Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Canning Tomatoes (Waterbath) - How To

**2015 UPDATE: When this post was originally created, I was using a steamer for this tutorial.  Since then the FDA has deemed steamers unfit for healthy canning practices, since the necessary internal temperature for killing bacteria and microorganisms is harder to regulate in a steam canner.  Please be advised that you should use a hot water bath canner.

How to Can Tomatoes
(using a Water bath Canner)

This is a very easy and simple recipe for canning tomatoes.  Because I am using a water bath canner, I will not be adding any vegetables.  Still, these are a very helpful addition to my pantry.

Materials Needed:
- Large pot
- Strainer/collandar
- knife
- large bowl
- vinegar
- salt
- clean cloth rag
- butter knife or rubber scraper
- sterilized jars, lids and rings
- steam canner or water bath
- towel
- bottle lifters
- hot pads

Here's How to Do It:
Start by rinsing your tomatoes to remove any dirt.

In order to make peeling easier, you will need to blanch the tomatoes.  Bring a large pot of water to boil.

Then fill your sink or a large bowl with cold water.

To blanch tomatoes, drop them into the boiling water.  Let them sit for about 30 seconds.

Use a strainer to pick them up from the boiling water,

and then dump them into the sink full of cold water.

This will make removing the skins very easy.

Remove the stem end and peel each tomato.

Dice them up to the size you want and drop them into a large, clean bowl (I like to use red so it doesn't stain).

Once your tomatoes are diced, you will be ready to fill up your jars.  The only thing you will need to add is vinegar, salt and water (or the extra tomato juice).

Fill tomatoes to the neck of the bottle.  If there is juice left in the bowl, pour it over the tomatoes to fill the bottles up completely to the neck (leaving about 1/2 - 1" head-space.  If you don't have tomato juice in the bowl, use water to fill up the jars.

For each quart size jar, add 1 tsp. salt and 1 tsp. vinegar.

Now you will need to remove the air bubbles.  Use a knife or plastic spatula and run it down the sides of the jar several times.

Use a clean damp cloth and wipe around the tops of each jar, making sure they are clean.
Run your finger around the top to double check that there are no dings or chips in the bottle that would prevent the lid from sealing.

After boiling lids and bands for 1 minute, screw them onto the jars as tightly as possible using one hand.  If they are put on too tightly, the bottles will break.

Place jars on rack in waterbath canner.  Fully submerge bottles in water.  Put the lid on, and turn the unit on high.

You will need to steam quarts for 45 minutes, pints for 40.
Remember to adjust for altitude - Utah time is 55 minutes for quarts.  
Do not start the timer until steam is consistently coming out.
If you are unsure if it is consistent or not, it probably isn't.  It will be obvious.

Put an old towel on the counter next to the canner.

Once tomatoes are done steaming, use your bottle lifters to move them from the steamer to the towel to cool.

Once cooled, make sure each bottle has sealed.  The lid should be 'sucked in'.  If it makes a popping sound, or you manually pushed it down (even if it stayed), the bottle did not seal properly and it needs to be refrigerated and used within 1 week.

Clean off bottles by running them under water and/or wiping them with a damp cloth.
Write the date on the top and put them away!


  1. I was just wondering- my steam canner said NOT to use it on a glass-topped range. In the photo it looks like that's what you're doing. Works ok? No wear to your glass? I've been doing mine outside on a camping stove.

  2. I used to have a glass top, and yes, I used it on it. I don't recall my canner having instructions to say 'not' to use one. It is heavy, so I remember being careful not to move it at all in order to save the glass top from scratches. When I did move it I lifted the entire thing up to put it on my counter over hot pads. I'm not sure why they recommend not using a glass top unless it is to prohibit scratching it. I've never had an issue, but obviously use at your own discretion :)

    Not sure if that helps...

  3. Hi I just used a steam canner to process 5 quarts of salsa. I only did it for 30 min. Can I put the bottles back in the canner for 55 min.?

    1. Sorry it has taken forever to respond. Undoubtedly it is too late for your salsa, but my answer would be to check your recipe. My canned salsa recipe does not need to process for more than 30 minutes; it contains more salt and vinegar, as well as being cooked before hand - all of which play a role in determining processing time.

  4. I steam canned my salsa that I cooked for 6 hours in an oven. I added 2 1/2 cups vinegar and 1 1/2 Tbsp salt to my batch of 27 cups tomatoes and 6 onions , jalapeños. I steamed my pint jars for 40 minutes. I am nervous now that they should be water bathed instead. It has been two days is it too late to water bath or will they be fine the way I did it? I can dump all back in a pot and cook again until heated through and then water bath if that is necessary as well. What should I do?

  5. Can you water bath salsa you steam canned two days prior? So nervous I did it wrong please help!

    1. Emily,
      I would not redo the salsa. Salsa and tomatoes are canned differently, including their processing times (the amount of time they are steamed or water bathed).
      I have a similar salsa recipe to the ratios you listed above:

      I am confident that your 40 minutes of steaming was sufficient, especially with the amount of vinegar that was added and the amount of cooking time in the oven. I hope this calms your fears!