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three finished jars of tomatoes sitting in a row

How to Can Tomatoes

  • Author: Melissa Griffiths - Bless this Mess
  • Total Time: 2 hours 5 minutes
  • Yield: 7 quarts 1x
  • Diet: Gluten Free


Full guide on how to safely can tomatoes at home with step by step pictures, printable instructions, and more!


  • tomatoes*
  • bottled lemon juice
  • salt, optional
  • 7 quart jars
  • 7 two part lids (flats and rings)
  • water bath canner


  1. Prepare your tomatoes by removing any stems that might be left on them (this helps prevent them from poking each other which increases rot, it's best practice to do this as your take them from the plant). Sort through the tomatoes and remove any that have bad spots, signs of rot, or mold.
  2. Wash the tomatoes gently in cold water to remove any dirt.
  3. Bring a large stock pot, half filled with water, to a full boil.
  4. When the water is boiling gently add tomatoes to fill the pot. 
  5. Let the tomatoes boil for about 3 minutes or until the skins start to split.
  6. Use a slotted spoon to remove the tomatoes to a large bowl.
  7. Repeat with remaining tomatoes. 
  8. While the tomatoes cool a bit prepare your jars and lids by washing and sanitizing them. 
  9. Place the clean jars on a towel on your work surface and prepare them by measuring out 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice per quart jar. Measure out 1 teaspoon of salt per quart jar (salt is optional and can be omitted, lemon juice is not optional).
  10. Place a colander inside of a bowl. 
  11. When the tomatoes have cooled enough to handle, work over the colander to catch any extra juice.
  12. Slip off the tomato skin (it will come off very easily) and then use a small knife to remove the core of the tomato (where the stem attaches). 
  13. Place a funnel on top of one of the jars and fill the jar with the peeled and cored tomatoes. If they are very large, cut them into a few pieces so that they fit more evenly into the jar. 
  14. Fill the jar with tomatoes until there is only 1/2 inch of empty space remaining at the top of the jar. It's fine to really squish the tomatoes in there to fill the jar and cut them into pieces as needed so that the right amount is in the jar. 
  15. Repeat with remaining tomatoes until 7 jars are filled (7 quarts is how many fit in a standard water bath canner and is considered a full canner load). 
  16. Use a butter knife and poke it into the jar randomly through the tomatoes. This will help any air bubbles come up. If the tomatoes settle a lot after you do this, fill the jar up with a little of the juice that is in the bottom of your bowl beneath the colander so that there is once again only 1/2 inch remaining at the top of the jar. 
  17. Wipe the tip edge of the jar with a clean damp cloth to remove any pieces of tomatoes, if there's stuff there the jars won't seal. 
  18. Add the flat lids to the jars.
  19. Screw on the round bands to each jar. Just tighten them naturally and don't over tighten them. You don't have to be too aggressive with screwing them on. 
  20. Place the jar in your canner, making sure there is a rack on the bottom of the canner.
  21. Fill the canner with warm tap water so that it covers the top of the jars by 1-2 inches. The canner is very heavy, I use a pot filler or a pitcher to move water into my canner. I don't recommend trying to fill the canner up in the sink, it gets too heavy and the jars clink against each other. 
  22. When the canner is full of water turn on the heat to high and put on a lid.
  23. When the water is fully boiling you can start your cooking timer.
  24. Boil quarts OR pints for 85 minutes (SEE NOTES for time based on your elevation). 
  25. When the correct boiling time has elapsed, turn the heat for the canner off and let it rest there.
  26. When the canner has stopped boiling (I wait 5 or so minutes after I turn off the heat). Open the lid.
  27. Using tongs (they make canning tongs just for removing hot jars, you'll want to get some) remove the hot jars and let them rest on a thick towel or on a cutting board lined with a dish towel. Be sure not to tap or touch the jars together when setting them down.
  28. Let the jars cool. 
  29. Test to see that the jars are properly sealed by pressing on the top of the jar (it will feel firm and not pop up and down). 
  30. Remove the screw on band from the jars, label the tops with the date and contents of the jar, and store for up to 1  year.


  • *the type and amount of tomatoes doesn't matter a lot. I have canned lots and lots of kinds of tomatoes. You'll need about 21 pounds of fresh ripe tomatoes to do 7 quarts of whole tomatoes in their own juice, 7 quarts is considered a full canner load. You'll need about 13 pounds do a full canner load of pints which is 9 pint jars. A bushel weighs 53 pounds and yields 15 to 21 quarts-an average of 3 pounds per quart.
  • This recipe is an official canning recipe from the National Center of Home Food Preservation. Do not change or alter the recipe. Changing the recipe or not following the direction can make the end product unsafe to store and eat. 
  • Use store-bought bottled lemon juice for this recipe. The acidity of bottled lemon juice is more consistent than fresh lemons. 
  • *BOILING TIMES: If you live at an elevation of 1000 feet above see level or lower, boil your tomatoes for 85 minutes. If you live at 1001-3000 feet elevation boil for 90 minutes. If you live at 3001-6000 feet elevation boil for 95 minutes and if you live above 6001 feet elevation boil for 100 minutes. 
  • Prep Time: 40 min
  • Cook Time: 85 min
  • Category: preserving
  • Method: canning
  • Cuisine: American

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