Whole Canned Tomatoes

Recipe by Caiti Sullivan


  • 4 large tomatoes like Roma or Cherokee, about 1 ½ pounds
  • ½ lemon
  • ½ tsp salt
  • A few sprigs of fresh herbs like basil, rosemary, or oregano (optional)


  • 1 pint glass mason jar with a two piece lid and band
  • Large, tall stockpot, 20-21.5 quarts is best
  • Tongs, preferably canning tongs
  • Canning rack or aluminum foil

Instructions for Preparing the Tomatoes

  • Boil 2 cups of water and pour into the jar to sterilize it. Rinse the lids and bands in warm water but do not add to boiling water. Drain after 5 minutes or so and set aside.

  • In a small pot or stockpot boil about 3 quarts water. Prepare a large bowl of icewater filled about ¾ full.

  • Rinse tomatoes and cut a small cross in the bottom of each tomato with a paring knife. Cuts should be approximately 1 inch each and form an “x.”

  • Working in batches so that there is one layer of tomatoes at a time, ladle each crossed tomato into the boiling stockpot for 1 minute. Remove and ladle into the icewater. You should now be able to peel the skin off each tomato. Remove the tomato skins and core the tomatoes if you like.

  • To the pint jar, add the salt, lemon juice, and optional herb leaves. Pack in the peeled tomatoes and push down on them with a spatula to fill up air spaces. Leave ½ inch  headspace, or distance from the top of the jar. If tomatoes do not reach ½ inch from the top of the jar, pour in the cooking water to ½ inch headspace.

  • Affix the lid and band onto the jar, screwing tight. Give the jar a short shake to mix up the salt at the bottom.

Instructions for Canning the Tomatoes

  • Fill a large pot or canning pot (20-21.5 quarts) about halfway with water. Bring to a boil. There should be enough water to cover the jar and rise over its lid at least 1 inch. If you are using a canning rack, place this in the bottom of the pot.

  • If you do not have a canning rack, cut a large sheet of aluminum foil and roll into a loose roll. Coil the roll into a spiral about the size of the bottom of your pot, and use this as your canning rack.

  • When the water is boiling, using tongs to grab the top of the jar, place the jar in the pot on top of the canning rack of foil ring. Leave the jar in the water at a boil to process for 45 minutes.

  • Remove the jar from the water after 45 minutes. Over the next 24 hours the lid should “pop” and depress, creating a seal. When you open the jar the band may be loose, but the lid should be tightly sealed and “pop” again when opened. If your jar does not seal in the first 24 hours, reprocess following the instructions above using a new lid and band. In storage, if the food becomes discolored, discard. Canned tomatoes have a shelf life of one year, so make sure to label your jar with the date that you made them!

  • If you’d like to change the recipe or size of your jar, consult a reputable canning source like the USDA or Ball for guidelines on jar size and produce selection.

  • Open and use as you would any other whole or diced tomato, or to make a simple tomato sauce for pasta, vegetables, or pizza. Recipe follows.


Homemade Pasta Sauce

Homemade red sauce can be deeply satisfying and is incredibly simple. Enjoy the products of your work canning tomatoes with a quick, luscious pasta sauce that celebrates fresh tomato flavors.


  • 1 pint whole tomatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Handful fresh basil or ½ tbsp dried
  • 2 tbsp red wine (optional)
  • ½ onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper


  • Heat a medium sauce pan over medium heat. Dice the onion, and add the onion and olive oil to the pan, sauteing until the onion is fragrant.

  • Meanwhile, combine the canned tomatoes, peeled garlic cloves, leaves of basil, and red wine in a blender. Chop or mix until roughly pureed.

  • Add the tomato mixture to the onions and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Turn the heat to medium low and cook for five minutes, or until the sauce reaches a consistency to your liking. Season with salt and pepper, beginning with ¼ tsp each, stirring and tasting until you like the flavor.

  • Enjoy on your favorite pasta or steamed veggies or as a pizza sauce!