Stop what you're doing and eat a tomato immediately. Unless, of course, you are already in the middle of eating a tomato, in which case well done; and while I have you, I hope, in between your tomato sandwiches and BLTs and no-cook sauces, you saved a few of those summer jewels to can for later. Tomatoes are at their peak right now, and you can squirrel away some of that late summer flavor for the dark days of winter with just a little time and know-how.
Canned tomatoes are certainly a staple in my home kitchen — everything from quick pastas to Sunday afternoon braises benefit from the juicy-sweet addition. Of course, most supermarket shelves are lined with multiple brands of whole-peeled, crushed, and fire-roasted canned tomatoes, but have you ever made your own? Considering that it's tomato season literally right at this very moment, it's high time you considered doing some canning. The Food52 community certainly has.
"Every year since he can remember, my father has canned fruits, vegetables, and jams," writes Kelsey Banfield, a food blogger and community member. "He learned his techniques from his mother (my grandmother), who typed up her time-tested instructions for how to can tomatoes and other seasonal produce, and made an entire booklet for him when he moved out of the house." Lucky for us, Banfield's dad shared his mother's recipe for canned tomatoes with her, and she shared it with Food52.
Recipe: Grandma's Canned Tomatoes
How to make canned tomatoes
Canning yourself certainly takes a bit more effort than a trip to the grocery store, but it's well worth the journey. The ingredients list is small: just ripe tomatoes, Kosher salt, bottled lemon juice (skip fresh here to maintain the acidity level — this is paramount when it comes to making fresh produce into a shelf-stable product.) You'll also need sterilized quart jars with lids and rims.
To start, quickly blanch tomatoes to make for easy peeling. You'll use about three pounds of fresh tomatoes for each quart of canned; this recipe calls for enough to make four quarts of canned tomatoes, which is definitely the minimal amount we'd recommend making at once. After all, winter is coming, and with it, pale, watery tomatoes. Imagine how bummed you'd be to find you only preserved enough of summer's finest for one or two jars — just take a canning day and make a bunch, for the sake of your future self.
Banfield orders tomatoes in bulk from a local farm; if you can't do that, head to the nearest farmers market, like Food52 Software Engineer Jeremy Beker, who recommends asking for 'seconds' or 'canning tomatoes' which, as Beker says, "just means ones that aren't quite as pretty."
Cram peeled, cored tomatoes into the jars along with the salt and lemon juice. That's it! Tightly seal the jars and prep them for a swim: Submerge the jars in a stockpot of boiling water for 45 minutes, then let them cool. Check the seal, label with the date, and they'll be good to hang out until next summer's tomatoes pop up. What a dang delight!
"Learning how to can tomatoes has been essential for my home cooking skills because I use them all winter long—they're great for making sauces, soups and spreads," writes Banfield in the recipe headnote. Just imagine how happy you (or someone you gift a jar to!) will be come December.
What to do with those canned tomatoes
- Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter
- Shrimp and Sausage Creole
- Instant Pot Indian Tomato Coconut Soup
- 15-Minute Bucatini Marinara with Ricotta
- Moroccan Merguez Ragout with Poached Eggs
- Speedy Skillet Ravioli Lasagna from Grace Parisi
- Beef Chili with Bacon and Black Beans
- Tempeh Parm
- Slow-Cooker Pasta e Fagioli
- Cauliflower Paprikash
- Shakshuka Focaccia