Tomato Canning Woes

There’s not a whole lot to do in the garden these days, besides waiting for the tomatoes and peppers to finish ripening up. This is a blessing, since this means more time to spend  in the kitchen, putting up the harvest. I have a huge pile of chard and kale that I’ll blanch and freeze today, and the canning jars are filling up. I have another pickle recipe to share with you (not cucumbers this time!) but first I want to talk about tomatoes.

Yesterday we broke in my new Victorio food strainer. This thing is pretty awesome. You put whole tomatoes in the hopper, turn the crank, and it spits tomato puree out one spout, and the seeds and skins out another. I like to can both whole peeled tomatoes and crushed tomatoes. We peeled and canned the larger tomatoes whole (or in big chunks) but I had a lot of tiny tomatoes that would have been a lot of work to peel, so we crushed those ones.

The tomato mill worked great, and we ended up with 2 1/2 quarts of puree and probably less than a cup of seeds and skins for the compost bin. The canning part didn’t go so well. For the first few years I canned tomatoes I hot packed them and canned them in a water bath canner. I don’t think I ever had a jar that failed to seal. Then last year I got a pressure canner, and for some reason I also decided to switch to raw packing the tomatoes. That’s when the trouble began. Each time I’ve canned tomatoes since making the switch, I’ve had trouble with tomato pulp bubbling up out of the jars. Last year I had a couple jars that failed to seal right off the bat, and I froze those ones. Then I had one or two jars where the seals failed after a few weeks. When I did this year’s first batch a few weeks ago, some pulp bubbled out, but they all still sealed and so far the seals are holding. Yesterday’s batch seems like the worst yet. They are all sealed now, but so much pulp bubbled out that I have my doubts that the seals are really going to hold.

I’ve read a lot about siphoning, which is when rapid changes in pressure or temperature causes some of the liquid to get sucked out of the jars. But I don’t quite think that is what’s happening here. I think that the contents of the jars are boiling so furiously that they are boiling over. I’m not sure if it’s the pressure canning or the raw packing that’s making the difference, or maybe its a combination of the two. But my gut feeling is that the raw packing is the main problem. I’m not sure why I decide to make this switch, it might have been because it seemed easier, or maybe it was because more of the recipes I was seeing were for raw pack. I know I’ll be doing at least one or two more batches this year, so I think next time I’ll go back to hot packing and see how that works in the pressure canner. In the mean time I’m trying to decide what to do with yesterday’s batch. If they come unsealed a week from now, I’m going to be pretty bummed out. I really don’t have the space to freeze them all, so I’m considering popping the lids off and processing them again with new lids. Do any of the more experienced canners out there have any thoughts about all this?

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17 thoughts on “Tomato Canning Woes

  1. I was very interested to read about your Victorio food strainer, as I’ve always coveted one, but never knew anyone who’d had one. I always raw pack my tomatoes, and have never had any trouble, but I process them in a water bath. That’s just me, though. I hope that your jars hold, and I will be interested to see if hot packing helps. Thanks for sharing your woes!

    • I love my food strainer! Last year we borrowed one from a friend, and I liked it so much I had to get my own. It’s great for making apple sauce too. I just have the basic attachment that comes with it, which is for tomatoes and apples. I’m considering getting the set of additional attachments for processing other fruits and vegetables.

  2. Interesting I have not used a pressure canner yet as I do all mine in a hot water bath. A friend offered me a pressure canner, but I have not tired it yet as I like the hot water bath so far. Let us know how it goes :)

  3. I’m terrified of pressure canners, so I’m no help. The only reason I’ve considered getting one is so I could do the green beans – right now they all go in the freezer.
    Good luck with the next batch of sauce!

    • The new pressure canners are not the ones of ol’ (mom & grandma’s variety) that exploded and caused such a mess when they did blow. Just make sure you get the new variety and not an older model hand-me-down.

  4. I canned tomatoes this year for the first time and did a hot pack then water bath (half were boiled in contact with the bottom of the pot which I know you’re not supposed to do but I was being lazy!). All jars sealed but about half of the eight pints I did siphoned a little bit before sealing. I kind of thought that can just be normal sometimes?

    • Yeah, I’ve read that a little bit of siphoning is normal, but this batch just seemed particularly bad. I do think hot packing works better. Oh, and I’ve done plenty of canning without a rack, and I don’t think it’s too big of a deal!

      Thanks for weighing in!

  5. Tomato Canning Success! | The Museum of Forgotten Pickles

  6. A question…if hot pack worked for you, why change it?
    And, a comment on pressure canning: Pressure canning involves more volume for the boiling contents. If you add less content, like an 3/4 of an inch – a whole inch below the lid, particularly with chunkier stuff; crushed tomatoes, meat, sauces, etc., you’ll have a better outcome. The amount you loose due to expansion of the contents won’t be as great as you’ll have greater headroom.

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