Canning Crushed Tomatoes

Don’t let bumper crops of tomatoes go to waste. Can them!

Every gardener knows the agony of having too many tomatoes come on at once. We can’t let those marvelous flavors go to waste! Can your extra tomatoes and later, when you open that jar, you still have those garden-fresh flavors as if the tomatoes were plucked off the vine only moments before opening!

My favorite recipe is for crushed tomatoes. It is simple, safe and can be used no matter what type of tomato you have. You don’t even need to wait until you have a certain quantity. Just figure that you will get about 1 pint of crushed tomatoes for every 1 – 1 ½ pounds of fruit. (It varies depending upon the variety). Use your canned, crushed tomatoes in stew, soup, pasta sauce and more. They will provide oodles of flavor, even in the dead of winter!Important Note: Tomatoes are a fruit and although most fruits have a high acid pH level, tomatoes do not. Their pH level can vary (depending upon the variety or the growing conditions) making them a borderline candidate for water bath canning. The solution to this problem is to acidify each jar by adding powdered citric acid (available where canning supplies are sold) or bottled lemon juice to each jar. Why bottled? A lemon can vary in pH just like a tomato and by using bottled juice you know exactly the acidity level of the juice.

Equipment:
• Clean pint-sized canning jars with two-part lids
• Water-bath canner
• Medium saucepan for blanching
• Stockpot for cooking the tomatoes
• Measuring spoons
• Knife and cutting board
• Bowl with Ice water
• Slotted spoon
• Potato masher
• Ladle
• Jar lifter or tongs
• Jar funnel for filling jars
• Wet paper towel
• Dry tea towel
• Plastic knife

Ingredients:
• Tomatoes (any variety, but I prefer Roma)
• Citric Acid or bottled lemon juice
• Pickling Salt (optional)

If you have never canned before, please refer to my article on Water Bath Canning 101 for more detailed instructions on the water bath method.

Fill the canner with enough water for the level to be 2”over the jars (about ½ way). Place over high heat.

For this recipe you don’t have to sterilize jars because you will be processing longer than 10 minutes. But it is still important for the jars to be hot before filling. So place your jars in the canner while you heat the water. Also, heat the canning lids before using.

Fill the medium saucepan with water and bring to a boil.

Use a knife to cut an X in the bottom of each tomato and drop into the boiling water to blanch (in small batches) for about 1 minute. Use a slotted spoon to remove the blanched tomatoes into a bowl of ice water and peel. Discard the peels.

Place the peeled tomatoes in a stockpot to heat, crushing them with a potato masher to release the juices so they won’t scorch and bring to a simmer. Simmer 5 minutes.

When the tomatoes are done and the water in the canner is boiling, drain the hot jars and place on a wood board or tea towel. To each jar, add ¼ teaspoon of powdered citric acid OR 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice. For flavor, you can also add ½ teaspoon salt to each jar, if you wish.

Then, using a ladle and canning funnel, fill each jar with tomatoes and juice, leaving a ½-inch headspace. Use a plastic knife to release bubbles trapped in the jar by running it around and through the tomatoes (add more tomatoes or juice if the headspace level dropped) before wiping the jar edge clean with a damp paper towel and adding a heated lid.

Canned tomatoes will last up to one year on the pantry shelf.

Screw on the canning lid ring to just “finger tight” and put the jars back into the water bath canner. Bring the water in the canner back up to a boil. Once the water is boiling, set your timer for 35 minutes. (If you live above 1000 feet, you will need to adjust your processing time. Refer to the altitude chart HERE)

Turn off heat and let the jars sit in the water 5 minutes.

Remove jars from canner and set upright on a dry towel to cool.

Check seals after 12-24 hours. Any unsealed jars should be refrigerated and used within 2 weeks. Sealed jars can be stored on the pantry shelf for up to one year.

You might also be interested in…

Tips on growing great tomatoes

Why aren’t my tomatoes ripening?

Mid-season care; keep tomatoes growing strong

About

Theresa Loe is the Co-Executive Producer and the canning/homesteading expert on Growing A Greener World TV. She creates seasonally inspired pantry items based on homegrown and locally-sourced produce. A lifelong canner and a graduate of the Master Food Preserver Program, Theresa also studied sustainable horticulture and culinary arts. She also blogs at LivingHomegrown about homesteading & preserving. Follow her on Google+ and download her FREE CANNING RESOURCE GUIDE.

Comments

  1. Em says

    Thank you for responding so quickly. I kept doing research and found the USDA information on tomatoes. Since it wasn’t packed in water their directions said to process for 95 minutes! I did this just to be sure. My next batch I added the boiling water and processed for 55 minutes as it stated in raw pack. The tomatoes were cut up but not crushed and I still used 2 tbsp fresh lemon juice in each quart. I am grateful to be able to converse with someone about these things. Thank you again.

  2. Em says

    Hello. I used a recipe from pickyourown .com for tomatoes. It said to cut the tomatoes and place in quart size jars with 2 tbsp lemon juice (bottled or fresh), I used fresh. Then it said to fill with hot water. However I didn’t have room for the hot water since the juice from the tomatoes filled up my jars. (I pushed the tomatoes in.) So no heat in the jars. Are they okay even though they were packed ‘raw’ technically?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Em,

      I think you are okay because the amount of hot water (or juice) you would have added is minimal. It does not really bring the contents up to “hot”. They are still considered raw packed. (To be ‘hot packed’ the tomatoes must be heated through on the stove first). The proper processing time for raw packed at your altitude and jar size is 55 min in a water bath. Normally, the tomatoes would have only been “warm” due to the hot water you would have added. So I think you are fine.

      In the future, If you ever have a question like this due to the temperature of the contents, I would recommend adding 5 minutes to your process whenever you are in doubt. Then double check, as you have done here. The five minutes can make a big difference and yet, will not hurt the food to give it a little extra time. It is always easier to do that instead of having to reprocess them in the morning.

      Also note that since you did everything right, including adding the lemon juice, these tomatoes are in the safe zone as far as pH. You cannot get botulism from these. Worse case is that they would spoil. Of course you don’t want that either! But I just wanted to assure you that you did everything right by adding the lemon juice.

      Enjoy your tomatoes!

      ~Theresa

  3. Peggy says

    Hi Theresa,

    Thank you. I am so enjoying canning. I love working with organic foods. My grands love inviting their friends over for Nana’s treats. Next, I will try jams.

  4. Peggy says

    Hi Theresa,

    I am a beginner with canning. I used the tomato recipe. My questions has to do with the lids. I tighten the jar lids finger tight but, when I checked 24 hours later the lids are sealed but, they were no longer finger tight, I had to tighten them again. (not the actual lid, but the ring that tighten around the jar. Is it ok to store the jars for future use?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Peggy-

      They are fine! That is exactly what should happen. Once the round circle top is sealed, you actually do not need the rings on any more. I recommend you take them off. Those rings are only for positioning the lid properly and holding it in place while the vacuum seal is made. Once the seal is good, you can remove them. Keep them handy though because as you open a jar of sauce or jam, you will need the ring to hold the unsealed lid on in the refrigerator.

      Sounds to me like you did a perfect job!

  5. says

    I followed the recommendation to add citric acid to my tomatoes when canning. Now my tomatoe juice and stewing tomatoes are to acidic and make my chili taste nasty. Is there some way to test for acitity before adding the citric acid? I won’t be adding it next year that is for sure. I have been canning tomatoes for forty years so I am not new to canning. Thanks

    • Theresa Loe says

      Nancy-

      I’m so sorry to hear that your tomatoes turned out too acidic! Tomatoes acidity can cover a fairly wide range which is why the USDA changed the recommendations to include citric acid or lemon juice. The variety and even the growing condition can make a huge difference on whether or not the tomato is in the “safe” range. Perhaps your tomatoes were well into the safe range to start and the extra acid pushed them over the edge of the flavor zone. Also, double check that you used “citric acid” and no “ascorbic acid” which is NOT the same thing and is very bitter. Both are sold in the canning section of the supermarket but they are two completely different things.

      Yes, there are pH tests on the market. You can find them at aquarium/fish stores and I think even some home improvement centers. I do not think they are expensive. If you determine that you do indeed need acid in the future, I would switch to lemon juice which I think tastes better anyway.

      I hope that helps.

  6. says

    Folks,
    You’re all asking a lot of very basic questions about canning and canning safety.
    They are ALL ANSWERED in what is considered ‘THE BIBLE OF CANNING AND PRESERVING’

    THE BALL BLUE BOOK Guide to Preserving. (128 pages) 8xl11 inch glossy paper book with LOADS of information on equipment.
    You can get it for about $6 and change at Walmart right where they have the canning jars and other equipment.
    It has a chart showing the temperatures that water bath canning MUST REACH (212 degrees ‘boiling’) for HIGH ACID foods. If you use VINEGAR in your recipe, you have high acid.
    For PRESSURE COOKING LOW ACID FOODS, the temperature must go to 240 degrees (not possible with boiling water bath method.
    The BALL BLUE BOOK will answer ALL YOUR QUESTIONS and has some recipes too.
    BALL also has a much larger book that costs about $20+ that you can find online
    Your most USEFUL TOOL is a JAR LIFTER to keep from burning yourself.
    Magnetic lid picker uppers usually have a weak magnet, so get an AUTOMOTIVE magnet on a long flexible rod (the kind used for getting at that lost steel nut you dropped in your car engine while working on it!)
    When in doubt about THE SAFETY of your canning product DO NOT EAT IT!

  7. ray kang says

    Hello. Just started canning this year and found your site to be the easiest to follow. Thank you!. Quick questions. 1. Can you use fresh lemon juice over bottled lemon juice? And 2. After placing the tomatoes in boiling water for one minute to take the skins off, can I just put them in the food processor to crush and then directly can them or do they need to be heated up first. I don’t want to jar sauce just the crushed tomatoes. Thank you!

  8. Jean Marie says

    Dear Theresa

    I found your site very, very helpful for first time hot water bath canning. I had so much tomato juice leftover that I decided to can it as well. Everything sealed well! But I think I goofed on the measurement of the asorbic acid (fresh-fruit produce protector) I put in the tomato juice only jars: about 2 tsp. Would these be ok to consume?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Jean Marie,

      You were using Ascorbic Acid (which is vitamin C and used to prevent discoloration). What you needed to use was Citric Acid which is used to change the pH level of the jar. (They are not the same thing) This is actually a common mistake. People do it all the time! I’ve done it myself before too! In fact, I should write a post about it since we are in tomato season now.

      But first to answer your question…

      According to the USDA canning standards, you should just re-can the juice. They are fine at the moment, but your pH could be borderline and you certainly do NOT want to lose all your work or the wonderful flavors you have worked so hard to store!

      Do NOT throw it out! Just open the jars and pour them into a stock pot. Wash the jar or get new, clean jars. Put some lemon juice (see recipe above) into each jar. Heat the tomato juice to a simmer (so that you have have hot product in the jar when put them back into waterbath). Refill your jars and process again. Your tomato juice will taste the same and be completely safe. Reprocessing will not hurt the product and you can rest assured you are safe.

      If you also used ascorbic acid for your whole tomatoes, do the same procedure for them.

      I know it is a lot of work. But it is just an investment of time. Then you can rest assured you are safe.

      One note: Many people can tomatoes without the addition of citric acid or lemon juice and they have done it for years. But recent tests have shown that tomatoes come in all different pH levels. So what works for one, might not work for a different variety. That is why the USDA changed the recommendations. The chances are very good that your pH level is fine. But being a Master Food Preserver, I have to recommend the more conservative approach I outlined above. Botulism is a nasty thing.

  9. John says

    I tend to prepare (peel and chop) my tomatoes for salsa in small batches as they ripen and put them in the freezer. When they thaw, I pour off the ‘water’ for soup stock and put the pulp in the salsa. The result is thick salsa without the hours of cooking it takes to boil off the water. And some pretty good soups.

  10. Cherub says

    I don’t bother peeling my tomatoes because 90% of the time I would put them in the food processor anyway. I grow organically, so I don’t worry about what’s on the skins. I cut off the bad spots and core them, pulse the tomatoes until they are chunky, heat them up in a kettle until simmering, then ladle into jars with the 2 TBlsps. of lemon juice, and process in my pressure canner. It saves work on the other end so I can just dump them into the sauce, sloppy joes, or whatever without having to chop them up.

  11. Theresa Loe says

    Dave and Mickey-

    Excellent questions!

    Although you would think that pressure canning would eliminate the need for acidifying the tomatoes – that is not the case. I am unsure why, but the USDA and the University of Georgia Cooperative Extension (who are the most revered authorities on canning safety) both recommend that YOU STILL ACIDIFY TOMATOES EVEN IF YOU ARE PRESSURE CANNING.

    So the answer is that YES, you should still add lemon juice.

    I will see if I can more definitive answers as to why that is true. But for now, that is the answer as far as safety is concerned.

  12. Dave Kroll says

    Theresa when presure canning is it nessary to add 2tbs of lemon juice/cistric acid to each Qt when canning pasta sauce

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Dave,

      If you are referring to my recipe above for “crushed tomatoes”, that would be true if I were canning QUART size jars. The recipe above is for PINTS. According to the latest edition of the USDA canning guidelines (Agriculture Info bulletin #539, section 3-5), the correct measurements for PINTS of whole, crushed or juiced tomatoes are: 1 tbsp. of lemon juice or 1/4 tsp. citric acid.

      But it good to note for anyone reading that you need to increase it to your measurements if you are doing larger jars. Thanks for bringing it up!

      If however, you are talking about “tomato sauce” in general, I think it is important specify what is meant by “sauce”. To the USDA, “tomato sauce” is just tomatoes (pressed and simmered down) with nothing else added. But to the average person, “sauce” includes other things like onions, bell peppers, etc. which can change the pH. In that case, we don’t know exactly how much lemon juice to add unless it is an approved (tested) recipe. That is what I was referring to in the comments above.

      ~Theresa

      • Gige...aka Dave Kroll says

        thanks Terry I love your site! I feel like a dummy asking you this one …do I still need to add lemon juice when presure canning?

  13. says

    Hi,
    I am a first time canner and had some questions about my experience.
    1. I had some residual bubbles in my canned, sealed crushed tomatoes. Is this ok?
    2. I have space above my sealed pickles that is not filled with liquid. Is this ok?
    3. If I boil lids and don’t use them, can I use next time, or do I have to use new ones?
    4. If a recipe says to but pickling spices in cheesecloth, can I just put them in liquid and into jars with
    beets?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Anne-

      1) The bubbles: Are they just sitting there (as in, they are just little air pockets that were not dislodged when you filled the jar) or are they moving and rising to the top (as in fermentation)? I would assume that they are just sitting there (not moving) because that is very common and just fine. But sit a jar on the table and watch to be sure. You do not want fermentation or moving bubbles as that can build pressure, causing a jar to pop open and it is a sign of spoilage.

      2) Many things can cause liquid loss and that is probably what happened with the pickles, causing some to stick up above the liquid line. As long as the jar is sealed properly, the food above the liquid is safe because it is stored inside the vacuum seal of the jar. However, it may discolor. So my advice is to check the seal on those jars more frequently (to be sure they stay sealed) and use those jars first so that they are used before the pickles discolor. But yes, they are safe to eat.

      3) You can use the lids again if they were only boiled but not used on a jar. What makes them unusable is when they are put on a jar and vacuum sealed, causing an indentation in the rubber gasket. That makes them less likely to work in the future and that is why we recommend buying a new one after it has been used on a jar.

      4) Yes – but the spices will get all over the beets, so it is a matter of personal preference. Things like cloves are easy to pick off and should not be a problem. Small, ground spices may be harder to pick off the finished beets when eating. But yes, you can throw the spices in there and can them in the jars with the beets.

      Hope that helps!!!

  14. Andrea Watts says

    I want to learn how to can but I’m terrified I will poison myself or others. Is there a way to tell that its not canned properly besides the lids sealing?

    • Theresa Loe says

      Hi Andrea,

      I completely understand your concern. To answer your question – as you probably guessed, you cannot see any of the bacteria that can make you sick. But with low acid foods such as vegetables or meats (that have been pressure canned) you can also look for bubbling inside the jar, a leaking jar, a bulging lid. However really the only assurance that a food is safe is to have canned with a safe canning method because a jar can look normal and still have problems. That is why I only suggest pressure canning for those people who have a little experience with high acid foods first.

      With high acid foods it is much easier to stay safe.

      First, you can’t get botulism. The worst thing that can happen if you do something improperly is that the food can spoil and just like any food that spoils, you get mold and bacteria from that. But it certainly would not kill you like botulism can! So I suggest that you start canning in the high acid food category. It is FUN, SAFE and EASY.

      High acid foods include jams, jelly, pickles, quick pickles, whole fruits, marmalades, conserves and syrups. Yummy to be sure! Stick with fruits and only pickled vegetables and you seriously have few worries.

      Does that help?

  15. Suzanne says

    I love your website! We have 8 acres, and lots of room for gardening. My husband owns his own business and unfortunately did not have time to plow a garden area this year, but I will be following your advice, and growing in containers and other areas that I myself can work with.
    Today was my first time to see your show, and visit your website, and I am so excited.
    I can’t seem to get to the “Strawberries and Cream Jam” recipe, when I click on it it takes me to the canned tomatoes recipe again, which is awesome!.

    Thank you

  16. Theresa Loe says

    Gige -

    YES, you MUST use lemon juice or citric acid. It is not the preservative, but is what keeps you in the “safe zone” pH wise so that you can waterbath can without getting botulism. So, it is an important ingredient!! You cannot taste the small amount in this recipe at all. Don’t omit it!

    More more importantly than that, you cannot can just any old tomato sauce and still use the waterbath method. If you add other ingredients (such as onions) to the mix, you are actually changing the pH of the mixture and are no longer safe for a waterbath. In order to stay in the “safe zone” for waterbath canning, you need to use a USDA approved recipe for that method. An approved recipe will have other ingredients such as onions, but will also have more acid added such as lemon juice, vinegar or citric acid so that it is safe. And yes, when you add more, you can taste it slightly – but it is not overpowering.

    Your other choice is to Pressure Can (using a pressure canner) so that the jar is brought up to a much higher temperature and thereby killing any spores that can later turn into the botulism toxin.

    If you don’t want to use a pressure canner, my recommendation is that you can the tomatoes as “crushed” and use them to make a sauce when you open the jar. (Just as you would from store bought canned tomatoes). The flavor will still be superior. Or follow a USDA approved sauce recipe that has the extra acid added.

    I hope that helps! Happy Canning!
    ~Theresa

  17. Gige says

    when canning already made sauces do I still have to us the lemon juice or citric acid., and does it change the taste. I ‘m assuming its used as a preservative

  18. says

    Hi Dub. Thaks for your commment. We’re tweaking our blog and commenting system so don’t feel slighted if you have not heard back from us by now. We enjoy hearing from you!

  19. says

    Great post, Theresa. I love having crushed tomatoes on hand all winter and use them in lots of things, from soups and stews to pastas and sauces. They’re the anchor for my pantry.

    • Theresa Loe says

      I love that phrase Jenn! “…the anchor for my pantry.”

      That is a perfect way to describe the wonderful versatility of the canned tomato. I am glad you enjoyed the post and happy canning!

    • Theresa Loe says

      No problem at all!

      When you freeze tomatoes, they do not hold their form when defrosted. In other words, they will be like a pureed tomato when defrosted, which will work perfectly for what you have in mind. The flavor will be just as good as fresh-picked. Try to use within 6-8 months for best results.

      Enjoy!

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