Canning Tomatoes

Last week a tomato truck lost its back trailer on a sharp curve at the south end of our farm. As soon as I saw all those tomatoes on the ground I knew I had to take advantage of them! I called my mom and asked her if she would teach me how to can them. A few years ago her and my grandma canned over 100 cans of sauce and diced tomatoes. My mom of course said yes! Between her job and me harvesting, it would need to wait till the weekend. I took 5 – 5 gal buckets out to the pile and filled them up. 


Unfortunately, because they sat for a couple days we lost about half the tomatoes to mold, or just going bad. But I had collected enough to have about 75 lbs of good tomatoes. Not to worry though, all the bad tomatoes were not waisted! My chickens had a feast. On Saturday night I started sorting and cleaning all the good tomatoes. After cleaning all the tomatoes, I shoved them in bags and into the fridge, ready for Sunday morning. 

On Sunday morning the fun began. We had lots of hands to help. My mom, grandma, AJ, and I were all ready for some canning action. I brought over my BBQ so we could have a station outside as well as inside on my mom’s stove. My mom started prepping all the ingredients, other than the tomatoes, for the spaghetti sauce. Things like onions, garlic, and peppers. 

Outside we brought a big pot of water to boil on the BBQ. All the tomatoes needed to be skinned before they could be thrown into the spaghetti sauce. We started by cutting the stem off, and a small X in the bottom of the tomato. Next, they went into the pot of hot water. Directions said to boil the tomatoes for about a minute, but we ended up needing to boil them for about 5 minutes. Once the skin felt a little soft, we dunked the tomatoes in ice water, and we peeled the skin off my hand. We repeated this until we had about 25 lbs of tomatoes skinned. That’s how much we used for our first batch of sauce. 

Once skinned the tomatoes were put into the sauce pot and all the ingredients were mixed together with an emersion blender. After blended together we boiled the sauce for a little while to let it cook down. Now it was time to prep the jars. My mom has a big canning pot that has a metal disk on the bottom, the disk on the bottle allows you to set all the jars on top of it, while still letting water circulate through the whole pot. We put 7 jars into the pot, and fill the pot, and every jar, with water. Letting the whole pot boil for a while helps sanitize the jars. It’s also important to make sure the jars are somewhat hot when you put hot sauce in them. If the jars were cold some funky stuff could happen from the sudden temperature change. The goal is to somewhat keep everything around the same temperature. We also started a small pot to boil the canning lids, the small disks that have the rubber rim to seal the cans.

Once everything is boiling, it’s time to can! Using a tool, I pulled a jar from the boiling water and poured the water back into the pot. The first thing I did with every quart jar was add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice. The acid in the lemon juice keeps bad bacteria from growing in the jar. Next is the sauce! I left about a half inch of head space in every jar. Once the sauce is in, my mom has a little magnet tool that I used to dip into the pot with the lids, place a lid on top, then I put the screw top on. I screwed the top on but not too tight. I want the air to be able to escape when I place the jar back into the pot. Once the jar is ready I slowly place it back into the canning pot of boiling water. Repeat this step till all the jars from the canning pot are filled. You want the pot to have about an inch over water over the top of all the jars. Place the lid on the pot and boil for 40 minutes. 

We made about 20 jars of sauce and 10 jars of diced tomatoes. It was such a great experience and it’s going to be fun to make dinner with our own sauce! It’s definitely an all-day event, and sometimes multiple days. But if you enjoy it, it’s totally worth it!