Tomatoes in glorious abundance, loaded down on our garden vines and mounded up in big baskets at the store and roadside stands -- now is the time to update an old-fashioned skill of canning this precious harvest. Nothing can beat the convenience of tomatoes processed in jars: just season for a side dish, simmer into a sauce, or toss into a soup or stew. Here's how to process a cannerful of tomatoes you'll more than appreciate in February.
See step-by-step images on how to can tomatoes at home
1. Prepare the tomatoes jars
Wash and rinse jars and bands. About 45 minutes before filling jars fill boiling water bath canner two-thirds full of water; heat to just below boil and keep hot. Place jars in rack set on edge of canner or in 225F (110C) oven to heat. A few minutes before filling jars; bring pot of water to boil; boil lids for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; leave in water until ready to use.
2. Drain and peal tomatoes
In large pot of boiling water, blanch tomatoes, in batches, for 30 to 60 seconds or until skins loosen. Remove and chill in cold water; drain immediately and peel. Core and trim away any green, bruised or decayed spots; cut into quarters. In two large pots or in batches, over high heat, heat tomatoes until heated through and juices boil, about 10 minutes.
3. Add citric acid or lemon juice
Filling one jar at a time, pack tomatoes and juice into jar, leaving 1/2-inch (2 cm) headspace. For each 4-cup (1 L) jar, add 1/2 tsp (2 mL) citric acid or 2 tbsp (25 mL) reconstituted lemon juice. (For each 2-cup/500 mL jar, add 1/4 tsp/1 mL citric acid or 1 tbsp/15 mL reconstituted lemon juice.)
4. Add more tomatoes or juice
Run spatula around inside of jar, pressing tomatoes to release any air bubbles. Add more tomatoes or juice if needed to maintain 1/2-inch (2 cm) headspace.
5. Bring to a boil
With clean damp cloth, wipe rim. Cover with lid; screw on band firmly without forcing (fingertip tight). Place in rack set on edge of canner. Lower filled rack into water. Pour in enough simmering water, avoiding tops of jars, to cover jars by 1 to 2 inches (2.5 to 5 cm). Cover canner and bring to full rolling boil. Boil 4-cup (1 L) jars for 45 minutes, 2-cup (500 mL) jars for 35 minutes. Turn off heat.
6. Cool down the tomato jars
Lift rack to sit on edge of canner. Using jar lifter, transfer jars to towel-lined surface. Let cool completely (some separation of juice in jar is natural). Do not retighten screw bands. Check for seal to ensure lids curve inward and don't move when pressed with finger. Refrigerate any improperly sealed jars; use within 3 days. Store in cool, dark dry place. Refrigerate after opening.
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