Pressure canning tomatoes may sound intimidating, but it isn’t that hard if you follow some basic directions. Next time you want to save money and your tomatoes, consider pressure canning them at home.
First things first, how to pick tomatoes?
It’s not that hard to pick the right tomatoes, but here’s what to look for. To start, I search for the reddest tomatoes, because they are tastier when they are at their prime.
While I sometimes go for green tomatoes, I try to keep them on the vine so they ripen. If not, I place them in a paper bag and store them in a cool, dry place for a few days.
Another good trick to pick the right tomato is to weigh them in your hand. When the tomato feels light, it may not be ripe. A denser tomato usually means it is ready and ripe.
Keep in mind that the tomato should look shiny and the coat should feel smooth. If a tomato is mushy and wrinkled, it may be past its prime and you shouldn’t buy it.
Now that you have your tomatoes ready, let’s get into the real deal.
10 steps to pressure canning tomatoes:
Step #1: Gather your ingredients and equipment first
To begin, gather your tomatoes and citric acid. If you don’t have citric acid, you can use lemon or lime juice instead,
The amount of tomatoes you need depends on how much you want to can. For 9 pints, I use about 12-13 pounds of tomatoes. One pint is the same as a regular commercial can of tomatoes, so that’s why I pick this size most times.
As for the equipment, make sure your pressure canner is ready, a large saucepan, a funnel, your jars, mixing bowls, strainer, slotted spoon, jar lifter, and ice.
Step #2: Don’t skip the citric acid
Many people think that because tomatoes are somewhat acidic, they won’t need to add citric acid. However, when you use either citric acid or store-bought lemon juice, the pH is more consistent.
Step #3: Rinse and core the tomatoes before cooking
I like to rinse my tomatoes using a strainer, as this removes any possible dirt they may still have. I then use a paring knife to remove the core. This part is important, especially if you use any other tomatoes aside from Roma, as they are a bit softer. After this step, I place my tomatoes in a bowl and set them aside.
Step #4: Prepare your jars
To warm up my jars, I usually place them in a large pan with a bit of water and simmer over low heat. I do this at the beginning and leave them there until the tomatoes are ready.
Step #5: Cook your tomatoes
To soften the tomatoes, I add them to my large saucepan and parboil them until the skins begin to come off. This will take a few minutes, about 3-5 in total.
Step #6: Get your ice and place it on a large bowl
While the tomatoes are cooking, I get my ice and place it on a large metal bowl. This will come in handy in a few minutes, once my tomatoes are ready.
Step #7: Place your tomatoes on ice, peel the skin, slice them, and cook again
Once my tomatoes look soft and the skins become loose, I transfer them to the ice bowl using a slotted spoon. I work one at a time and remove the skins. After I’m done peeling, I slice the tomatoes in half and remove any leftover seeds.
I like to hot-pack my tomatoes, which means that they need to cook in boiling water after I peel and slice them. This should only take another 5 minutes, but it creates a softer texture that I love.
Step #8: Prepare your pressure canner and ladle in your tomatoes
I use the high setting in my pressure canner, but not until I’m sure the canning rack is set correctly at the bottom.
In the meantime, I ladle the tomatoes into the jars and leave about ½ inches of headspace. Make sure to wipe the rim, remove air bubbles, and using your jar lifter put them on the rack in the pressure canner.
Step #9: Pressure can for at least 25 minutes
Finally, I let my pressure canner get to work. Normally, this process takes about 25 minutes, but check your altitude and quantity first. The whole time, I make sure my canner remains at a pressure of 11 or above, which often means I have to adjust the burner.
To finish, I remove the canner from the stove and allow it to sit until the vent drops. I leave my jars inside for about 10 minutes and then take them out.
Step #10: Cool down your jars and store them
I leave my jars out of my canner and let them cool down for at least 12 hours. I then check for the seal, making sure there is no air. If sealed, my jars are ready to go into the fridge, but if you need to keep tomatoes longer, you can always freeze them.
You are now a pro at this, so get ready to pressure can tomatoes at home and use whenever you want!