Reasons for Growing and Canning Tomatoes

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Need some reasons why to home can tomatoes?

The biggest reason we home can our own food supply is we know exactly what went into each jar. Especially if you grow your own fruits and vegetables. And tomatoes are usually at the top of everyone’s home-growing list. Even if you are not tilling up soil and planting a huge garden, many people grow tomatoes in pots or raised beds for their personal consumption or home canning needs.

Others of us who preserve upwards of 9 bushels of tomatoes a year will rely on local farmers or farm stands to procure such a haul. Buying locally attributes to knowing where your food comes from, even if you did not grow it yourself. Knowing the farmer’s growing methods gives you confidence when compared to shopping at large chain stores who import fruit and vegetables from all over the world. Knowing where our food comes from is huge for most of us home canners, but some home canned foods resonate over others, like the tomato. Farmers produced more than 170 million tons of tomatoes worldwide in 2014 according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization.

The tomato is at the heart of so many recipes. Appetizers, main courses, even jams and jellies, the tomato is probably the most versatile and abundantly eaten foods. I would go as far to say that the tomato ranks as a favorite among humans. The tomato consumption alone in America is second only to potatoes according to a 2016 article by Nutrition Today. And, the primary recipe attributed to tomato consumption is tomato sauce.  While the USDA spent countless hours breaking down the tomato’s consumption data in America, it is plain to see the tomato’s popularity across the globe.

The second largest reason home canners preserve tomatoes and tomato-based recipes is the ability to control its flavor. While many preserve tomatoes in their own juice, or simply in water, creating tomato based meals in a jar, soups and stews, and a variety of flavored sauces gives us flexibility and usability when creating meals in our home. Meals we know our family will love consuming.

How have tomatoes changed over the decades?

Tomatoes are a great source of vitamins, potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and copper. They’re great for people suffering with diabetes; tomatoes help protect the kidneys and lower cholesterol levels. Many do complain that tomatoes do not taste the same today as they did 40 years ago. Have you heard your grandparents say something along these lines? If so, they may be onto something…

An international study published in the Journal of Science claims tomatoes don’t taste the way they used to prior to varieties popping up everywhere. In our efforts to mass produce, promote even ripening, and encourage resistance to chemicals, we have inadvertently removed a good portion of the 100 compounds responsible for making a tomato taste tomato-y! To combat this less than desirable change, consider buying locally. A farmer’s market tomato might not look quite as beautiful, but it might be a little more flavorful, and you’ll be helping a neighbor.

Recipes for Canning Tomatoes

If you’re looking for an easy canning recipe to start with, try my Basil Diced Tomatoes. I often tell people this is also a great recipe to use when learning to work with your pressure canner for the first time. Basil Diced Tomatoes recipe uses Roma tomatoes and is simple yet delicious and incredibly versatile. Roma tomatoes are great for canning because of their thin skin and have less liquid and seeds than other varieties. Personally, I only use Romas when canning because of their thin skin. I leave their skins on when canning. Not having to blanch and peel tomatoes is such a time-saver!

In addition to my Basil Diced Tomatoes, another fun recipe from my latest book, The Complete Guide to Pressure Canning is Tomato Chutney. Tomato Chutney is such an easy recipe that is truly a fall favorite in my home. These are two amazing canning recipes if you are interested in preserving tomatoes in something other than just water.

Canning Diced, Whole or Crushed Tomatoes in a Water Bath Canner

If you would rather preserve diced, whole or crushed tomatoes instead of purchasing commercially canned tomatoes, you may do so by using the following method:

  1. Blanch thick-skinned tomatoes, like Beefsteak, to remove their core and skin. If using a thin-skinned tomato, like a Roma, you may simply core and dice. Keeping the skin on your tomato is a personal preference. It is not recommended you keep the skin on because many people do not like skin’s texture when consuming the recipe. There is nothing unsafe about the home canning recipe if the skin remains on the tomato.
  2. Fill each jar with tomatoes, leaving a 1/2-inch headspace.
    • Raw-packing the tomatoes will leave you with a higher ratio of liquid in each jar, but is the easiest way to fill each jar.
    • Hot-packing, meaning you bring the diced/whole tomatoes to a boil for 5 to 10 minutes over medium-high heat before filling the jars. This allows trapped air in the foods fibers to be released, causing the food to shrink up meaning you will have a higher ratio of solids in each jar. More tomatoes for the recipe and less need to drain before use. If you plan to can crushed tomatoes, you will want to hot-pack to make them easier to mash.
  3. Wipe the jar rim with a washcloth dipped in vinegar, apply clean lid and ring to each jar and hand tighten.
  4. Place jars in a water bather, being sure they are covered with at least 2 inches of water. Using high heat, bring canner to a full rolling boil. Process pint jars for 40 minutes and quarts for 45 minutes. Adjust according to your altitude if needed.
  5. After processing, shut off burner and remove canner lid. Allow jars to sit for 10 minutes before removing to cool.


FUN FACT: There are over 3,000 heirloom/heritage tomato varieties in cultivation currently, and over 15,000 variety overall that we know about. If you started today and canned a new variety every day for the rest of your life, it would take 41 years to can them all.