• Yields: 5 (1-pint) jars 
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Total: 1 hr 55 mins, plus 12 hrs for cooling 
  • Active: 1 hr

Perfectly ripe tomatoes are so flavorful they can be eaten out of hand with just a pinch of salt. But they’re seasonal, so canning allows you to have good-quality tomatoes available year-round. Use these canned tomatoes in our Basic Tomato SauceEggplant-Pepper Tomato Sauce, or anytime you feel the urge for something tomatoey, like our Bruschetta recipe.

Special equipment: We’re assuming you already have basic tools lying around (like cutting boards, bowls, and measuring cups), so here’s the special equipment you’ll need for canning:

What to buy: Bottled lemon juice may sound counterintuitive, but it helps ensure a uniform acidity level, which is vital to proper canning.

Game plan: General canning tips: Before you turn on the heat, be sure to do the following: Read the recipe through, gather all the necessary equipment, and check that you have the right amount of each ingredient on hand.

Give all your equipment a once-over: Examine your canning jars for nicks, cracks, uneven rims, or sharp edges that may prevent sealing or cause breakage; check that the lids have no dents and that the sealing compound is even and complete; and check that the bands fit properly.

Finally, have your jars, lids, and bands already sanitized before you start, and prepare only enough for one canner load at a time.

Tomato-specific tips: Select fresh tomatoes at their peak and use firm, uniform-size produce free of any cracks, spots, or growths.

The processed tomatoes may float if air gets trapped in them prior to processing. To minimize this, concentrate on getting air out of the fruit when you push on it with the rubber spatula. However, if floating occurs, don’t despair: The tomatoes will settle over time, and they will be good for up to a year if they’re stored properly in a cool, dry, dark place.

This recipe was featured as part of our canning story.

This recipe was featured as part of our Tomatoes! photo gallery. by Aida Mollenkamp

Ingredients (4)

  • 5 pounds tomatoes, ripe but still firm
  • 5 tablespoons bottled lemon juice
  • 5 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 10 blemish-free medium basil leaves, washed and dried


For sanitizing the jars and lids:

  1. Wash the jars, lids, and bands in hot, soapy water. Rinse well. Dry the lids and bands and set aside.
  2. Place the jars in a boiling water canner or a 15- to 20-quart pot fitted with a canning rack and a lid. Fill the pot with water and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Boil for 10 minutes, then turn off heat.
  3. Keep the jars in the hot water until ready for use, removing one at a time as needed.

For the tomatoes:

  1. Rinse the tomatoes and cut a shallow X shape just through the skin into the bottom of each.
  2. Fill a large pot (6 to 8 quarts) with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Prepare an ice water bath by filling a bowl halfway with ice and water. Blanch the tomatoes until the skins loosen and start to pull back, about 30 to 60 seconds. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the tomatoes to the ice water bath, and reserve the blanching water.
  3. Peel the tomatoes, cut out the cores, and return the peeled tomatoes to the blanching water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; boil for 5 minutes.
  4. Once the tomatoes are cooked, remove the jars one at a time from the hot water using a jar lifter, letting any excess water drip off. Bring the water in the canner or pot back to a simmer (about 180°F) for processing the packed jars.
  5. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to each sanitized jar. Distribute tomatoes and basil leaves among the jars, crushing the tomatoes if necessary to fit and leaving a 1/2-inch headspace.
  6. To remove any air bubbles, slide a clean rubber spatula down the side of each jar and press inward on the tomatoes while rotating the jar; repeat 3 to 4 times for each jar.

For processing the packed jars:

  1. Wipe the rim and threads of each jar with a clean, damp towel. Place the lids on the jars, checking that the sealing compound is centered. Fit the jars with bands and tighten just until resistance is met.
  2. Check that the water in the pot or boiling water canner is at a simmer (about 180°F) and set the jars in the canning rack. (The jars must be covered by 1 to 2 inches of water. Add additional boiling water as necessary.)
  3. Cover the pot with a tightfitting lid and bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Process the jars for 45 minutes at a gentle but steady rolling boil. (Begin calculating the processing time once the water is at a rolling boil. Check occasionally that the water remains at a steady boil.)
  4. Once processed, remove the jars with the jar lifter and set them upright, 1 to 2 inches apart, on a dry towel. Do not retighten the bands; let cool at least 12 hours.
  5. After the jars have cooled, check for a seal by pressing the center of each lid. If the center is concave and does not flex, remove the band and try to lift off the lid with your fingertips (don’t pull too hard). If you cannot lift the lid, there is a good vacuum seal. If the lid pops off, your jar did not properly seal. Eat the tomatoes within 2 weeks.
  6. To store properly processed jars, wipe each lid and jar with a clean, damp cloth (the bands don’t need to stay on for storage), label the jars, and store them in a cool, dry, dark place. Unopened jars can be kept up to a year when stored properly. Once opened, keep in the refrigerator and use within 2 weeks.