home canning tomatoes - are they safe?
I am canning tomatoes for the first time. I was meticulous about everything. I blanched them, peeled them, sterilized the jars & lids, used lemon juice first. Wiped the jars clean. but I misunderstood the instructions about head space. I left 1/2 inch below the bottom tread, not the top of the jar. Now I am worried they won't be safe. They are still processing. What should I do?
They should be fine, and it's possible that some of the water from the canner could reverse vacuum into the jars and take up some of the extra space. I've seen it happen.
Should be fine.
Check the seals once cooled.
I use tomato juice in the liquid base as well with the lemon , but I worry more about pH balance than seal.
If processed correctly, to me you only have to worry about the seals.
If stored in a cool and dark space, headspace is not a deal breaker if a little off.
I've been canning tomatoes for years, and while I go with a pressure can these days, I started out like you did. The extra air space won't make a difference: the heating process drives out the air. Just make sure you check that the jars are well-sealed before storing them (i.e., they don't give when you push down in the center: if they do, use them asap).
It wouldn't hurt to process them a little longer than recommended just to get the excess air out.