How to Home Can Tomatoes for Beginners

Tomatoes Canned

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Canning is the best way to enjoy fresh, flavorful garden-grown tomatoes long after harvest time.

Canned tomatoes are ideal for use in soups, stews, and casseroles. You will need 22 pounds of fresh tomatoes for a canner load of 7 quarts and 14 pounds of fresh tomatoes for a canner load of 9 pints. That’s about 2½ to 3 pounds of firm, unblemished tomatoes for each quart you can. Use vine-ripened tomatoes for the best flavor.

You can home can just about any ripe tomato out of your garden. (See How to Grow Tomatoes.) But the ultimate canning varieties are San Marzano and Roma—they are meaty and firm. But don’t shy away from canning heirlooms or any other tomato you really love. It’s all about flavor.

Tomatoes Canned
Canned tomatoes

A pressure canner is the best choice for canning tomatoes. The pressure canner is said to preserve more of the tomato’s nutritional value.

The alternative is hot-water or boiling-water canned tomatoes; that’s the way your great-grandmother canned tomatoes, so it’s tried and true.

A quick safety note; it is highly recommended that you add bottled lemon juice to home-canned tomatoes. The acid from lemon juice will neutralize microorganisms that can cause illness. Use bottled, not fresh, lemon juice when canning tomatoes. Bottled lemon juice has a standardized acidity which is important for safety. (For information on all USDA canning safety guidelines visit the online site for the National Center for Home Food Preservation /

Supplies you will need to can tomatoes

  • Canning jars, pints or quarts
  • Matching lids and rings
  • Boiling-water canner with rack OR pressure-gauge canners (most are designed to hold seven-quart jars or eight to nine-pint jars)
  • Wide-mouthed funnel
  • Tongs
  • Jar lifter

Can whole or halved tomatoes, packed in tomato juice



  1. Wash and peel tomatoes: wash then dip tomatoes in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until the skins split; then dip in cold water. Leave whole or halve.
  2. Add bottled lemon juice: 1 tablespoon for pints, 2 tablespoons for quarts.
  3. Add salt if desired; ¼ to ½ teaspoon for pints, ½ to 1 teaspoon for quarts.
  4. Raw pack: Heat tomato juice in a saucepan. Fill jars with raw peeled tomatoes, pressing to fill spaces with juice. Cover the tomatoes with hot tomato juices, leaving ½ inch headspace.Hot pack: Put tomatoes in a large saucepan and add enough tomato juice to completely cover them. Simmer or gently boil the tomatoes and juice for 5 minutes. Fill the jars with hot tomatoes and hot tomato juice, leaving ½ inch headspace.
  5. Adjust the lids and process.

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Written by Stephen Albert

Stephen Albert is a horticulturist, master gardener, and certified nurseryman who has taught at the University of California for more than 25 years. He holds graduate degrees from the University of California and the University of Iowa. His books include Vegetable Garden Grower’s Guide, Vegetable Garden Almanac & Planner, Tomato Grower’s Answer Book, and Kitchen Garden Grower’s Guide. His Vegetable Garden Grower’s Masterclass is available online. has more than 10 million visitors each year.

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