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It's Tomato Time!!! How to Preserve Tomatoes, Spaghetti Sauce, & Tomato Juice

It’s tomato season! Fruit and vegetable stands are filled with ripe, juicy tomatoes just waiting to be enjoyed. For our family, this time of year becomes a marathon of canning various types of tomato products.

We were raised on homemade spaghetti sauce, tomato juice, and tomato soup. Mom also canned whole tomatoes to use in various recipes throughout the year. Recently, I heard someone on television say, “Once you’ve had fresh sauce you can never go back to canned spaghetti sauce!” I wholeheartedly agree. There is nothing like fresh sauce and fresh tomato juice. For a little hard work now, you can eat fresh tomato sauce for an entire year.

It isn’t just the taste of fresh sauce that makes it superior. Like all foods that you make from scratch, when you jar tomatoes, tomato sauce, or tomato juice there are tremendous health benefits.

Why? You control the ingredients.

For instance, you choose whether you use salt or a salt substitute. You can add sugar or a sweetener. You pick what kind of oil and how much you use. If your family has allergies to a specific spice you can eliminate it from your recipe. Another benefit is that when you make your own sauce, you won’t add all of the artificial colors, flavorings and preservatives. Your sauce will simply contain the nutrients and vitamins that come from tomatoes.

Perhaps the greatest benefit of jarring tomatoes and spaghetti sauce is the convenience. Whenever you need tomatoes or spaghetti sauce, you just open a jar to enjoy healthy, homemade goodness. Because fresh, local food is priced much lower than imported food or prepackaged food, jarring will stretch your grocery dollar over the course of the year. There are so many benefits to home canning!

At our house, we can whole tomatoes, make our own spaghetti sauce, and our own tomato juice (which makes an awesome soup!) Because it's the simplest procedure, I'm sharing the instructions for how to can whole tomatoes. Throughout the year, if you want to make spaghetti sauce or a recipe calls for tomatoes, they will be available. In our family, we use jarred tomatoes in our homemade vegetable soup. Here's how to get started!!!

Canning Whole Tomatoes

1. The first step in any canning process is washing and sterilizing the jars. Whether you are buying new jars or reusing old ones, it is absolutely necessary to wash and sterilize them to prepare them for the food. This process is very simple. Start by washing the jars like you would normally wash dishes. Then place them upside down in your oven. Set the temperature at 200 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for 10-15 minutes. This process will dry up the moisture and kill any bacteria in the jars. It will also remove any unwelcome odors from the jars. When the cooking time is over, turn the oven off, but let the jars in the oven until you are ready to use them.

Another thing you must do in preparation before you start working with the tomatoes is to fill your canner with water and turn to a “HI” temperature until it boils. By the time the water is boiling, you will have several jars finished and ready to process cook.

2. Now you are ready to start working with the tomatoes. Start by washing and peeling the tomatoes. Here’s a tip: if you are having difficulty removing the skins from your tomatoes, dip them in boiling water for 5-10 seconds. The skin will come right off.

3. Cut the tomatoes in quarters.

4. Cook the tomatoes in a shallow pan with about 1 -2 inches of water until the tomatoes boil.

5. When the tomatoes boil, pack them into clean, sterilized jars.

6. Use the juice in the bottom of the pot to fill any excess space in the jar.

7. Add 1 teaspoon salt to the top of the jar. You are now ready to place the lids on the jars.


1. Before can place the jar lids on the jars, you need to sterilize them. You can do this by cooking them in boiling water for about a minute. Boil both the jar lid and the ring.

2. Before placing the rings on the jars, take a wet paper towel and wipe the top of the jar.

3. Take the jar lid and ring out of the boiling water and place it on the jar. Make sure it is on tightly, but DO NOT PRESS THE CENTER OF THE JAR LID. After all the jars are finished, place them in the rack that comes with the canner.

4. You are now ready to process cook your jars. We do this using a canner. To do this, you lift the rack into the canner. The water CANNOT BE BOILING when you put the jars into the canner. It can be hot, but not boiling. If it is boiling, take the lid off and let it cool down a couple of minutes. Then place the rack into the canner. The water must completely cover the jars. If it doesn’t, you should add more water.

5. When the water in the canner turns to a rolling boil, turn the stove temperature down to a medium heat. Set a timer for 10 minutes. When the timer is done, carefully lift the jars from the canner and place on a glass cutting board to cool.

6. After a few minutes, carefully remove the jars from the rack. Remember, they are very hot. Also, don’t accidentally touch the inside of the jar lid. You want the lid to pop by itself.

7. Allow the jars to cool overnight. The next day, tighten the jar lid and wipe the jar with a damp cloth.

8. Finally, you need to test the seal on the jar. To test a jar that has a flat metal lid, press the center of the jar lid; if the lid is down and will not move the jar is sealed. It is ready to be stored in a cool, dry place. If it didn’t seal properly, you will hear a little “pop”. You can still eat the food; you will just need to store it in your refrigerator.

(To consult the experts with a question about jars, jar lids, or process cooking contact KERR at

That's how you preserve tomatoes! For a few days each summer, my kitchen is filled with pots and pans filled with various tomato recipes. I think it’s worth it, because for the rest of the year I have healthy, delicious tomato products to serve my family.

I hope this article inspires you to give home canning of tomatoes a try. Please, don’t be overwhelmed. Just try a small quantity and see how it goes. Before you know it, you’ll have the courage and know-how to can larger quantities of healthy fruits and vegetables. If you want tips from the experts in home canning contact Ball or Kerr at

Enjoy canning season!


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