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Sep 8, 2007 06:00 AM

Canning tomatoes -replacing lemon juice?

I'm about to head to the market to pick up some fruits for preserving. I have canned sweet fruits, pickles and preserves in the past, but this year I have decided to branch into tomatoes and plan to can some with basil leaves.

I have noticed most tomato canning recipes call for lemon juice. I understand that it serves the important function of increasing the acidity of the fruit (which is important for me because I don't have a pressure canner). However I am wondering if anyone has experience experimenting with different acids. I was considering, for example, whether some balsamic vinegar might be good, however I want to make sure that any substitutions I make will be tasty and safe.

Also, I found a tomato recipe that doesn't call for any added acid. Do you home canners think this will be sufficiently acidic for canning by water bath?

Many thanks, chowhounds!

Link to the acid-free recipe here (for those from Toronto, it's from the Healthy Butcher):

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  1. all i can say is that in my family when we can tomatoes, we don't use any acid. we make tomato juice by puree-ing them and cooking, and the only thing added is salt. and not even that much. and the only way we sterilize the jars is by boiling them, so for us it works...

    1. Acid is definitely recommended for tomatoes. New varieties tend to be lower in acid:

      I, personally, wouldn't use balsamic, but that's based on taste alone. You never know in the depth of winter just what you'll be using your tomatoes for, and balsamic could clash with other flavors. But if the acid percentage is the same (is it?), I don't see why not.

      2 Replies
      1. re: bakergal

        I just put up some sauce some cans I used lemon juice while in the other ones I used red wine vinegar...i second bakergal on balsamic opin. as balsamic can be overwhelming at times

        1. re: sixelagogo

          Also check the acidity of balsamic vinegar compared to red wine vinegar or lemon juice.

      2. There is a very active canning community with very knowledgeable people at the Harvest forum on GardenWeb. I am not a master canner, but tomatoes need extra acid (5% distilled white vinegar, not balsamic or red wine, or BOTTLED, not fresh lemon juice) for BWB. The USDA standards have changed and should be considered. 'No one has died from my canning...' YET.

        3 Replies
        1. re: leetmom7

          I am reluctant to use bottled lemon juice for anything, because the nutrition label says there is nothing in it. Not even vit. C. You have to ask, how do they make this product?

          1. re: jayt90

            jayt90: the canners say to use it because you are guaranteed a certain level of acidity to ensure safety. It has nothing to do with Vitamins. Fresh lemon juice acidity levels can vary.

            1. re: leetmom7

              Fresh squeezed lemon juice might have something to do with vitamins, and flavour. Otherwise, if that doesn't matter, we could build up the acid level with distilled white vinegar.

        2. I just put the last 6 jars in the bath. I'm a safety first kind of gal so I went with lemon juice. Thanks for the replies, and thanks to leetmom for the great link.

          1 Reply
          1. re: basileater

            I curious about how the lemon juice altered the flavor.
            I grew up canning hot pack, water method only (no pressure cooker)
            whole peeled roma tomato, no additions
            so the idea of adding lemon is heretical to me
            but I'm curious
            and open-minded
            : )

            reading the clemson site, I am totally grossed out
            They suggest adding sugar to offset acid taste, if desired, and suggest that vinegar may cause undesirable flavor changes.
            What a way to ruin homegrown and canned produce!