Tomato Harvest Time

I grow my own tomatoes at home. They really are very easy to grow and a great choice for those just starting out with a veggie patch. They are great eaten fresh but are also a key ingredient when making meals from scratch. Just think of all those cans and/or jars of diced tomatoes, whole tomatoes and pasta sauce you have picked up at the grocery store over the years.

Well, what if you could not only grow your own but preserve them as well, eliminating the need to purchase those cans and jars, saving money and the environment at the same time? Preserving your own tomatoes is easy, and I always have plenty of jars of organically grown tomatoes on hand that I can reach for whenever I am cooking.

So here we go.

First, wash the tomatoes and remove any stalks. Roughly chop and place them into a large not.

Place them on the stove on high heat and cook. Tomatoes are mostly water, so a lot of liquid will come from the tomatoes as they begin to cook through.

Bring the mixture to a boil and give it a good stir. Cook for about 10 minutes. There is no need to cook for a long time. You want to cook the tomatoes enough to get all those juices flowing.

In the meantime, prepare your jars. I use recycled jars that I get from friends and neighbours. I picked up this bunch just the other day when I visited my neighbour Marion for a cup of tea and a catch-up. She knows I am always looking for jars so she saves them for me. Ask your neighbours; I am sure they would love to help you out. Don’t know your neighbours? Well, here is your chance to fix that. Remember, we are all in this together.

Using these free jars for my homegrown tomatoes will fill my pantry and keep these jars out of landfill. For preserving tomatoes, I use 500ml jars.

Wash your jars in hot soapy water, then rinse in hot water. While the jars are still hot, fill them with the hot tomatoes using a jar funnel and a ladle. Leave a headspace of 25mm.

For every 500 ml jar of cooked tomato, add 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid. This will ensure that the pH is below 4.6 and make it safe to use the boiling water bath to preserve the tomato for later use in cooking.

Tomato must be processed in a boiling water bath or pressure preserver. Which method is used depends on the pH of the food. Tomatoes are actually questionably close to the 4.6 cut-off between high acid and low acid, so if you are going to use the boiling water bath method as I do, then you will need to increase the acid. THIS IS IMPORTANT FOR FOOD SAFETY.

Once the jars have been filled, wipe off the rim and, using new lids, close the jars and tighten the lids.

Process the filled jars in the boiling water bath for 35 minutes. Check out my blog post on boiling water bath if you need a refresher on this method.

Once the 35 minutes is up, remove the jars from the boiling water bath using a jar lifter and set the jars on a tea towel on your kitchen counter to cool.

Once they have cooled down, the safety pop top will pop down so you can be sure you have a complete seal. Label the jars and put them into your pantry.

So now you have jars and jars of tomato just waiting for you to create an amazing pasta sauce, add to a stew or…… well, you get the idea. Time to get creative in the kitchen, save some money and gain some independence, all at the same time.

As always, live well.


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6 Replies to “Tomato Harvest Time”

  1. Thank you Valerie, beautifully described and helped by a few great photos. I’ve read that higher altitudes such as Canberra at 550 meters above sea level should increase water bath method by 5 minutes. I do note that your method is already 35 minutes so perhaps that’s enough anyway?
    I’ve got a largish sauspan I fit a green purpose built plastic basket on the base to Protect the glass jars as they boil. I’m looking at a larger sauspan but wonder what I could put at the bottom to protect the jars? Straw I guess but that’s a bit messy!!
    Much appreciation for you work Valerie.
    Kind regards

  2. Hi Jenny,

    You are right, you will need to extend the time. In regards to what to put in the bottom of the pot, I use a round cake cooking rack I purchased from one of those dollar shops. Itdid cost $2.00 and it will eventually rust away, but it has lasted for a few years so far. How about a folded up tea towel?


  3. Hi Valerie,
    Is the citric acid supposed to increase the PH to above 4.6? Your directions say BELOW 4.6, but bit later it’s it increases PH.

    1. Hello:

      The pH scale starts at 14 at the bottom and goes “up” to a lower number. I have always felt that the scale was upside down, and can be confusing. Tomatoes can be below 4.6 on the scale, meaning that they are at a higher number, say 4.9. Adding citric acid lowers the pH, meaning that they go up the scale, and become more acidic.
      I hope this helps. Valerie

  4. Hi Valerie, I note that you use 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid in the tomato preserving but lemon juice in the pasta sauce recipe? Is one better than the other or do they both do the same job for a different purpose? Many thanks

    1. Linda:

      No, not really. They both do the same thing, but if I am working on preserving and then find I have no lemon juice, citric acid, which I always have on hand, is my other option. All you are doing is making sure that the final pH is below 4.6, which is the cut off between high acid and low acid. High acid is safe for the boiling water bath but low acid needs to be processed in a pressure canner. Valerie

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