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How to Preserve Tomatoes Cold Pack

Updated on August 27, 2018

Why put up your own Tomatoes?

Putting up tomatoes in the late summer-early fall makes for a Yummy winter!  Well at least a full belly in the winter.  There is nothing quite like going to the pantry picking up a jar off your shelf and hearing that lid pop open as you open the jar.  With home canned tomatoes you can use them for anything you would use store bought tomatoes for, and then some!  No matter how hard the food companies try, they just can't compare with home cooking!

I use my home canned tomatoes for soups, sauces, goulash, in cottage cheese (looks gross, tastes good) or just opening up a jar and  heating up a bowl.  There are two different methods for canning tomatoes ‘open kettle’ or cold pack.  I will be discussing cold pack.

Select good canning tomatoes, these should be free from blemishes or bruising and ripe but not squishy ripe.   If you find any that have split and are growing a whitish mold on it, throw it away.  There is nothing worse than spending time canning to have to throw away a jar. 

What you will need

The general rule of thumb for canning is 1 bushel should yield 20 to 21 quarts of tomatoes.

What you will need to assemble:

Jars at least 21 quarts (sometimes if you have really good tomatoes you will get more than 21 quarts per bushel, it’s good to be prepared) It doesn’t matter if you are using wide mouth or small mouth.
If using pints you will need to double this amount.
New lids (wide or small depending on your jars) with good rings.  Rings can be re-used from year to year provided they aren’t rusty.  You will need as many lids as you have jars.  Lids come in boxes of 12.
If you are purchasing new jars, lids and rings come with these.

Kettle for boiling water
Large metal bowl or pot or a good seal for your sink
Empty garbage can with new bag
Good, sharp knife (larger than paring knife)
Butter knife
Teaspoon measuring spoon
Damp clean cloth or paper towels
Jar tong
Canning kettle with separator rack (holds 7 jars)
Pot holders
Empty counter space

Keep it clean!!

Start with a clean kitchen - germs are a no-no when dealing with tomatoes.

Wash all jars, in hot soapy water, rinsing in very hot water (even if they are new). You may use a dishwasher if you have one. Turn upside down to dry, set aside. Put your tea kettle or pot of water on to boil. Turn over 7 jars and set next to the area you will be working in, placing 1 tsp of salt in each jar.

While waiting for your water to boil you’ll need to get a few things ready.

Place canning kettle on stove filling at least 1/3 with water.

Get your tomatoes ready. Place them in a plugged sink or large bowl or pan, stem side down. You may stack these and fill to sink, bowl or pot, making sure they are upside down. Only when the water is boiling, do you pour the water over the tomatoes. This is crucial to getting them peeled. Let them rest in the water for a few minutes, then using a fork, gently turn one over and quickly pierce the core with the fork spearing it. If you wish you may run a bit of cold water over the tomato for easier handling. With the ip of your knife gently peel the skin off the tomato. Because it is hot this will be easy. The boiling water causes the skin to separate from the tomato. Once the tomato is peeled then you will need to core it. By placing the tomato in the palm of your hand (the one not holding the knife) gently insert the knife at the edge of the core, working in a circle then pop the core out. Cut the tomato in ¼’s and drop into the jar. Repeat until jar is full. Empty sink of water and put peelings and cores into garbage can between each load.

When jar is full gently press down on tomatoes, gently insert butter knife down the side of the jar to release bubbles, working around the jar. With damp cloth or paper towel wipe top edge of jar making sure there is no seed or juice on top.

Wet lid with water, place on top of jar then screw on ring. DO NOT PUSH DOWN CENTER of lid.

Turn on stove under canning kettle. You can place jars in the rack while waiting for it to heat. To do this, place one on side and one on the opposite side, go around until all outside rack is filled then put 1 jar in center. Release rack from sides of kettle by gently lowering into the water. At this time you may need to add more water, all jars should be covered with water. This is called ‘Hot Water’ bath. Place on lid and bring to a boil, boil for 20 minutes.

Remove lid from canner, set aside. With pot holder, carefully lift rack out of water, setting on edge of canner. Using jar tongs lift each jar off of the rack and set on empty counter space. Again - DO NOT PUSH CENTER OF LID. This is a big mistake that first time canners sometimes do. The heat from the tomatoes will create a vacuum causing them to seal on their own. Do not move them until they are completely cool, then you may place them in your pantry to enjoy at a later date.

The shelf life for these is undetermined in my home. I’m lucky if I can make 70 quarts last the winter. A good rule to use is no more than 2 years on the shelf. If for some reason one has become 'un-sealed' on your shelf, discard immediately.

The beauty of canning is most items will be re-used from year to year only having to obtain tomatoes and lids each year.  Once rings are removed and jars are empty storage in a cool dry place will keep them working great for years!  Check for chips or cracks in jars before each use.


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