Before you pass over this blog post, thinking "Ha! I could never can tomatoes, or anything else! It's too complicated! Besides, store-bought canned tomatoes are the same, right?" allow me to say this to you:
YOU CAN CAN TOMATOES!
TOMATOES YOU CAN YOURSELF ARE SOOOOO MUCH BETTER THAN STORE-BOUGHT!
So now that we've got that out of the way, let's get to it...
adapted from the UGA's Home Food Preservation website
First of all, you will need some quart jars and lids. Most grocery and discount stores have them. Be sure you get both the LIDS (the flat circle part) and the RINGS. You don't need to sterilize the jars; just wash them well (the dishwasher works great) and keep them clean and dry until you use them. I usually leave them in the dishwasher until I'm ready.
You will also need canning tools like these...jar lifter, magnet lid lifter (not required but very helpful) and a plastic pusher/measurer thingy (also not required but nice to have).
Next, get your tomatoes. If you don't have home-grown tomatoes, go to your local farmer's market and get some.
Wash them well.
Get a big pot of water boiling. Blanch tomatoes for 30-60 seconds, remove and cool. Working over a bowl (so you catch the juices), peel and core the tomatoes. I usually cut the big ones in half or quarters.
Now get your canning pot about half-full of water and boiling. The pot needs to be tall enough so the jars can be covered with at least 1" of water. It also needs to have a lid. On another burner, bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer, and put in your lids and rings.
Now put 1 teaspoon salt (optional) and 2 tablespoons bottled (not fresh) lemon juice into each jar. If you have fresh thyme, you can also put a sprig or two in there if you want.
Fill the jars with tomatoes, using the plastic pusher thingy to pack them in and get some juice. Leave 1/2" headspace in the top of each jar; use the plastic measuring thingy for this as well.
Wipe clean the rims of each jar. Use the magnet lid lifter to put a lid on each jar, and screw a ring on each. Don't screw the rings on too tightly.
Using the jar lifter, carefully place the jars into the canning pot. Add more boiling water as needed so the water level is 1" above the jars. Cover pot and boil for 85 minutes (check the UGA website above to confirm the cooking time for your elevation).
After 85 minutes, turn off the heat and leave the jars in the pot for 5 minutes. Remove the jars and place on a towel to cool 12-24 hours. Don't worry if the tomatoes seem to have separated from the liquid. Once the jars are cool, check the seals (if the lids pop up when you push them, it didn't seal). Keep any unsealed jars in the refrigerator and use them first. Remove rings, date the jars and store in a cool dry place away from light.
Now, whenever you make chili, spaghetti sauce, or anything that needs tomatoes, you have a little bit of summer in your pantry!