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   Hi.  I'm new to this discussion group, so maybe this has been answered before, but. . . I just started canning last year (earned the nick-name "Betty Crocker off her rocker" from my sister.  I have an abundance of tomatoes and would like to can some of them this year.  I did can salsa last year, although with all the added vinegar, I was not happy with the end results.

   Do you HAVE to use a pressure canner for tomatoes or can you use a water bath canner?  I have found a few recipes (like last year's salsa) where I only needed the water bath.  Really can't afford a pressure canner - wish I had saved my Mom's years ago - but I want to save my tomatoes, either whole or as sauce.  Any help/advice would be greatly appreciated.

    After reading through a few of the discussions here, I have already learned a lot from you folks and appreciate all your expertise.  Thanks and God Bless your pantries!

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Replies to This Discussion

Ginger....Tomatos are high acid and should be waterbathed and not pressure canned. You shoud buy the Ball Canning guide. It is a trusted resource for canning and only costs $5 at Walmart. Most things need to be pressure canned. Pickles, jams, tomatos and a few other things are waterbathed. Its always best to get the answer from a reputable source when canning. Once you get the basics under your belt you can cruise the internet and read up on things from folks like us who sound like we know it all and be able to know if the answer sounds plausable. Generally this is a great place to get the answers but you should always "trust but verify" when using the internet.

Hey Ginger,

Tomato acid levels vary quite a bit depending on the type of tomato.  Most "classic" waterbath canning recipes don't take into consideration that most modern hybrid tomatoes aren't as acidic as the ones used when those recipes were written down.  If you are not using an heirloom or hybrid tomato known for its high-acid content, you're going to have to add lemon juice to your batch(es).  Hope this helps!

Good point Jerry. You're right about modern hybrids not having enough acid. I don't can the storebought tomatoes (the ones likely to not have enough acids) because not only do they not have enough acid, they also lack enough taste to bother with. You could test the PH to be sure or just add some lemon juice or citric acid to be sure. If I was doing the storebought tomatoes I'd use the citric acid because the storebought tomatoes may not have enough taste to cover the lemon juice taste.

Ginger, the USDA does have processing times for tomatoes in a boiling-water bath, though the times are long. You can find them in booklet PNW 300 at the Oregon State University Extension website (extension.oregonstate.edu/catalog).

If meat or a substantial amount of low-acid vegetables are included in tomato sauce, the sauce is supposed to be pressure-canned.

I'm pretty comfortable using my water bath canner, but I would love to learn how to use a pressure canner.  I've tried to keep my eyes open to classes around me for several years now and haven't found any. One day I'll  just buy one and figure it out but it seems a little intimidating.  If any of you hear of a pressure canning class in the Atlanta or Western North Carolina area please let me know.  Thanks  :)

My brother sent me home-canned Marinara sauce and chili sauce using a water bath canner. I called my extension office and they advised me DO NOT EAT them. They need to be pressure canned.  With all the conflicting information, I am fearful of only water bath canning tomato products.  Am I being too cautious?

The devil is in the detail (isn't it always?). Canning plain tomatoes is a water-bath thing. When you add ingredients of change the density of the product being canned you have other things to consider when determining if waterbath or pressure canner is needed. Generally speaking I would only use credible & up-to-date sources for recipes. There are a lot of recipes out there that came from someone's grandma or someone just winging it. There are others that were credible for their time but new science has deemed them to be somewhat dangerous with respect to food poisoning. Soooo, I would have to trust that the extension office has seen the recipe and deemed it unsafe for a particular reason.It could be due the the processing time used, the ingredients or the density but dump them in any case. However, that same extension office would tell you that canning plain tomaotes is safe in the waterbath canner. On the other hand if you can provide the exact recipe and prosessing procedure we could see what the issue was. The Extension office "always" gives out info that will keep you safe. Sometimes I think they are just covering their.....rather than giving you a specific reason that might be easily rectified or at least allow you to make a reasonable choice with reagrd to the danger involved. Still, unless you find out more I'd go with their advice.

Janet Rybacki Buechler said:

My brother sent me home-canned Marinara sauce and chili sauce using a water bath canner. I called my extension office and they advised me DO NOT EAT them. They need to be pressure canned.  With all the conflicting information, I am fearful of only water bath canning tomato products.  Am I being too cautious?

Thank you for all the advice.  So far, so good on my canned salsa and tomato jam.  But that brings up another question from this canning newbie!  I made a recipe for tomato jam, and while it is very good, it is a little too sweet for my tastes.  I would like to open the jars, recook the jam adding garlic and a little salt and then re-can the jam.  Is this possible to do without damage to the existing product?  I would like to make the jam more into a spread that can be used on breads served with pasta dinners, more like a really smooth bruschetta.

BTW - I am thinking of asking "Santa" for a pressure canner as I am really enjoying my canning experiences and I am hoping to expand my repertoire to include beans and squashes.  I appreciate this site and this discussion group because of all the advise and ideas I get here.  Nice to know a homegrown "California Gir" can at least try to keep up with those east of here.  Thanks.

Call your county Extension office and ask if they do classes for presure canning.

Jerry Peterson said:
I'm pretty comfortable using my water bath canner, but I would love to learn how to use a pressure canner.  I've tried to keep my eyes open to classes around me for several years now and haven't found any. One day I'll  just buy one and figure it out but it seems a little intimidating.  If any of you hear of a pressure canning class in the Atlanta or Western North Carolina area please let me know.  Thanks  :)
I think you may have problems with the pectin being able to set if you re-canned the jam. If you used Pomona's Universal Pectin you might be able to get away with it because the pomon's uses calcium and is not simply fruit pectin (which generally will not re-set due to the heat in the first canning process). I'm generally not a big advocate of re-doing one thing and making it into another unless you are an experienced canner and know what you are doing. Tomatos are cheap so I'd say start again from scratch and make it the way you want it this time. You can gift the originals to folks that like the sweet stuff on their toast.

Ginger Watkin said:

Thank you for all the advice.  So far, so good on my canned salsa and tomato jam.  But that brings up another question from this canning newbie!  I made a recipe for tomato jam, and while it is very good, it is a little too sweet for my tastes.  I would like to open the jars, recook the jam adding garlic and a little salt and then re-can the jam.  Is this possible to do without damage to the existing product?  I would like to make the jam more into a spread that can be used on breads served with pasta dinners, more like a really smooth bruschetta.

BTW - I am thinking of asking "Santa" for a pressure canner as I am really enjoying my canning experiences and I am hoping to expand my repertoire to include beans and squashes.  I appreciate this site and this discussion group because of all the advise and ideas I get here.  Nice to know a homegrown "California Gir" can at least try to keep up with those east of here.  Thanks.

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