Water bath canning is a great way to preserve all of the tomatoes your garden has been producing. Prepare yourself for canning day by selecting the best varieties and recipes for your year-round tomato needs.
The Best Canning Tomatoes
The process of canning tomatoes actually started when you selected your tomato seeds for planting (or when you visit the farmer’s market to shop for tomatoes). Not all tomatoes are well-suited to canning.
Because of the way you’ll process the tomatoes for canning, it is best to select varieties that are more “meaty.” A nice juicy slicing tomato is great for sandwiches, and bite size cherry tomatoes are delicious in salads, but all that extra water can be a hindrance for the canning process and can lead to a mushy canned tomato. For this reason, you should select “paste” tomatoes for most of your canning needs. For juice and sauces, you can also use firm slicing tomatoes.
Although all tomatoes are somewhat acidic, the best tomatoes for canning will be more acidic, with a pH below 4.6. Regardless of which variety you choose to can, it is advisable to further acidify your canned tomatoes by adding 1/2 tsp of citric acid, 2 Tbs. of bottled lemon juice or 4 Tbs. of vinegar per quart-jar for safety. You can add sugar if needed to adjust for the acidic flavor.
Some good varieties for canning are:
Amish Paste, Roma, San Marzano, Black Krim, Cherokee Purple, Brandywine, Porter Improved, Beefsteak, Thessaloniki, White Wonder, Burbank, Silvery Fir Tree or Evergreen.
Putting Up the Harvest
Enjoy garden-fresh flavor all year long with a variety of canned tomato products. Which kind, and how many of each, will depend on your family’s size and food preferences. Canning is also a great way to use any green tomatoes that won’t have time to ripen before the end of the season.
Here’s some ideas to get you started with canning your tomatoes:
Whole, halved, quartered, and crushed – Can be canned in water or in tomato juice, and peeled or unpeeled. This is best done with firm tomatoes.
Juice – Puree tomato juice or a veggie-tomato blend such as with celery, onions, carrots and peppers. Good for drinking and cooking.
Sauce – Made like juice, but boiled longer to thicken. Can also be seasoned for marinara so it’s ready to use on pasta.
Salsa, ketchup and other sauces – Recipes for prepared tomato-based foods should be followed carefully to ensure canning safety.
An excellent guide to canning tomatoes, with recipes, is available from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, also some helpful books are Preserving Food at Home and Canning for a New Generation, both are full of delicious and interesting recipes for tomatoes and more.