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Canning Tomatoes in the No-Waste Kitchen

Preserving tomatoes is like preserving summer! Learn how to get the most out of your tomato harvest by using up every bit of the tomato, including the extra juice and peels.

My absolute favorite thing to grow is tomatoes. I love that there are literally thousands of varieties to try. I love the flavor of homegrown tomatoes – store bought tomatoes just cannot compare. I even love the smell of tomato plants – which don’t really smell very good, but I love them anyway. So, for canning tomatoes I use a no-waste approach.

I know most people will blanch tomatoes before canning them to remove the skins and they’ll remove most of the seeds. And that fine, that’s the “proper” way of canning tomatoes. For the most part, I’m anti-blanching and anti-peeling, because it takes so much longer and I don’t think the benefit is worth the effort. If you do, then by all means, blanch and peel.

When I first started canning tomatoes I blanched and removed seeds and it was fine until I had a big bowl full of “waste” at the end of the day. I decided then that I wasn’t growing tomatoes to use as compost or to feed the chickens, they were for my family. 

The next year I tried to get away without peeling the tomatoes at all and just diced the tomatoes before canning them. That didn’t go over so well, and all year I heard complaints about the tomato skins. Tomato skins can be tough and a bit bitter, so while you don’t have to remove the skins before canning tomatoes. I suggest you do. 

And I have super simple way of removing tomato skins and using them that doesn’t involve blanching.

How to Easily Remove Tomato Skins

When we bring our tomatoes inside, the first thing we do is cut the “belly button” off (most people call this the stem) and any bad parts and then cut the tomato in half if it’s large, if it’s a smaller paste tomato we leave it whole. We put the tomatoes in plastic gallon size ice cream pails or zip lock bags and put them in the freezer.

I do this for two reasons, the first is that it’s not always convenient to process the tomatoes when we get our biggest harvests, in fact, it is almost never convenient to process them at the height of harvest season. The second reason is that they are so much easier to peel once they have been frozen.

I take tomatoes out of the freezer the night before I’m going to can them. I put them in large bowls and pans and let them thaw out. The next morning I take the ones that are the most thawed and dump them out of the zip lock bags into a large roaster pan (I use this because my strainer is oblong and it fits into the lid of the roaster pan.)

most-from-tomato-harvest

The tomato peels come right off the thawed out tomato.

image of tomato preserving process

In the middle are the thawed tomatoes. I put the peels in a bowl (see photo below), the pulp in the strainer and I pour all the juice into a big pot.

I can the tomato juice separately to use in rice or soups. I like doing it this way so that I don’t have to let my spaghetti sauce or salsa cook down for hours. I have a friend who cooks down the juice all day to make it more concentrated.  You can do whatever works best for you.

image of tomatoes and bowl of tomato peels
image of blender full of tomato peels to use as sauce
image of tomato sauce made from tomato peels

Eventually the peels go into the blender with a little of the juice and get turned into “sauce”. I add this to the spaghetti sauce or salsa that I’m making that day to help thicken it up a little.

You can also dehydrate the tomato peels and then blend them up into a powder; I do this with cherry tomatoes  to get used in soups or rice, it’s super good.

image of The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables and jars of home preserved vegetables

The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables

If you you’re looking for more preserving inspiration, I know you’ll love The Ultimate Guide to Preserving Vegetables. In this book I share how to can, dehydrate, freeze and ferment almost every vegetable. I also share 100 favorite recipes for preserving the vegetables in fun way that will save you time and money later. Get your copy here. Get your copy here.

image of canned tomaotes

So there you have it, a way to use every bit of the summer goodness of tomatoes. How do you preserve summer goodness? 

Thanks for sharing with your friends!

Melissa Jennings

Thursday 19th of July 2018

OMG! You're a lifesaver with these tips!! Talk about a timesaver!

I can my own spaghetti sauce (sans meat thus far), salsa, peppers & hot sauce & am trying your chili recipe this week! I finally bit the bullet & splurged on that pressure cooker/canner I have wanted for years!

I digress...these tips are wonderful! I canned 16 quarts of salsa last week when I had enough peppers to tomatoes from the garden. There was almost as much "waste" as there was "processed" tomatoes.

Thankfully, I already have a dehydrator that I rarely use & was feeling guilty about the $$ on the shelf gathering dust - not anymore! I plan on adding the peels to pesto, salad dressing (I also make my own), on pizzas, oh the plans I have now!! I'm super jazzed about it! I also have the FoodSaver system so storing the dehydrated peels will be super compact!

The main thing I'm so excited about is all the time saved by NOT coring, blanching, peeling & then freezing until I have everything from the garden to do whatever &/or whenever I feel up to it!

I have rheumatoid arthritis & a VERY bad back after a fall from my 2 story home's roof while cleaning gutters (in between husbands, raisin kid, working 4 jobs & still broke-yep, no child support :/. So yeah, when I think of all those huge pots of water I have hauled to & from the sink & stove alone, my joints feel much better! Then there's the time, again, I can't stress that enough! I have about 20 lbs of tomatoes in a FoodSaver bag in the freezer that I've already "processed". I intend to use them for your/my chili & when I think about all that waste, it all but makes me ill!!

I'm SO glad that I tripped upon your site whilst looking for a chili recipe for canning! I am definitely going to enjoy checking it ALL out, if for nothing else but to find neat little tips like this!

I promise to click into whatever I can to help support your efforts, time is NOT free, contrary to popular belief, especially when you still have kids at home! We're empty nesters (each of our second marriages) & added to my no longer being able to work, the garden, canning, freezing, dehydrating are very necessary. He plants, cares for & picks the garden & I do 98% of the rest. I have saved a ton of money over the past 8yrs, enough to pay for all of my "toys" meant to make it easier, lol.

Thanks again! I honestly think I love you! Hahaha but not in a creepy, stalker-like way, just adoration from a far!

Angi Schneider

Thursday 19th of July 2018

Melissa, you have made my day! Thank you so much for your sweet words, I can't tell you how much they mean to me. I hope your family likes the chili, it's so nice to have home canned soups available.

Debi King

Tuesday 15th of November 2016

Umm... I do that with orange peels too (scrape off most of the white, dry the peel and grind them up for flavouring cooking with, or pop them into rum with some sugar. Unfortunately I can't grow oranges here, hopefully we might move to a bigger place soon, can't wait to have a go at aquaponics

Angi Schneider

Tuesday 15th of November 2016

Thanks so much for sharing! We also do that with our citrus. I've been hearing good things about aquaponics, hope it goes well for you.

tessa

Thursday 9th of July 2015

I didn't know they were easier to peel after they'd been frozen! Thanks for the tip!

Suzi

Sunday 14th of September 2014

We dehydrate and grind up the peels too. I have never tried adding them to rice. I'll have to try that next time. I am thinking, to take the use of everything further, that when you cut them in half to freeze them, you can scoop out some seeds for replanting next year too.

Angi Schneider

Sunday 14th of September 2014

Great idea! We do keep seeds from our heirloom tomatoes but I usually do it when we're eating them fresh. They could easily be done when preparing for the freezer. Thanks for sharing!

Kristen @ Smithspirations

Monday 8th of September 2014

Woah! Never thought of freezing tomatoes and then canning later! One thing I hate about canning is dealing with the peels, but your method takes care of that. And then not composting the peels, too? And using them? Wow. I love simple tips like these!