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How to Can Crushed Tomatoes the Easy Way

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Crushed tomatoes are one of the handiest pantry ingredients to keep on hand for home cooking. Happily, canning crushed tomatoes is also one of the easiest ways to preserve them. 

If you’re new to home food preservation, start by understanding the basics of safely canning tomatoes.

3 jars of crushed tomatoes in canning jars

Canning crushed tomatoes 

More of a technique than a recipe, making crushed tomatoes for the pantry is easy. When the crop is abundant, pack jars full of fresh tomatoes and process them in a water bath canner.

You’ll be able to pull tomatoes from the shelf as you need them to make recipes like chili, lentil soup, or even as a substitute for fresh tomatoes in this cooked salsa recipe.

lots of tomatoes in a galvanized tray

Ingredients

Tomatoes – Choose fresh ripe (not overripe) tomatoes. You can use any tomato variety, or even a combination of many. Juicy tomatoes will net more liquid in the jars; Roma tomatoes will produce less. 

Lemon juice – USDA preserving recipes all call for using bottled lemon juice. This assures that the acidity level in recipes is safe for canning.

If you really want to use fresh lemon juice (I get it!) you’ll need to pull out your pH paper to test the acidity of those lemons. In order to properly acidify the tomatoes, the pH of the lemon juice should be at least 4.5. Do not use Meyer lemons, a cross between a lemon and an orange, for this, as their acidity is too low. 

There’s a great discussion about using bottled vs. fresh lemon juice for canning here

Salt – This is an optional ingredient. If you prefer a lower-salt version, simply skip this ingredient. If you do use salt, be sure to opt for sea salt or canning salt. Don’t use salt that is iodized or treated with clumping agents.

Order this pack of pH paper and keep it on hand to check for safe acidity levels when canning. Less than $10 for peace of mind!
tomato with peel shriveling off it

Preparing the tomatoes

I don’t always skin tomatoes for cooking or canning, but I do peel them when making raw packed crushed tomatoes.

Here’s why: I put the tomatoes in the jars as large chunks. The peel on a chunk of tomato like that will roll up into a little “stick” of tomato skin when it cooks. And I don’t like those in my food. If that doesn’t bother you? You can skip the peeling process. 

Go here to see how I easily peel tomatoes.

wedges of fresh tomato on a cutting board

Once peeled, I remove the core and cut the tomatoes into chunks that will fit into the opening of my jars. 

hand dropping a chunk of raw tomato into a jar

Packing the jars

Here’s where the easy part comes in! Measure lemon juice into jars, then simply drop pieces of tomato into the jar until it’s full. 

Fill seven jars; that’s how many will fit in most canning pots. The recipe below is written for pint-size jars, but you can make quart jars as well. Just be sure to increase the amount of lemon juice you use.

hand pressing tomatoes into a glass jar

Use your (clean) hands to press the tomatoes into the jar, releasing juice and packing in as many as you can. Leave a one-half inch head space. 

canning jar full of crushed tomatoes

Processing the jars of crushed tomatoes

Use a damp cloth to wipe the rim of each jar; a little bit of food on the jar rim can prevent the lids from sealing properly. Set the lids in place and screw the bands on firmly tight (but not too tight).

Use a jar lifter to transfer jars into the gently boiling water. The water in the pot should cover the jars by about an inch. If necessary add more water to the canner.

Hot tip: Boil some extra water in a saucepan or electric kettle as you’re working. If you need to top off the water in the canner, you won’t cool down the water too much.

Process jars for the recommended time. (See below.) When time is up, use the jar lifter to transfer jars to a flat surface that’s padded with a kitchen towel. Allow jars to cool completely. As they cool, you’ll begin to hear a canner’s favorite sound: That lovely little tink! that indicates a successful seal.

Once jars are thoroughly cooled, check the seal on all of the jars. The lid should be concave and solid. If it flexes at all, it’s not sealed. (Place any jars that didn’t seal in the refrigerator and use them first. They are not shelf stable.)

Remove bands from cooled jars and rinse the jars. Store jars without the bands.

Note: You may notice that the tomato solids float above the liquid once they’ve been processed (as you can see below). This is totally fine. 

collage: hand dropping tomatoes into jar, canned, crushed tomatoes

Here are some more canning recipes to try!

This tomato chutney recipe is one of my favorites. 

Try canning nectarines or peaches to preserve the sweet flavor of a summertime harvest. 

Applesauce is easy to make and preserve with a water bath. Here’s how

Did you know you can make your own ready-to-use canned beans?? Talk about a time saver. 

3 jars of crushed tomatoes in canning jars

How to Can Crushed Tomatoes

Yield: 7 pints
Prep Time: 1 hour 10 minutes
Processing Time: 1 hour 25 minutes
Total Time: 2 hours 35 minutes

Crushed tomatoes are one of the handiest pantry ingredients to keep on hand for home cooking. Happily, canning crushed tomatoes is also one of the easiest ways to preserve them. Be sure to follow these instructions carefully to achieve a safe product.

Ingredients

  • 5 pounds fresh tomatoes
  • 7 tablespoons lemon juice (bottled or see notes)
  • 3.5 teaspoons sea salt (optional)

Instructions

PACKING THE JARS

  1. Before you begin packing the tomatoes, fill a canning pot with water, set the lid in place, and heat on high heat until boiling. It can take awhile for the water to boil.
  2. If desired, peel tomatoes.
  3. Remove hard core and cut tomatoes into chunks.
  4. Measure 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon salt into each pint-sized jar. (Use 2 tablespoons lemon juice and 1 teaspoon salt for quarts.)
  5. Drop tomatoes into jars, then press to release liquid and fill empty spaces. Leave a 1/2" head space.
  6. ipe jar rims to remove any relish that may have spilled. A clean rim is essential to a good seal.
  7. Set jar lids in place. Screw bands on firmly tight, without over-tightening.

CANNING RAW PACK CRUSHED TOMATOES:

  1. Use a jar lifter to gently submerge jars into hot water in canning pot. Water should cover the top of the jars by an inch. The water will cool somewhat in reaction to the addition of the jars. Return the water to a simmer and set the timer.
  2. Process pints OR quarts for 85 minutes 0-1,000 feet altitude; 90 minutes 1,001-3,000 feet; 95 minutes 3,001-6,000 feet; 100 minutes over 6,000 feet.
  3. Allow jars to cool overnight.
  4. Check for seal: the lids should feel solid and slightly indented. If they flex, that are not shelf stable and should be refrigerated and used first.
  5. Wash jars, remove rings, and store in a cool, dry place for a year.

Notes

Don't use salt that is iodized or treated with clumping agents.

USDA preserving recipes all call for using bottled lemon juice. This assures that the acidity level in recipes is safe for canning.

If you really want to use fresh lemon juice you'll need to pull out your pH paper to test the acidity of those lemons. In order to properly acidify the tomatoes, the lemon juice should be at least 4.5. Do not use Meyer lemons, a cross between a lemon and an orange, for this as their acidity is too low. 

Nutrition Information:
Yield: 28 Serving Size: 1/2 cup
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 15Total Fat: 0gSaturated Fat: 0gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 0gCholesterol: 0mgSodium: 269mgCarbohydrates: 3gFiber: 1gSugar: 2gProtein: 1g

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Meet the Author

Kris Bordessa

Kris Bordessa founded Attainable Sustainable as a resource for revitalizing vintage skills. Her book, Attainable Sustainable: The Lost Art of Self-Reliant Living (National Geographic) offers a collection of projects and recipes to help readers who are working their way to a more fulfilling DIY lifestyle. She's a certified Master Food Preserver and longtime gardener who loves to turn the harvest into pantry staples.

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