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Let me introduce myself. My name is Mark Sisson. I’m 63 years young. I live and work in Malibu, California. In a past life I was a professional marathoner and triathlete. Now my life goal is to help 100 million people get healthy. I started this blog in 2006 to empower people to take full responsibility for their own health and enjoyment of life by investigating, discussing, and critically rethinking everything we’ve assumed to be true about health and wellness...

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April 02, 2009

How to Can Tomatoes

By Mark Sisson
37 Comments

Canned TomatoesFor people of a self-reliant ilk (as Primal readers usually are), what better way to ensure the quality of your food than preparing it yourself? I post a lot of recipes for various meals on MDA, and I’ve urged readers to produce their own food if possible – either by hunting or gardening. There was even that sauerkraut guide last week. But until today, I haven’t tackled the age-old process of home canning.

In the past, I’ve been a bit critical of canned items, and rightfully so. The soups are often loaded with preservatives and lines and lines of unrecognizable ingredients, while canned fruit is usually soaking in a syrup bath. Canned vegetables are a great choice when fresh produce isn’t available, but you still have to check the ingredient list. Still, the convenience of canned goods can’t be beat, and all those concerns about unPrimal ingredients go out the window if you take it upon yourself to learn how to can your own food. Just as cooking at home allows you to make sure your meal is truly Primal, home canning allows you to control exactly what goes into your canned food.

You can can just about anything: fruits of all kinds, vegetables, pickled items, salsas, sauces, even meat and fish. Obviously, you’ll want to avoid the sugary jams or baked beans that are typical in home canning, but as long as you stick to already Primal foods, you’ll reap the benefits of canning (which are considerable). You can buy in bulk and never worry about things going bad. If you’re the survivalist type, you can can your own goods for the disaster of your choice – canned goods won’t go bad just because the power went out.

Probably the easiest for beginners is canned tomatoes, so that’s what I’ll talk about today. I started by gathering the necessary items:

  • Eight largish tomatoes (red and yellow, preferably homegrown or organic)
  • A dozen basil leaves
  • A bit of sea salt
  • Three 1/2 pint mason jars
  • Tall crock pot for sealing the jars
  • A rack that fit in the bottom of my crockpot
  • Smaller pot
  • Bowl for cold water

Clean your hands with soap and hot water. An absolutely sterile environment is required for good home canning.

Put the rack at the bottom of your crock pot. I didn’t have one that fit, so I had to bend and break a little-used oven rack (mini-workout!) to size. Fill your crock pot with enough water so that your jars can stand up straight and still be covered by an inch of water. Boil it. Fill your smaller pot with water, too, and get it boiling.

Wash the mason jars with soapy water and rinse, then sterilize the jars, their rings, and their tops in the boiling crock pot for at least ten minutes. Leave them in the water until you’re ready to can.

Wash your tomatoes and dunk them in the boiling water in the smaller pot for about a minute. Once the skin starts to split, dunk them in a cold water bath and peel the skin off. It should come off easily. After removing the cores and any bruised spots, sprinkle your peeled tomatoes with sea salt. Cut, dice, or leave your tomatoes whole – it’s your choice (I tried to keep them as whole as possible, but I did end up cutting a bit and smashing them down in the can).

Put your tomatoes, along with a few basil leaves (optional), into your jars. You’ll want to avoid any air bubbles, so force them down. Do a little smashing if you have to. Once they’re all in, use a wooden spoon to go along the sides and remove any lingering air bubbles. Leave about 1/2 inch of space at the top.

Using a damp, clean towel, wipe the rim of the jar clean. Put the tops on and screw them down with the ring, but not too tight – don’t strain. Place your jars in the crock pot on top of the rack (the rack allows water to flow underneath the jars); the water should be at a roiling boil.

Remove your jars after 40 minutes and place on the counter to cool. Don’t touch or move them. After about a day, you might hear a popping noise as the seal occurs. A properly sealed canned item will have a depressed indent in the lid. If you don’t have that indent, your food isn’t sealed. In that case, eat the stuff now or try again.

If canned tomatoes are properly sealed, keep them in a cool, dark place and they’ll stay for years. Enjoy!

If you truly want to get into big-time canning, buying a pressure canner is a good first step. Canning acidic items, like tomatoes (or tomato-based sauces), salsas, or fruits, can be safely done using the above method, but canning meats, fish, and other less acidic foods requires a proper pressure canner. These can be a bit pricey (around $100-120), but they’re very useful if you think you’ll be doing a lot of canning. There are also dedicated boiling canners for less money that do essentially the same thing as my makeshift crock pot-with-a-broken-oven-rack, only the rack is built in (but again, these are only good for acidic foods). Otherwise, if you’re just going to be doing the occasional canning, the Primal quick and dirty method will work just fine.

Further Reading:

How to “Primalize” Your Pantry

How to Make Your Own Jerky

Homemade Condiment Creations

TAGS:  cooking tips

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37 Comments on "How to Can Tomatoes"

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amy
7 years 5 months ago

I was just wondering yesterday about canning tomatoes (seriously, I was), so thanks for posting this! Now all I have to do is wait for summer and the generosity of friends with an overabundance of tomatoes…

Adam Steer - Better Is Better
7 years 5 months ago

Great idea!

After a somewhat mitigated first try last year, I’m hoping this year’s garden will yield a healthy tomato crop…

Cheers,
Adam

Robert M.
Robert M.
7 years 5 months ago

You need to add citric acid to tomatoes to bring their pH down low enough to be food-safe against botulism.

Sandra
Sandra
6 years 10 months ago

Help!
My tomatoes that were green,got ripe. So I made a spaghetti sauce. It was bitter!
I added sugar to the recipe, but that did not help. What didn’t I do, or what did I need to do. . . ?

sandra
sandra
6 years 8 days ago

I also made spagetti sauce with my green ripe tomatoes. I too, tried everything to change the flavor.
What did you find out?

sissy southall
sissy southall
5 years 8 days ago

my comment below was really for you. I clicked on the wrong reply I guess. We didn’t try it on green tomatoes but we put it in our Spaghetti sauce and the balsamic vinegar does work.

sissy southall
sissy southall
5 years 8 days ago

just add a little balsamic vinegar. My husband is a chef and we made some too and the balsamic vinegar blends everything together and gives it a smooth taste.

Jane
Jane
7 years 5 months ago

I have to admit… I laughed out loud a bit at the mental picture of Mark in his kitchen bending metal.

Thanks for this post – I’m really enjoying the “How To”s.

Randy
Randy
7 years 5 months ago

Okay, this is a ridiculously unprimal suggestion, but during the whole canning process, what about mixing a little blue food coloring in? Yes, it’s an unnatural, chemical, and possibly evil thing to do to a tomato. But blue tomatoes? How fun is that?! Anyone have any specific problems with food coloring? If not, I’m blueifying my tomatoes. And maybe my kraut too.

Holly
Holly
7 years 5 months ago

Randy – Maybe you can make green eggs while you’re at it?

George
George
7 years 5 months ago

Good tips – I am going to be canning and freezing a lot this year as my 1-acre garden gets planted starting on Saturday!

Peggy
Peggy
7 years 5 months ago

I have just recently found this website & am LOVING it! I am making a switch from ovo/lacto vegetarian to primal (I’ve only had fish so far) and find this site informative & inspirational. I have been toying some of the recipes & when it’s perfected, look for Energy Bar III! I just canned my first veggies last fall & was wondering if pickling is “primal”? I love my beets & purple eggs… & pickled Brussel Sprouts are awesome.

Sonagi
Sonagi
7 years 5 months ago

Ugh, I can smell the tomatoes cooking in our family kitchen. I see the slimy little blobs in the bowl of goulash and on the Swiss steak. I was the least finicky of the kids, willing to eat anything except tomatoes, which my mother loved and served at least twice a week, and forced me to eat.

Danielle T
Danielle T
7 years 5 months ago
This blog is always up my alley. I love this blog. I use a pressure cooker, then I don’t have to worry about adding vinegar or whatever to increase the acidity. With a pressure cooker you will be able to can soups and stews, which I think process pretty well. Refer to the Ball canning guides for details–great source of info. I was a big time tomato and pepper gardener when I lived in Chico, CA. I prefer to can salsa or plain tomato sauce rather than canning whole tomatoes; it’s just a more usable product for me. I have… Read more »
Ellen
Ellen
7 years 5 months ago

If you start canning fresh veggies, you are headed down a slippery slope! My family would only eat home-canned green beans, not store-bought! And home canned tomatoes are vastly superior to store bought. You can also freeze tomatoes after skinning & quartering. Good for soup.

Heather
Heather
7 years 5 months ago
Thanks for the suggestion to buy in bulk and can stuff, the thought never even occurred to me. I always associated having a garden with canning, like you had to grow it yourself in order to can it. Funny how the mind puts up walls and tells us there’s only one way to do things. Now I can’t wait for the farmer’s market to open here, I’ll be buying a lot more than just what I can eat each week. I had actually given up tomatoes during the winter, figuring it was better to pay twice as much for local,… Read more »
Trinkwasser
Trinkwasser
7 years 5 months ago

OMG that takes me back to mother slaving away when I was little, only we used Kilner Jars

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kilner_jar

Hmmm, if a freezer was pedal-powered would that be Primal?

Hank Miller
Hank Miller
7 years 5 months ago

Holly,

Green eggs are made by chickens, NOT food coloring. If you want green eggs, you need to buy the right chickens. I recall my dad eating them at a relatives place when I was a kid. They only had a couple chickens that laid green eggs so I didn’t get to try them. (I don’t think they are any different other than the color of the shell)

Uncle B
Uncle B
7 years 5 months ago
Pressure canning – the way to go! I pressure can everything I can get my hands on cheap! Supermarket got Chickens at half price to get rid of overstocking situation? In I go, and buy as many as I can get, prep them, can them, and when prices are high, I enjoy my half-priced stuff, no refrigeration costs added! Got an over-purchase of carrots two years ago for nearly nothing, canned them, gave carrot space in garden over to beets two years running now, and I am still laughing at the supermarket manager! See a veggie bargain in the fall… Read more »
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[…] week we discussed the merits of canning your own foods. So you canned a bunch of tomatoes and now you need a good reason to use ‘em! Enter the following […]

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6 years 9 days ago

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[…] tempting to be seduced by looks alone, it’s best to to keep your wits about you when buying tomatoes and focus on what really matters. A brightly or deeply colored tomato always seems to promise […]

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5 years 1 month ago

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5 years 18 days ago

[…] of you may have seen some information about canning tomatoes on Mark Sisson’s site some time ago.  Thanks to the Cottage Smallholder I’ve now found out […]

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Diane Bouska
Diane Bouska
4 years 1 month ago

It seems you don’t know about the canning jar lids having the same bpa-containing lining as metal food cans. I was looking for info on whether the natural rubber rings used with Weck and other all-glass jar and lid combos are safe, but I guess you haven’t caught up to this issue yet!

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