30 lbs of Tomatoes Wait for the #151 Bus

Canning in the city is interesting. If you don’t have a garden, or a friend with a garden, you go to the farmer’s market. And if you don’t have a car, you take the bus. You take the bus with your 30 pounds of roma tomatoes. Then you and your friend take turns carrying said tomatoes home, and up three flights of stairs.

Then the work starts. This was my first time canning anything, so I thought teaming up with a friend would be a good idea. My buddy Lara is interested in all things food, homecooking and Barbara Kingsolver, so I knew she would be in. So we canned! We canned tomatoes and pasta sauce. It was time consuming, yes. But fun and satisfying too. So can! Can some tomatoes, can with your friends, can while listening to Billy Idol. It’s easier than you think.

Canning Tomatoes


So if you want to can there are a ton of resources out there, but we used the Joy of Cooking and Better Homes and Gardens Recipe Book. For great instructions and food safety tips also check out the National Center for Home Food Preservation’s Website. We decided to start with tomatoes because with their high acidity level we wouldn’t need to use a pressure canning device. Make sure that your tomatoes are at the peak of ripeness, and are bruise and blemish free. Save the imperfect ones for pasta sauce–recipe to be posted soon!

18-20 pounds roma tomatoes (the best for canning and pasta sauce)
12 pint-sized mason jars with bands and new lids
3 teaspoons salt
12 tablespoons lemon juice
boiling water, for jars and processing
ice water bath
boiling water canner

Begin by cleaning your jars, bands, and lids with soap and water. You want your jars to be hot before processing so they don’t break. Prepare your boiling water canner. Fill halfway with water and bring to a simmer. Keep jars and lids in hot water until ready to fill. Do not boil as this could damage the lid seal. Bands are fine to keep at room temperature.

Prepare your tomatoes. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Boil tomatoes 1-2 minutes, until skins start to break. Remove and dip in ice water bath. The skins should easily peel off now. Halve the tomatoes and then remove the core and seeds.

Carefully remove jars and lids from hot water. Add 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 tablespoon lemon juice to each jar. Pack with tomatoes within 1/2 inch of rim. Add boiling water, maintaining this 1/2 inch of headspace. Do not under or over-fill as this will prevent a proper seal. Run a spatula between the sides of the jar and the tomatoes to release any trapped air. Wipe the edge of the jar with a clean cloth. Place lid and tightly screw on the band.

To process your filled jars, lower into the simmering water of your canner. Add enough water so the jars are covered by at least two inches. Cover your pot and bring the water to a boil. Process for 40 minutes and then carefully remove from the water. Your lids should “pop” as they cool, indicating a proper vacuum seal. To test, press on the lid–it should not flex once completely cooled. If not sealed properly refrigerate and use within two weeks. I overfilled a couple jars, resulting in bulging lids and no seal. It’s easy to tell when something goes awry…

That dent on the right hand side?  It means no vacuum seal.  Luckily we didn’t have too many of those.  So concludes Canning: Episode 1.

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7 Responses to “30 lbs of Tomatoes Wait for the #151 Bus”

  1. Lara Says:

    Who knew dragging 30 lbs. of tomatoes through the city would generate so many comments from strangers?

  2. Meagan Says:

    I’m so impressed that you did that and still made it out at night

  3. Jude Says:

    Awesome site, one question though: where can a I buy canning jars?!?

    • citytart Says:

      Why Jude! I’m glad you asked! If you don’t want to purchase them online, you can find mason jars at most hardware and some grocery stores. I got mine at Menards. It’s where you save more money. Happy Canning! I’m expecting a full report…

  4. Darlene Says:

    Memories of canning with Grandma Rose…wow…bushels of salted tomatoes and the smell of basil and tomatoes cooking on the stove. Makes me want to run right out and get some romas’.

  5. shaz Says:

    Very impressed with your dedication!

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