Before I begin, I need to share a tip. I was reminded via twitter by my friend Paul over at Foodcrunch of this important summer tomato rule, so if you take nothing else away but this, I’ll be happy. If you want your juicy summer tomatoes to last longer… simply rest them on the windowsill stem-side down, rather than the commonly seen stem-side up.

When I worked in my first kitchen job in New York, it was one of my regular 2 am duties at the end of service to crawl up into the attic of the old farmhouse and sort through the tomatoes and see which were good for tomato water, which were good for serving, and which were good for feeding to the 900 pound pig named Boris. We’d put them in crates so they got good circulation and it was always stem-side down. They can last up to two weeks longer this way believe it or not. I think the stem side has more strength and… fortitude. Or something like that anyway.

Here is how to can them though, when you have just too many to eat at once. I like to can them especially because in the winter you have jars and jars of August memories when the notion of a very ripe tomato seems like an impossible dream.

Canning is simple, here is what you’ll need: Ripe tomatoes, basil or bay leaf or your other favorite herb, salt, lemon juice. Mason jars are necessary too. I prefer the wide-mouth kind.

Remove the little stem end with a paring knife.

Like so!

Score the bottom with a shallow “X.”

{{{This is me waving my fist at the chipmunks}}}

But you can cut out the nasty bits and still salvage the beautiful heirloom tomato.

Next you drop the tomatoes into a pot of boiling water for 30 seconds. You can do this in batches if you have a lot of tomatoes.

Fish them out with a slotted spoon…

And drop them in an ice bath to stop them from cooking.

The skins will slip right off like a pair of stockings.

Next, you begin to press them into a mason jar and as you add more you keep pressing to help release their juices.

Add your flava here. Herbs of any kind, or even garlic cloves would be divine.

Sprinkle with salt which will help release the juices further.

Squeeze in the lemon juice to help keep the pH at a safe level. (See note in the recipe!)

Then add a lid and process them in a hot water bath if you please.

I’ve been growing heirlooms this summer, all seeds that I bought from Bill Best who I featured in “Food Heroes.” If you want to read a magical tomato story, read about Bill Best in “Food Heroes,” you can order a copy from your library or on Amazon, Barns & Noble, or your favorite Indie Bookstore.

Heirlooms are my life. I can’t get enough.

Canned Tomatoes

Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Total Time55 mins
Servings: 1 quart-sized jar


  • 15 whole plum tomatoes or enough to fill a 1-quart ar
  • 6 leaves basil or another fresh herb
  • 1 whole bay leaf optional
  • ½ teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice see note


  • Bring a large pot of water to a boil and prepare another large bowl of ice water.
  • Select ripe tomatoes and wash them. With the tip of a paring knife, cut around the core at the top of the tomato and pop it out. Score the underside of the tomato with a shallow X.
  • Drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for 30 seconds or until the skins begin to crack. Remove them with a slotted spoon and drop them quickly into the cold water.
  • Slip off the tomato skins. Leave them whole or cut them into quarters or halves. Pack them in the jar, pressing down gently after each two tomatoes are added to release juice and fill spaces.
  • Add basil leaves or bay leaf or any herbs that you wish to. Leave ½ inch of head space at the top. Place the lids on top and tighten gently. Add salt and lemon juice.
  • To preserve for winter, put the jar in a boiling water bath (212°F) for about 45 minutes. Remove from the water and tighten the lid. You will hear a fun “popping” sound as the jar cools, which indicates it is sealing.
  • Note: Old school canning books and modern canning books have very different views on the amount of acid to add to your tomatoes. Some old school canning books don’t think you need it at all while government websites today will suggest high amounts or that you use citric acid. I suggest doing some research and seeing what you’re comfortable with. This is what has always worked for me, but I tend to not worry about this sort of thing. Cheerio!