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Sep 8, 2007 04:24 PM

Canning Tomatoes and Tomato Sauce [moved from Ontario board]

I just bought 1/2 busshel of both roma and beefsteak tomatoes with the intention of making and canning both pasta sauce and tomatoes. However, I don't have a canning kit or jars and actually have never attempted to can or preserve anything before this weekend.

Does anyone know where I might be able to buy such a kit? And any suggestions about reading materials (online or in print) that will point me in the right direction? Also, any idea how much such a kit/jars is going to cost me??

I live in the East end of toronto but am willing to travel anywhere in the city to buy if needed.


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  1. Here's a recent thread on the topic:

    Canadian Tire, Dollar Stores, Home Hardware are all your friends.

    Happy canning! :)

    1 Reply
    1. re: xtal

      Wow! Great, thanks Xtal. I will visit my local crappy tire tomorrow!

    2. Ah lvn, you are bold in buying the produce before sizing up the kit. Hopefully by now you're suited up and putting down tomatoes with glee. I've always envied one of my friends who lives next to (or near) an old school Italian family that fills their suburban garden with fresh grown produce instead of a swimming pool and then puts down down bushels of tomatoes in a big family-run processing weekend. (and of course shares with neighbors) Because I am not sure I have the patience, I've developed my own short cut and it seems to work. I chop fresh tomatoes in the cuisinart (not purreed, just pulsed to remain chunkie. Then I add fresh basil and freeze in serving size portions in plastic bags. (I only do a years worth) While this doesn't have the romance of canning, it works until I find the time and patience to do it properly, or until I move next to a wonderful Italian family.

      7 Replies
      1. re: dinin and dishin

        There is a risk in freezing fresh tomatoes although a lot people do it.

        1. re: jayt90

          What is the risk jayt? (eg. longevity, quality?)

          1. re: dinin and dishin

            No risk, big payoff. Freeze them whole and when one is required, fetch one from the freezer, run it under water a few seconds till the skin melts and peel it! Done! They freeze well in their skins.

            1. re: dinin and dishin

              The U.S.D.A. insists on hot sterilization of tomatoes in quarters before freezing to avoid botulism.

              1. re: jayt90

                I guess I'm going to die. :)

                I grow 40 or 50 roma plants every summer. I put them in gallon zip lock freezer bags and hurl 'em into the chest freezer in the basement. I thaw them slightly in hot water, the skins pull right off easily, and they get a course chop and go in the Le Creuset. Much better than canned tomatoes.

                The health risk is next to nothing. Clostridium botulinum doesn't grow at temperatures below 40F and it doesn't like acidity. The only way you risk killing yourself is if you lose power in your freezer and the tomatoes thaw. Even then, there are less acid things in your freezer that are far more likely to kill you if you eat them after they've thawed and started growing things..

                1. re: GeoffD

                  Roma is not exactly high acid.
                  And how many people freezing tomatoes would not cook them, but put them in salads, salsa, or gazpacho? The fact that there is a risk means that no government agency will recommend it.

                2. re: jayt90

                  Thanks for the answers. I guess I am with the others in the "it hasn't killed me yet" camp. Like Dock and GeoffD, I used to freeze them whole, but I haven't always been happy with the thawed results. And I never bother to take off the skins. I guess I am truly a tomato heathen, but it is better than canned everytime. Cheers.

          2. I hope you were successful. Good thing you were not overly ambitious and did not buy too many tomatoes. I routinely do four or five bushels per year and it is a massive job which takes a whole day. One thing you might consider purchasing, if you do not already have one, is a food mill. It's a hand-cranked device that will separate skin and seeds from tomato once you have cooked the tomatoes and leave you with tomyo puree, ready for canning.

            I do a great deal of canning but, like you a started out slowly and did small batches. Now I do massive amounts and give them as gifts at Christmas. It's a great hobby. I just put up ten jars of my own barbecue sauce this weekend.

            A very good cook book with step by step instruction is "Put a Lid on It" by Elsie Topp. it will inspire you. The chutney recipes are very good.

            7 Replies
            1. re: Higgette

              Hi Higgette,

              Hope you're around today. I DID get overly ambitious and have spent the weekend canning tomatoes and now have one more bushel left. We are one bushel left and are planning to make passata tonight. You mentioned that you cook the tomatoes before putting them through the food mill. I was thinking you would cook them after. Help, if you happen to read this today, or anyone else.

              FYI - This is where I got the tomatoes and they are great.

              1. re: Mila

                You can do it either way but you will get more from a bushel if you cook them first. Cut them in half, put enough in the pot to cover the base of the pot and cook over medium heat until they beging to relaese their juice, Press down of them lightly and add another layer. Keep adding layer upon layer until the pot is 3/4 full, Cook until they are consistantly soft and then strain them in a colander. You can reserve the juice, freeze it and use it for stock. Pass the remaining cooked tomatoes through a food mill and then proceed with canning. Hpe this helps. I got these directions directly from an Italian friend. Oh - and add a sprig of basil and a clove of garlic to each jar, if you like. A bit of salt in each jar is good too.

                1. re: Higgette

                  Thanks Higgette. I left work early to finish the tomatoes and didn't see your message but that is exactly what we ended up doing. We did the first batch as the raw pack, which are great to have as well.

                  3 bushels for Raw Pack, Passata and Tomato Jam.
                  Tomato Season 2007 is officially closed in our house, much to the relief of my roommates.

                2. re: Mila

                  There's a third way - not cooking them before processing. You can "raw pack" tomatoes. I've done mine this way for well more than a decade now. Lets me do the most tomatoes in the least amount of time with the least effort.
                  Skin them in boiling water, cut them in half, removing the hard stem end. Pack them into jars, squishing them down. The juice will fill the jars to within 1/2 of the top. I don't add anything because not all the recipes I'll use call for basil or garlic.
                  Process according to the time charts in the Ball or USDA books.
                  When I use them, they taste really fresh, hardly processed at all.

                  1. re: MakingSense

                    Can you add basil without any risk of contamination with the raw pack method?

                    1. re: dinin and dishin

                      I never do it b/c I never know if what I'll use the tomatoes for will require basil. The basil leaf always just ends up as this sorry limp mess anyway and not enough to give any real flavor. I'd rather just add what I want when I use the tomatoes. For me, this falls into WhyBother category.
                      Lots of people seem to do it without keeling over dead or killing others. I suppose there's enough acid in the tomatoes to take care of a basil leaf or two. You have to be careful adding stuff willy-nilly though.

                      1. re: dinin and dishin

                        We always add the basil which is a very slight flavour to the tomatoes. Haven't keeled over yet.

                3. This is a little off topic, but I'll mention it since you say it's your first time canning.

                  I canned tomatoes for the first time this weekend (having previously stuck to jams, jellies, chutney, etc.). I posted a question about it in the Home Cooking forum, and was directed to a wonderful resource -the Harvest forum on

                  While perusing the forum, I noticed a thread that mentioned that adding more than just a touch of oil can push your tomato sauce into the low acid category (thus requiring a pressure canner for safe canning). As I said, I am also new to the tomato game, but I thought I'd let you know so you can make sure whatever recipe you use is water bath safe.

                  I must say, I am impressed by posters who can do 4-5 bushels in a day -it took me an entire day to do one!