Healthy Beginnings

How to make your own Tomato Preserves

What you need:

Tomatoes – about 6 to 8 lbs; or 6 cups of prepared tomatoes. This makes about 10 half-pints (8 ounce jars) of tomato preserves! Half pint canning jars

* Grated lemon rind – 1 1/2 teaspoons

* 1/4 cup lemon juice

* 1 cup sugar to 1 cup of pulp/prepared tomatos.

* Optional seasoning / spices:

* 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

* 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

* 1 Water bath Canner

Step 1 – Removing the tomato skins

Here’s a trick you may not know: put the tomatoes, a few at a time in a large pot of boiling water for no more than 1 minute (30 – 45 seconds is usually enough)


Plunge them into a waiting bowl of ice water.

This makes the skins slide right off of the tomatoes! If you leave the skins in, they become tough and chewy in the sauce, not very pleasant.

After you have peeled the skins off the tomatoes, cut the tomatoes in half. If you are using paste (Roma type) tomatoes, you can skip to step 5. Other varieties, like Big Boy, Better Boy, Gardener’s Delight, cherry tomatoes, etc have so much extra water that we need to remove the seeds and excess water.

Step 2 – Squeeze of the seeds and water

Just like it sounds: wash your hands then squeeze each tomato and use your finger or a spoon to scoop and shake out most of the seeds. You don’t need to get fanatical about it; removing just most will do. Another way to do it is to cut each tomato in half, across it, instead of lengthwise. Then just shake the seeds and juice out.

Step 3 – Drain and dice the tomatoes

Toss the squeezed (Squozen? 🙂 tomatoes into a colander or drainer, while you work on others. This helps more of the water to drain off. You may want to save the liquid: if you then pass it through a sieve, screen or cheesecloth, you have fresh tomato juice; great to drink cold or use in cooking!

Next chop them up – I like 1/2 inch size cubes.

Step 4 – Get the jars and lids sanitizing

The dishwasher is fine for the jars; especially if it has a “sanitize” cycle; especially if it has a “sanitize” cycle. I get that going while I’m preparing everything else, so it’s done by the time I’m ready to fill the jars.

Be sure to let it go through the rinse cycle to get rid of any soap!

Lids: Put the lids into a pan of boiling water for at least several minutes.

Note: everything gets sanitized in the water bath (step 7) anyway, so this just helps to ensure there is no spoilage later!)

Step 5 – Bring the tomatoes to a gentle simmer, add spices, if desired

<– Start with the chopped tomatoes in the pot…

Place chopped tomatoes in saucepan and heat slowly to simmering, stirring constantly to prevent sticking and burning.

Cover and simmer 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Measure about 6 cups of the cooked tomatoes into a large saucepan.

Optional: Add lemon rind, allspice, cinnamon and cloves.

Step 6 – Add the lemon juice and pectin, bring to a boil

Add 1/4 cup lemon juice to the prepared tomatoes in the saucepan. Measure the sugar and set aside. Stir powdered pectin into prepared tomatoes. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring constantly.

Step 7 – Add the sugar, as soon as the tomatoes reach a full boil

Stir in sugar as soon as you reach a full, hard boil. Stir and bring it back to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down. Then start timing and boil hard for 1 minute, stirring constantly.

Step 8 – Testing for “jell” (thickness)

I keep a metal tablespoon sitting in a glass of ice water, then take a half spoonful of the mix and let it cool to room temperature on the spoon. If it thickens up to the consistency I like, then I know the jam is ready. If not, I mix in a little more pectin (about 1/4 to 1/2 of another package) and bring it to a boil again for 1 minute.

Notes about “set” (thickening or jell): It takes 3 ingredients for jams and jellies to set: pectin, sugar and acidity. The amount of pectin that is naturally occurring in the fruit varies from one type of fruit to another and by ripeness (counter intuitively, unripe contains more pectin) It takes the right balance, and sufficient amounts of each of pectin, sugar and acidity to result in a firm jam or jelly. Lastly, it takes a brief period (1 minute) of a hard boil, to provide enough heat to bring the three together. Generally speaking, if your jam doesn’t firm up, you were short in pectin, sugar or acidity or didn’t get a hard boil.

Step 9 – Fill the jars with tomato preserves and put the lid and rings on

Fill them to within 1/4-inch of the top, seat the lid and hand-tighten the

Be sure the contact surfaces (top of the jar and underside of the ring) are clean to get a good seal!

Step 10 – Process (Boil) the jars in the water bath canner

Put them in the canner and keep them covered with at least 1 inch of water. Keep the water boiling, and the lid on – I have the lid off just for purposes of illustration. Most people will only need to process the jars for 5 minutes. If you are at an altitude above 1,000 ft, see the table below.

Recommended process time for Tomato Preserves With Powdered Pectin in a boiling water canner.

Process Time at Altitudes of Half-pints or Pints

0 – 1,000 ft: 5 minutes

1,001 – 6,000 ft: 10 minutes

Above 6,000 ft: 15 minutes

Step 11 – Done

Lift the jars out of the water and let them cool without touching or bumping them in a draft-free place (usually takes overnight) You can then remove the rings if you like. Once the jars are cool, you can check that they are sealed verifying that the lid has been sucked down. Just press in the center, gently, with your finger. If it pops up and down (often making a popping sound), it is not sealed. If you put the jar in the refrigerator right away, you can still use it. Some people replace the lid and reprocess the jar, then that’s a bit iffy. If you heat the contents back up, re-jar them (with a new lid) and the full time in the canner, it’s usually ok.