Canning Summer Tomatoes - Water Bath Method

In the heat of summer my garden overflows with heirloom tomatoes which means it's canning time! Canned tomatoes are such a treat. I use them for soups, stews, enchilada sauce, pasta sauce and so much more. Although there are different canning methods, I use the water bath canning method for my tomatoes.

Canning and other supplies needed:

  • Canning pot
  • Canning jars
  • Canning lids and rings
  • Jar lifter
  • Large pot or blancher
  • Bowls
  • Large slotted spoon 
  • Sharp knife
  • Cutting board 
  • Chopsticks 
  • Dish cloths
  • Hot pads or gloves
  • Latex free gloves


Lemon juice
Canning salt (optional)


1. Prepare jars by washing jars and lids and get water in your canner heating.

2. Remove tomato skins: Although this is optional and may seem cumbersome, I really prefer to peel the tomatoes before canning them as most dishes that you will use the tomatoes in afterwards call for peeled tomatoes. To remove skins bring a large pot of water to a boil and have another bowl of cool water, a cutting board and knife and a slotted spoon near by. Place tomatoes (about 4-6 large tomatoes at a time) in boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds or until you see the skins split. Remove tomatoes with slotted spoon and place immediately into bowl of cool water. Slip off skins and quarter tomatoes on your cutting board. 

3. Adding tomatoes to jars: Using prepared jars (they should still be warm/hot from preparing them, I usually keep them in the pot of warm/hot water until I'm ready to fill them) place quartered tomatoes in each jar. Press down on tomatoes in the jar, crushing them down as you fill the jar, making sure to leave 1/2 inch head space. Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and 1/2 teaspoon of salt per pint. Salting the tomatoes is optional but can add to the flavor of the tomatoes. Repeat steps until all tomatoes are peeled and quartered and placed in jars. Remove air bubbles with a chopstick or small utensil. Wipe the jars clean and place prepared lids onto jars.

4. Water bath: Process according to water bath instructions. As a guide, have the water in the canning pot warm/hot but not boiling when you place jars in canner. That way you don't have an extreme temperature change when placing jars in water bath. Process both pints or quarts for 45 minutes. Be sure to check your altitude to make adjustments to your water bath timing.

To make and can a simple tomato sauce:  

I like my sauce to be plain so that it can be used in many different sauces later on. Just take tomatoes that have been blanched, peeled and quartered and put into blender. Feel free to add some garlic and herbs too here. Blend well. Add blended tomatoes to each pint jar. Make sure you still add the lemon juice because you need the acid for water bath canning. Again, salt is optional. Follow steps for water bath canning and you'll have a simple go to sauce all year long!

Note: You don't need to add water to the tomatoes and due to the water bath method once tomatoes are canned tomatoes will float towards the top. Also, if you wanted to dress up your tomatoes I sometimes add a couple sprigs of basil or other herbs and about two cloves of smashed garlic per pint. Make sure you still add the lemon juice because you need the acid for water bath canning. 

Love, Emma 

Photos by Carrie Paine