomatoes that are packed in water can be processed for 40-45 minutes, not the 80 minute length. Does this just mean that if I add any water to the tomatoes in my jars, I can process for the smaller amount of time? Thanks for the clarification, I’m just starting out so want to make sure I am doing everything safely!

    1. If you raw pack they say to do it 85 minutes, if you boil the tomatoes first and hot pack the jars you can use the 45 minute processing time.

  • Hi Marisa. Just did these yesterday and followed your recipe exactly. Made sure i burped out the bubbles as directed, and when the jars went in the pot for processing, they were full of juices. After processing it looked like a lot of the juices “cooked off” and there are some pretty obvious air pockets throughout. And though the lids did seal, I never heard them ping, which I thought was odd. Does this all sound normal to you? I supposed I’m just being paranoid, but am mostly looking for some reassurance. Thanks!

  • i love canned tomatoes in bolognese, it goes down a treat and even the kids eat it.
    thanks for the post, loved reading it and very helpful.

  • Is it possible to can tomatoes in a pressure cooker instead of a water bath? – And without peeling? Why is peeling necessary?
    Process: Wash and core tomatoes; remove any bad spots. Add tomatoes whole to jar; add lemon juice as directed; remove bubbles; clean rim; add heated lid-rim. Would this not work as well? And would it not eliminate any bacteria because of the pressure cooking? A quick reply would be appreciated before I start on this. Many thanks.

    1. It would work. However, leaving the skins on the tomatoes during processing means that you don’t get as many into the jars and they can get a little bitter over time. But in terms of safety, it’s cool.

  • Hi! I’d like the try this recipe today with my extra garden tomatoes but was wondering if I need to boil my jars first?

    1. The jars you start with need to be clean, but not sterilized. Just follow the recipe as written. Because the finished jars process for so long, any pre-packing sterilization is unnecessary.

  • The picture with you packing next to the raw meat is a little unsettling and would be a violation under commercial sanitation code. These jars must be CLEAN CLEAN CLEAN as well as the area surrounding. Also, this website has great info on processing. It explains the time differences in processing (water pack, no added juice, raw pack, etc.) 40 minutes is the correct processing time for boiling method or 10 minutes at 10lb weighted pressure canned for raw water-pack pints. Citric acid can be used instead of lemon juice at 1/4 tsp per pint.

    1. Jim, if you read through some of the previous comments, this is well-covered territory. I was in a home kitchen, not a commercial one. The meat was frozen and in a fully sealed package. And if any bacteria escaped from that frozen and sealed package, the jars were vigorously boiled for 85 minutes, after which no bacteria would be left alive.

      1. Thanks Marisa. I meant no offense, but I’ve been a professional chef for 30 years and have taught Sanitation and professional cooking at the college level for the last 13 years. I also home can, pickle, and bake at home as a hobby. I love your pictures and clear directions but that one is simply incorrect and not a good example. Freezing does not kill bacteria and boiling for however long does not effect botulism toxins. Sorry if I’m beating a dead horse here, I just found your site today. πŸ™‚ Like I said, nice job. Love your site.

        1. I didn’t say that freezing kills bacteria. I said that the boiling of the jars would kill the bacteria. And botulism isn’t a concern here, because I was making a high acid product.

          1. Actually C. Bot toxin is quite easily destroyed by heat greater than 176F. The issue is spores which are not easily killed with heat. However the cook procedures suggest when followed correctly actually do kill the spores (C. Dificulus is the basis normally). The 12D processing is the industry standard and is affected by suspension media, pH and osmotic pressure hence the different processing times.

            As for the meat, the cross-contamination risk is real, but likely minimal risk for contaminating you jarred food. Most meat pathogens are obligate aerobes and would die via the pH, heating and lack of oxygen.

            Certainly good to call out risk, but Jim you are propagating incorrect info here wrt C. Bot.

            1. The more important issue is not to lead people with little experience or training to believe they will do the right thing by chance. Monkey see – monkey do. I understand the meat was probably placed for a photo opp, but it’d be smart to not encourage people to follow that example, just in case…

              1. The meat was there because it’s my home kitchen and it was defrosting. Life happens sometimes.

  • Hi Marisa,

    Firstly, let me say how much I love your site and that I’ve used it as a canning resource for a couple years now! Imagine my surprise then when I opened up your canning whole tomatoes entry and discovered that all of your ever-so-helpful pictures aren’t displaying! Is this intentional? I’m still enough of a newbie at this whole canning thing and, since I really only do one or two canning sessions a year, I love the refresher your site provides me.


    1. Jane, it’s not at all intentional that the pictures aren’t displaying. The images in those older posts are hosted by Flickr, and they appear to be down right now. I imagine that as soon as they are back up, the images will reappear.

  • Love this recipe. After years of sweating over making endless jars of sauce, I’m now going to do this with half my tomatoes.

    Question, what so you think about adding basil for some added flavor? Have you tried that?

  • Question, do you have to peel the tomatoes before you can them whole? I would be using homegrown tomatoes, some are quite small and it just seems like so much trouble to peel them all. I have made tomato soup and sauce (roasting the tomatoes first with skins on cut in half, then pureeing) and it was super easy and simple without peeling, so I thought perhaps I could can them the same way, perhaps just cutting them in half without peeling after washing well of course. Thanks! πŸ™‚

  • Hi, I’m about the embark on my first batch of tomato canning. Was doing some internet research earlier today on methods. What are the pros and cons of not cooking the peeled toms first before putting them in the jar (cold packing?). I thought I read somewhere it’s best to cook them up for 20 mins or so (boiling) and then put them in the jar, was deemed safer. Any insight is much appreciated as I’d rather do your method…seems waaaay easer! Thanks!

    1. You get more in the jar and the processing time is a bit shorter when you cook the tomatoes first. However, a raw pack helps preserve a fresher flavor.

  • Hi, can anyone help me here- I processed tomatoes for the first time yesterday, and I ran out of time. I only processed the jars for 15 minutes. I cold packed them, and I added the lemon juice. Less than 24 hours later I have them back in water and am processing them for the recommended 85 minutes. I’ve put the jars in, with the ater and heated them together so the jars don’t crack. Is this safe? The lemon juice deters botulism, and the hot water processing kills any other bacteria?

    1. Hi Carrie! Like I said in my email reply to you, reprocessing those filled jars is not the recommended manner for dealing with this. However, if this is the approach you’re taking, you would have needed to start with the jars in cold water and with new lids on the jars.

      You are correct though, the lemon juice creates an environment that is unfriendly to botulism and the boiling water bath process sterilizes the jars and their contents.

      1. Hi, I messed up and only boiled my raw packed jars for 35min, what is the best way to deal with this. I’ve done this recipe a lot before and for some reason I had 35min in my head… whoops. How can I fix it! Thank you, Joanna

        1. The best course of action is to turn those tomatoes into something else at this point, like stewed tomatoes or sauce.

          1. Thank you! What will happen if I left them, would they just get loudly or could botulism develop? Just curious…

            1. As long as you acidified the tomatoes properly, there is no risk of botulism. You just have an increased risk of spoilage.

  • Hello. I just found your website and am SO excited to try this recipe! Is it cool to add Basil or would that mess up processing or the flavor on the other end?

    1. You could add a basil leaf or two, but you don’t want to add more than that, because it could change the acidity of the preserve and potentially make it unsafe.

  • Last year I used your recipe. I passed it on to my sister. We are delighted with the results. (My son-in-law ate them as if they were a condiment – put them on cheese on toast. Wants more this year.)

    I am just about to bottle/can another 6 jars (1 pint size). Thank you for such a super recipe. I use San Mazano tomatoes – we can grow them in the UK.

    Website is my husband.

  • I know this is an old post… But I was reading your raw pack technique and I hesitate, I did this last year and I busted a few jars… Not sure what happened, first time I’ve ever broken a jar. I did raw pack (not for the first time though)with one difference – I didn’t skin them. Skins don’t bug me, and they’re easy enough to remove later.
    Could leaving the skins on have done it? Or maybe being cool, or not putting them straight into the jar post boil have done it? Or maybe they exploded? Or maybe that time my jars weren’t very hot?

    1. My best guess is that because you did a raw pack with skin-on tomatoes the contents of the jar were too cold when the jars went into the hot canner. Peeling the tomatoes does warm them up a bit, which helps prevent heat shock. Or the jar could have been old. Or poorly tempered. There are any number of reasons why the jars broke.

  • Hi, I just canned 7 quarts of tomatoes. everything looks good. However, I just realized I only added 1- heaping tablespoon of lemon juice to each quart with 1/2 of a teaspoon of salt. Ugh! Should I just refrigerate and use them as fast as I can or start over, and if I start over do I add an additional 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or just 1 tablespoon. Can’t believe I’d made this rookie mistake!

    1. You either need to refrigerate those tomatoes or open them up and recan them with the necessary lemon juice (2 tablespoons per quart is required).

  • Hi Marisa, I followed the directions and some of my jars didn’t seal. I wiped the rim very well, so not sure what happened. I didn’t notice this until the next morning when I was putting them away. I refrigerated the 2 jars that didn’t seal. How long can they stay in the fridge before I use them?
    Thank you

  • Hi there!

    First time canning this evening and then had some separation and after a quick google I was led here! Love your site, very helpful with great explanation. I canned some cold diced tomatoes this evening, which had quiet a bit of their own juices but I added some hot water to each jar, not a ton, maybe 2 tablespoons to each pint. I figured I needed to process for 45 minutes but after reading I’m not so sure. How much water would I need to add for it to be considered safe to process for 45 minutes instead of 85? And what can I do with the jars I did this evening to make sure they are safe to eat? Thanks so much!!

  • Hey Marisa!
    I plan to preserve whole roma tomatoes using your method this weekend and have a question. Could I add a couple of leaves of BASIL to the jars and process as you indicate? Or would I have to make changes to ensure safe canning?
    Thanks very much – I love your site!

    1. If you have the fridge space, I’d just pop them in the back of the fridge and use them within the next month. If you can’t spare the space, you could also try putting new lids on the jars, placing them in a pot of cold water, and then slowly bringing the jars and the canner up to temperature. Then process and let the jars rest in the canner (heat and lid off) for an additional five minutes after the processing time is up.