Bea Johnson lives waste-free with her family since 2008 and is the author of the bestseller Zero Waste Home (Zéro Déchet en francais)
"Since embarking on the Zero Waste lifestyle, our lives have changed for the better: We feel happier and lead more meaningful lives, based on experiences instead of stuff. My goal is to share its incredible health, financial and time saving benefits!"

Tomato Canning

Last week, as planned, I made a list of things-to-do away from the computer, and one of the items, which I procrastinated on for the last month, was digging out a portion of our crawl space to make room for canned goods (they store best in dark cold spaces). Well, guess what? Putting it on the list made it happen. Every member of the family pitched in (besides Zizou of course), the hero of the project being our 9-year-old who voluntarily carried 20 buckets of dirt down the 30 steps to the front of the house.

I am so happy to have that done, my canned goods now have a dedicated space and so do my reusable bottles and jars.

That said, I thought this week would be an ideal time to post about (crushed) tomato canning. Canning has a reputation of scaring the novice cook, but there really is nothing to it, as it seriously is not as difficult as one might expect. All you need here is canning jars (I use Le Parfait canning jars in this recipe), a large pot, a colander, a ladle, a towel, a rock, and tomatoes of course. Visit your farmer's market at closing time to get the best deal on a large amount. In my town, $5/5lbs is a good deal.

Every cook has his/her way, and this is how I do mine:

1 - Sterilize the jars: Dunk them in a large pot of boiling water and set them aside to dry on a towel.

2 - In the same hot bath, dunk the tomatoes for about 2 minutes (that's to make peeling easy), and pull them out one by one into a colander to cool.

3 - Peel, core, and hand-crush the tomatoes, one by one, into a large bowl.

4 - Ladle the crushed tomatoes into the jars (french canning jars have a fill line), wipe the jars rims clean, add a rubber gasket on the lids and clip the jars shut.

5 - Lower the filled jars in the same pot of water (you can also stack them up if you use a tall pot), push a towel between them and add a weight, such as a rock, on them (so they don't cling into each other and break during boiling).

6 - Add water so that the jars are submerged by 1-inch of water and bring to a boil.

7 - After 45 minutes of boiling, turn off the heat.

8 - Let cool and take the jars out of the water to dry.

9 - Test proper canning by un-clipping a jar. If it opens, the canning process failed. If you use Mason Jars (screw-tops), the lid should be depressed indicating a proper vacuum.

10 - Store in a dark, cool place, preferably a freshly dug crawl space ;) so that your canned treasures can last and taste as good as my grandmother's 1978 plums, which I tasted a couple of years ago. They were in-cre-di-ble. The eau-de-vie marinade might have had something to do with their tastiness though...

Just looking at that picture reminds me that we live in an earthquake prone region... it just added a new item to my TO-DO list: Secure shelving before next shake;)


  1. Anonymous9/19/2010

    Hi! I luv your pictures along with the story! Geesh I have to say you are soooo brave to #1 dig out a storage cellar (ew spiders) and #2 to have shelving with all of that glass in an earthquake area! I'm also in a nearby earthquake area and I have to say that freaks me out just a wee bit. I guess that's just b/c we don't have many cellars or anything under the homes in this area. I luv your canning tutorial though! Very inspiring. How long to canned tomatoes last?

  2. I am actually keeping an eye out for a couple of 6ft tall metal filing cabinets on Craigslist, they would be more earthquake proof. Anyone out there with extras?
    I read that canned tomatoes last 12-18months. Personally, I make enough to get me thru the winter until the next tomato season.

  3. I am jealous! Last year we canned tomatoes, salsa, and pasta sauce. This year, however, has been a terrible garden year where I live, and we have enough tomatoes to eat, but none to save for the winter... (tear, tear)

  4. Anonymous9/19/2010

    Does anyone have a good canned salsa recipe. I'm going to be brave and make some this year. Salsa is just getting too expensive in the supermarkets and Pace brand is starting to taste bland to me. I've love a tried and true canned salsa recipe - thanks!

  5. Oh how I love canning - the satisfaction of good work and good food stored up for the winter. I haven't tried canning with the jars that you used, but as much as I love mason jars, it would be good to find something that is completely reusable.

    I have a salsa recipe on my blog, I don't even like store bought salsa any more and its so satisfying to make all our (jarred) salsa for the year.

  6. Thanks Bea! Perhaps I'll be brave and give canning a go. What size Le Parfait jars do you use for this? Is it the 350ml?

    Do you mind sharing your hummous recipe with me? I just can't get the proportions of ingredients right. Usually my hummous turns out bland but tonight's effort is too salty. I'm determined never to buy it from the shops in plastic containers again but I'm struggling to find a recipe that tastes good. Thanks so much.


    PS I'm very impressed with your DIY!

  7. LOVE IT! Love the visuals - thank you!

  8. Anonymous9/23/2010

    I make sauce and salsa, but also did 50 jars of whole tomatoes. That way, throughout the year, I can use them whole, diced, sliced, chopped or however I need them.

    If you use mason jars and a water bath canner the boiling time is only 20 minutes (from Ball Book).

    On the salsa recipe- I make 3 kinds, using the same basic recipe, one is super chunky, one is med chuncky, and the 3rd is a smooth salsa, where I belend the ingredients, it's more like a salsa sauce. All are wonderful.

    Basic salsa has tomatos, peppers (green and hot), onions, corriander and I like to add some cumin for a nice mexica taste. But salsa can be anything you want it to be!

  9. Anonymous9/23/2010

    I meant cilantro... but corriander would be good, too. Or any herbs, for a different flair. Experiment away!

    1. Anonymous1/09/2013

      cilantro and corriander are same thing.

  10. Anonymous9/24/2010

    According to research from the University of Georgia, if you process the filled jars for 10 minutes or more, you don't have to pre-sterilize the empty jars. This is now the standard adopted by Cooperative Extension.

  11. Another question for you Bea but it's not related to tomatoes...
    Does Whole Foods in the US price liquids in the bulk buy area by weight? There's one WF shop in London that sells a fairly small range of bulk buy products including some liquids eg soy sauce. All the liquids are priced by weight, WF provides some small plastic bottles but for obvious reasons I won't use them. It seems weird to me that soy sauce is priced by weight rather than by the volume eg 1litre. Is it the same where you shop?

    1. Anonymous11/02/2012

      it's usually by weight, but all you have to do is give them your jars to weigh before you shop, and they will tare it out so that you can then pay for just your liquids, and not the weight of the glass.

  12. Anonymous9/27/2010

    i just want to add to all this canning information...

    processing times are different depending on your elevation. my processing time for tomatoes is 40 minutes (quart jars)... depending on your elevation, your processing time can be up to 60 minutes. google your area and make sure your processing for long enough. the processing time is VERY important so you can kill bacteria inside the jars. not processing enough can make you and your family sick... sealing the jars isn't enough. the jars HAVE to be heated up to a certain temperature for a certain length of time. and different foods require different times as well... my peaches only need 20 minutes, tomatoes 40. it's worth the research!

  13. For people using Mason or Ball jars check out these re-usuable BPA free canning lids. Yes that's right BPA free, which means those other ones have that stuff in it! I was surprised. I haven't tried these Tattler ones yet, but they should be in the mail any day now. I have a great tomato soup that I make and can every fall, it's like Campbells, but of course better and obviously better for you too.

  14. Hi everyone: thanks for all the comments and here are answers to some of your questions.
    -I did use the 350ml jars here, because they fit my pot best, but I also use the 500ml and like it more as it seems to hold the right amount for one family meal of four.
    -As far as brand, the french jars come in 10 different sizes and are BPA free but are hard to find and are made overseas. Mason jars are US owned and readily available, but come with BPA lids and too many parts (for my taste). Thanks Holly for sharing your wonderful find! I did not know that they made BPA free lids. I also read that you can reuse your jam jars (if you buy your jams at the grocery store) but I would also worry about their BPA lids.
    -Some of you have sent me emails about the reuse of gaskets... Like Mason jar tops, gaskets are supposed to be one used once (FDA recommendation), but since I have about 200 jars in the house for various purposes (each came with one gasket), I have not had to buy any yet. When I have used them all once for canning, I will consider reusing them since I trust the testing for proper canning mention above.

  15. Jo: yes they do weigh liquids at WF.

  16. Another HUGE fan here. Clearly this comment is late, but I've been reading your posts from the beginning and have wanted to comment more, but most people have already said what I want to say. You know, something along the lines of "OMG you're amazing, you've changed my life, etc." I'm still ashamed about the amount of trash we nonchalantly toss every week with no regard to where it goes. That's all changed now and we're working on REDUCING!

    Anyway - now that I got that out of my system...can you add spices to the tomatoes before sealing them? If so, do you have any recommendations? Thanks for this tutorial!

  17. Hi Nia: You sure can. You can add onions, italian seasoning or herbes de provence. You can even can salsa. But I like to keep mine plain because I like to keep it versatile. I sometimes cook moroccan -the cinnamon spices would not taste so great with italian seasoning ;)

  18. Anonymous4/05/2011

    Dear Bea,

    Thank you for this post. Back home, in Ukraine, my grandma would can all kind of things for the winter: tomatoes, apricots, pickles, cherries. I had the canning on my mind for a while, but was intimidated by it, as it was always my grandma who did it and I was pretty young to remember all that had to be done.

    Thank you for this post. I will definitely give canning a try, have an order of Le Parfait jars on its way to my house.


  19. Yelena: thanks for your comment. Remember: keep it simple or you will less likely stick with it. I personally only can tomatoes (I do not "can" my jams), because I do not miss cherries or apricots during the winter and prefer them fresh and I can find pickles in the olive bar... Start small, pick one item that you miss off season or are used to buying canned.

  20. Sandra4/19/2011

    Hi, Bea. Are you using the boiling water bath method for canning tomatoes? Would you do any of the steps differently if you were using a pressure cooker instead?

    Great tutorial, it's difficult to find other directions in English for canning tomatoes using the Le Parfait jars. I think I'll give it a try this summer.

    Thank you!

  21. Thanks Sandra for the great question. I use the pressure cooker's pot to can (because it's deep), but have not yet tried pressure cooking for canning yet, but it's on my list of things to do next summer! My mom has tried it, I think.

  22. Anonymous4/29/2011

    You should definetly can meat! It is the EASIEST thing to can- I'm not joking- it really is! I was astonished when I finally tried it.
    These are the steps: Clean your jars (you don't even have to sterilize because they will sterilize when canning) Fill each jar to within 1" of the top with raw meat. Add a little canning salt (can't remember the exact amt- I think it is 1/2 tsp?). Wipe the top of your jars clean. Soften your lids if using mason lids by boiling in water a couple min.
    Place lids on and tighten rings. Place in pressure canner- fill with water, secure pressure canner lid, bring to boil and let vent for 10 min (stream of steam coming out of vent hole for 10 min), place your weight on the vent hole, watch the pressure gauge until it reaches proper pressure for what you are canning, then when it reaches that pressure, set the timer for 90 minutes. You will have to stay by the stove and adjust the temp up and down to stay at the correct pressure- but that isn't hard, I usually read while sitting there. When the timer goes off, turn off the heat. When the pressure gauge reads 0, remove the weight, wait until there is no more steam coming out and then remove the lid.
    Remove the jars- place on a towel and let set.
    Good to go!
    The roast we canned is incredible and the chicken so tender!

  23. aprillizzybeth5/13/2011

    I bought some of these jars at a kitchen store and asked about using them for canning. The woman told me to never use these for canning- only for storage. She said that using this is not "proper canning" and the food would probably make us sick! Now I look at your blog and I'm confused!

  24. Sandra8/21/2011

    Hi Bea,

    I canned a bunch of tomatoes this season using the Le Parfait jars, and it turned out great. Much easier than I thought it would be. An added bonus was that some of the tomatoes came directly from our backyard, from plants that had decided to sprout out of the compost!

    One question: what is the correct way of opening the processed/canned Le Parfait jars? I've been pulling the gasket tab to break the seal, but twice the tab broke off completely, making it impossible to re-use the gasket. Thanks for your help.

  25. Hi Sandra:
    I have never had a gasket broke on me! Did you use plyers to prop it open? we simply use our fingers. Scott's usually work best -he has a better grip ;). We pull the tab straight out (no twisting) until the air enters the jar and we get a popping sound.

  26. Anonymous10/31/2011

    I know this comment is on an old post, but perhaps someone will see it!

    How can you tell if a gasket has been used for canning or not? You said that once you've used all of your gaskets for canning, you will replace them. Or, do you keep track by marking the jars somehow?

    I never knew that's what the gasket was for! Pretty neat. And goes to show how little I've canned in my life ;)


  27. Do the Le Parfait jars really seal well enough to prevent spoiling?

    1. Yes! these jars were made for canning.

  28. Anonymous6/29/2012

    This might be a little late, but as I have a habit of reading blogs backward in time, I came across this post. You mention how to conclude when the canning process has failed, but you don't mention how to correct this. Perhaps add that to the post?


  29. Canned food are generally environmentally friendly because metal cans are endlessly recyclable.canned food remains safe as long as the container remains intact..Really interesting information you shared here..I really like it and I will definitely try out this method of canning tomatoes.I admire for this great writing