How to Store Tomatoes (Long Term)

A bounty of homegrown tomatoes or a gift of a purchase from the farmer's market can leave you with a glut of wonderful fresh tomatoes. Rather than eat nothing but tomato sauce and salads for the next week, consider storing some of your tomato bounty long term for use in cooking. Just be sure to enjoy the rest of the tomatoes in salads, sandwiches and on bruschetta because this method only leaves tomatoes suitable for cooking.

Steps

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    Place the hot water canner on the burner.
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    Place the jar rack into the canner.
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    Fill the canner half full with warm water, if using pint jars, add more water if using larger jars. You need to have 1 to 2 inches water over the jars during processing.
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    Center the canner over the burner and bring the water up to 180 °F (82 °C).
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    Choose the tomatoes you'll be storing long-term. Avoid any that are mildewed or rotten. Wash the tomatoes to clean them.
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    Dip the tomatoes in hot water 30 to 60 seconds, or until the skins split.
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    Dip the hot tomatoes in cold water, then remove the skins.
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    Remove the tomato cores.
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    Quarter the tomatoes.
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    Add 1/6th of the tomatoes to a large pot.
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    Crush tomatoes with a wooden mallet or large spoon to help create tomato juices.
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    Heat the tomatoes, stirring all the while, to prevent burning.
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    Bring the tomatoes to a boil.
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    Add the remaining tomato quarters gradually to the hot tomato juices in the pot.
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    Boil the tomato mixture gently for 5 minutes once all the tomato quarters are added.
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    Add lemon juice. Use 2 tablespoons lemon juice per quart of tomatoes.
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    Add 1 teaspoon salt per quart to the jars, if desired.
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    Fill the hot canning jars with the hot tomato mixture. Leave 1/2-inch headspace.
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    Remove air bubbles. Do not use a metal knife to remove the air bubbles as this can damage the jar. Use a bubble remover wand. These can be found online or where ever canning supplies are sold.
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    Wipe jar rims with a clean cloth or paper towel.
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    Apply lids.
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    Add enough hot water to the canner to ensure there is 1 to 2 inches of water covering the jars.
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    Cover the canner and turn the burner to its highest setting.
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    Start timing the canning process once the water reaches a vigorous boil.
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    Process tomatoes using USDA processing times and procedures. Adjust for elevation.
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    Turn off the burner once the process time is completed.
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    Allow the jars to remain in the canner for 5 minutes.
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    Remove the jars and place them on tea towels to cool for 12 to 24 hours.
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    Remove the jar bands once the cooling process has been completed.
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    Check to make sure the jars are sealed.
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    Refrigerate jars that have not processed correctly.
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    Clean and label the jars once you've checked for a good seal.

Processing Times

Hot Pack:

  • 0 to 1,000 feet (0.0 to 304.8 m): 35 minutes for pints or 45 minutes for quarts.
  • 1,001 to 3,000 feet (305.1 to 914.4 m): 40 minutes for pints or 50 minutes for quarts.
  • 3,001 to 6,000 feet (914.7 to 1,828.8 m): 45 minutes for pints or 55 minutes for quarts.
  • 6,000 feet (1,828.8 m): 50 minutes for pints or 60 minutes for quarts.

Tips

  • Always use new lids as the lids are not reusable.
  • Another option is to dice or slice the tomatoes and use a food dehydration system to preserve them.
  • If you'd rather freeze the glut of tomatoes, they can be put in the freezer whole – no special processing is needed but again, these will only be good for cooking when removed and it's best to add them to a dish you're cooking straight from the freezer rather than thawing them.

Warnings

  • Be careful when you're working with hot jars, as you might burn yourself. Wear gloves or use a tea towel to grip the jars when filling them.
  • Do not leave any residue on the rim of the jar after decanting some of the juice when you overfilled the jar. The rim of the jars has to be clean for a proper seal to happen. There should be about 1/2-inch of air space between the tomatoes and the lid.
  • Do not re-use commercial jars unless you have fresh lids/rings for them and you have thoroughly sterilized them. Chances of food borne illness increase dramatically with poorly sealed or poorly sterilized jars.
  • Do not put hot contents into cold jars; the jars will crack. This is the reason for pouring hot water into them when preparing them.

Things You'll Need

  • Saucepan
  • Mixing spoon or wooden mallet
  • Preserving jars and lids
  • Canner
  • Measuring cups and spoons
  • Timer
  • Tea towel
  • Hot water

Sources and Citations

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