Crushed tomatoes are so easy to make and can yourself. Canning them yourself ensures you always have them on hand and you know exactly what’s in them.
This year I had a goal to actually harvest some tomatoes out of my garden. Last year I planted 17 tomatoes and only got a handful (the squirrels stole several), which was very disappointing. In March I had the idea that I would sell plant starts to raise funds for our pending infant adoption. When I made this decision I did not plan out how many I wanted and how many extra to sell. I realized quickly that I went a little overboard…
I did end up selling some but not nearly enough to bring the number of starts down to a manageable level. It didn’t help that May came and we were still cold and very wet, but the tomato starts continued to grow.
My Home, the Tomato Jungle
Halfway through May I decided that the jungle of tomato starts had to get kicked out. So I hardened them off, in the rain with less than ideal temps, and out they went.
Along with my two 2×8 ft raised garden beds, I wanted to add some Greenstalk vertical planters. My backyard is quite small and cannot fit the amount of raised beds or in ground garden space I would need to grow the amount of produce I dream of being able to grow.
Some of my starts didn’t survive, but between my existing raised beds, a new raised bed I built in June, the added Greenstalks, and a ridiculous amount of pots, I planted over 100 tomato plants in my tiny yard. My hope was to finally grow enough tomatoes to preserve some. Based on my previous experience, I felt that shear number of plants was my best chance.
It turns out that this worked, a little too well. Some plants did better than others, but I ended up with an average of about one pound per plant. That may not seem like much, but with over 100 plants it got pretty overwhelming! A few dozen quarts of pasta sauce is now stocked on our shelves, which was my goal, but now what to do with all the tomatoes that were left?
What To Do With All Those Tomatoes!
Thirty pounds of tomatoes went into the freezer because I just didn’t have time to process them as they ripened. When my husband sent me the text telling me he was bringing home a deer, I knew I needed to make some room in the freezer.
Pasta sauce is one of our main tomato products we use that can be canned, but I had already had enough put a way to last us the rest of the year. My second thought was diced tomatoes, but the freezer breaks down the tomatoes and I didn’t feel that I could get good diced tomatoes from them. So, I decided crushed tomatoes would be perfect.
You can do just about anything with crushed tomatoes, it certainly is not a hardship to have the on our pantry shelves!
This tutorial uses the Ball directions for canning tomatoes. Safety is the of the utmost importance when canning so be sure you are always using a tested, safe recipe.
Preparing Crushed Tomatoes
One wonderful thing about freezing tomatoes is that when they thaw, the skins slide right off. No blanching, cooling and peeling involved. As you peel the tomatoes, set the peels aside. I’ll show you in the next post what to do with them so they don’t go to waste.
Now that you have all your tomatoes peeled and thawed, put them in a pot to heat them up. Once they are heated, take a potato masher and mash them up. This is how you get the “crush” in crushed tomatoes.
Preparing the Jars for Canning
Prepare the jars as the tomatoes are heating up. The jars will be processing for more than 10 minutes so you don’t need to sterilize them.
I prepare the jars by heating them up, but that isn’t technically necessary. As long as the jars aren’t cold, you’re fine to put the hot tomatoes into them.
You can preserve crushed tomatoes in pints and half pints. I use half pint jars because that’s the size I typically use in our meals.
Adding Lemon Juice
When water bath canning tomatoes, it’s very important that you add bottled lemon juice to the jar. Why? The acidity of tomatoes varies a lot, and the lemon juice ensures that the tomatoes are acidic enough to be safely processed in a water bath canner. If you want to skip the lemon juice, or are allergic to it, you can substitute citric acid or use a pressure canner.
Why does it have to be bottled? Because the acidity of bottled lemon juice is 5%, if you use fresh squeezed lemon juice you will not know exactly what the acidity level is.
How much lemon juice should you add? Add 1 tablespoon per pint jar. If you are using quarters add 2 tablespoons.
Salt is an optional ingredient when canning. It does not help preserve the food in any way, but you can add it to help bring out the flavors. Do not use iodized salt when canning. The iodine will cause your jars to become cloudy, plus that salt just isn’t very good for you.
Redmond Real Salt is my favorite salt to use, but you can use a good quality sea salt, himalayan salt, celtic salt, or even a canning salt (although I don’t feel canning salt is worth the extra money you’ll pay for it).
Fill the Jars With the Crushed Tomatoes
Once you have the lemon juice in the jar and salt, if you’re using it, it’s time to add the tomatoes. When you fill the jar, make sure to leave one inch of head space at the top. This gives the jar room to release the air that’s inside and create a vacuum seal that will enable the jar to be shelf stable. Different foods require different headspace, so make sure you check the recipe you’re using before filling the jars.
The jars are all filled, now can they go straight to the canner? Not quite yet, there’s one more step. You must clean off the rims of the jars before putting the lids on. This is to make sure there are no bits of food on the rim that will prevent the jar from sealing. Once they are cleaned, put the lids and rings on. Make sure the rings are on finger tight, not too loose but not really tight either, and then place them in the canner.
More details about how to properly can, will be coming in another post. I’ll update this with the link once it’s up.
Water Bath Canning the Tomatoes
It is important that you have 1-2 inches of water covering the top of your jars. This will allow the contents of the jar to be heated properly.
Turn the burner up, place a lid on your pot, and wait for the water to come to a rolling boil. When it’s come to a boil, start the timer for 35 minutes for pints and half pints, or 40 minutes for quarts.
For the next 35-40 minutes go about your day, clean up the mess you’ve inevitably made. Well, if you’re anything like me there will be a mess anyway!
When the timer goes off, turn off the burner and take the lid off the pot and let the jars cool just slightly for about five minutes. Now, sometimes I’m impatient and don’t wait a full five minutes but if you can manage it, it’s best to wait.
Let the Jars Cool
Take the jars out and place them somewhere to cool. Place them in a spot that is not drafty and where they can cool without being touched for at least 12 hours, 24 is best.
DO NOT TOUCH for at least 12 hours! Very, very important. Doing so can interfere with the seal of the lids, causing your hard work to spoil. It’s incredibly sad when that happens…
After the jars have cooled, take off the rings and check the seals. You can reprocess any that didn’t seal with a new lid within 24 hours if needed.
Congrats! You now have shelf stable crushed tomatoes that you canned yourself. No questionable ingredients, nothing unhealthy, just beautiful tomatoes for any dish your heart desires to make.
Make sure to subscribe if you want to see what we end up making with these beauties.
Using Crushed Tomatoes:
- Tomatoes (paste tomatoes are preferred but any you have will work well)
- Lemon juice (must be bottled, not fresh)
- Salt (optional)
- Pot with lid large enough to cover your jars by 1-2 inches of water
- Canning rack (or DIY canning rack)
- Canning jars
- Jar Tongs
- Canning funnel (aff. link for a good beginning canning set)
- Canning lids and rings (regular or wide mouth depending on which type of jars you are using)
- Potato masher
- Wash and peel tomatoes.
- Add tomatoes to a pot large enough and heat them up to just below a simmer.
- Use a potato masher to crush them.
- Prepare water bath canner and clean jars.
- Add jars to canner and heat up to about the same temperature as the tomatoes.
- Add lemon juice and salt (if using) to each jar.
- Fill jars to 1 inch headspace with tomatoes.
- Wipe jar rims with clean, wet rag or paper towel.
- Place lids on jars and screw rings to finger tight.
- Put jars on rack in canner and bring to a full rolling boil.
- Process 35 min. for pints/half pints, 40 min. for quarters.
- Turn off heat and let jars sit in hot water another 5 minutes.
- Use tongs to remove jars from canner and set somewhere to cool for 12-24 hours.
- Remove rings, test lids to make sure they've sealed, and store in a cool dark place for maximum shelf life.