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How to can tomatoes in 17 easy steps! Posted on 21 Sep 14:21 , 4 comments

Every year I can tomatoes to use throughout the year. This year my goal was to can 500 pounds of tomatoes. I have to say it's not hard, but there are a lot of steps and it's messy. But it's sooo worth it. I asked my husband, how in the world could I inspire someone to want to can when it looks kind of hard. Well I thought about it and here's what I came up with.

Every time I read articles about the worst 10 foods you could eat, canned tomatoes are usually number one. The reason they are on the top ten list is because the inside of the can is lined with plastic containing BPA.  People are shocked when I tell them that canned tomatoes are bad. After all, tomatoes are a vegetable (or technically fruit), so how can they be bad? Well, it has more to do with the packaging than the actual food.

Bisphenol-A, A Harmful Chemical

Most of us know that BPA is harmful. BPA, shortened from bisphenol-a is a chemical used to coat the lining of cans and most plastic products.

BPA can leach into foods and drinks by way of plastic containers, Tupperware, bottles, and cans.

Children are most susceptible to the effects of BPA chemicals. Below are just a few of the detected health problems resulting from BPA exposure (source).

  • hormonal disruption
  • reproductive harm
  • increased risk of certain cancers
  • malformation of organs in children
  • risk of miscarriage
  • sperm defects
  • increased risk of mental disabilities in babies.

BPA exposure is widespread, mostly because BPA is in most plastics and we use use so much of it, especially around our food. A survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control found detectable levels of BPA in 93% of 2517 urine samples from people older than 6 years old.

Why Are Canned TOMATOES so bad?

It’s true that most cans have BPA lining, unless it is labelled otherwise, so why am I singling out canned tomatoes?

I’m focusing on canned tomatoes because since tomatoes are highly acidic, it draws out more of the BPA into the food from the lining. So, canned tomatoes have an especially high risk of leaching BPA into the tomatoes because of the acidity. This is not to say that other canned goods do not also pose BPA exposure risks (they most certainly do), but tomatoes are one of the worst offenders.

Don’t be fooled by BPA-FREE Cans!

Unfortunately, BPA-free cans don’t really solve the problem. When the word started getting out about the dangers of BPA a few years ago, consumers started demanding that companies quit using BPA. So, companies responded to consumer pressure and largely removed BPA from their packaging, BUT they replaced it with another chemical that has similar associated health risks called BPS–Bisphenol S.

So, even though the thought of a BPA-free label may comfort many consumers, it’s a false promise. The cans and plastics labelled as BPA-free will still have some sort of chemical in them and usually it’s BPS. That’s why I always recommend only using natural products like glass and stainless steel to avoid ANY type of plastic.

So that being said, here is how to can your own tomatoes in glass jars that are chemical free, re-usable and so delicious!

Every year Underwood Farms in Moorpark, CA (click for more info) has a Roma tomato event! It is usually at the end of August. You can pick your own Roma tomatoes for 25 cents a pound or order pre-picked for 50 cents a pound. I picked my own for the first few years and it's fun (you've got to try it at least once) but it takes a whole day away from canning. So now I order pre-picked and it works out better for me.

This year I started out by ordering 400 pounds. When I looked at all these tomatoes, I had a small panic attack. So I put 4 boxes in the refrigerator and I felt better, because 12 boxes is much less intimidating (NOT!)

Now we've got our tomatoes, here goes the canning process.

First of all I put my jars in the dishwasher to get sterilized. Takes about 2 hours, so you have plenty of time to do the prep work.

Next I put tarps down on the floors and towels on the counters. Trust me the clean up is so much easier.

Then I start processing my tomatoes one 25 pound box at a time. Just look at these beauties. 25 pounds will give me about  12 quarts of whole tomatoes.

First you wash the tomatoes really good. I use my garage sink that has been disinfected.  I use a plastic washtub to bring them into the house once they are washed. One heaping tub is enough to do your first 7 quarts of tomatoes.

Once they are all washed, you remove the core and then you cut an X on the bottom of each tomato. Put into a bowl.  

Then put the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water until the skins split. Then put them in an ice bath and let cool.

When they are cool you can slip the skins right off.

Once they are all peeled, you can prepare your jars. Get 7 jars out of the dishwasher. Put one teaspoon of sea salt ( I use Pink Himalayan) and 2 Tablespoons of bottled lemon juice. Must be bottled! This is ensures they have the correct acid content.

At this point it's time to get your lids ready. Put 7 lids and rings in a pot of water and bring to a simmer.

Now you can start putting your whole, peeled tomatoes in the jars. I use a funnel to make it less messy. You have to shove as many tomatoes as you can and I do mean shove!

Then you remove the air with this bubble remover (click for more info) . Run it down each side of the jar. Leave a one inch head space. Once they are all de-bubbled, wipe the rims with a paper towel saturated in white vinegar. This removes all the stickiness and helps the jars seal. 

Now you can apply the lids and rings. I use this lid lifter (click for more info) because these suckers are hot! (This pic is not tomatoes it's jam but the process is the same). Only tighten finger tight. If you do them to tight the lids buckle.

Once you've got the lids on, put into the canner. I use a steam canner. It is awesome! Here's the link. You can also use a water bath method.

Put the lid on and wait for the steam to come out of the hole. Set the timer for 50 minutes and go start your next batch or this is when I take my break and have a lemonade, lay on the couch and watch my DVR'd "Real Housewives."

When the timer goes off, wait a minute and lift the lid off away from you, that steam is hot and can burn! Remove jars with jar lifter (click for more info) and let cool over night. The lids should "ping" closed. Don't help them. Let it happen naturally. If they do not seal put in fridge and use quickly.

After they are all sealed and cooled, remove rings, wash and dry. Store without rings, in a cool, dark place. These will last in your pantry at least a year but I'm sure you'll use them all up before then!

You've done it!! It is the best feeling in the world to see home canned tomatoes in your pantry!

 p.s. After I finished my 400 pounds I went and ordered another 100 pounds and made salsa! I ended up with 96 jars of whole tomatoes, 24 jars of tomato sauce and 164 jars of salsa and I achieved my goal!