Toolshed: Canning the Summer Garden’s Gems

By Christiana Peterson

Flourish magazine, Summer 2010

Canning is a method of preserving food invented by a confectioner and brewer in 19th century France when the government offered money to anyone who could come up with a way to preserve large amounts of food for their armies. This method, which has remained largely unchanged since then, gradually spread through Europe and to the United States.

I’ve only been canning for a few years now, but I’ve already found that the benefits far outweigh the time it takes to process the food in a hot kitchen. Because I live on a farm and have access to lots of fresh produce, canning has become a way to save on grocery bills, use the seasonal abundance of food efficiently, and provide healthy food for my family. Each time I take the jars out of their water bath and hear the delightful popping of the lids as they seal, I feel closer to older generations for whom canning was more necessity than luxury.

Tomatoes are some of the easiest produce I’ve canned. They are versatile and delicious, especially if you’ve grown them yourself. If your recipe calls for tomato sauce, just throw the contents of your quart of into a blender or food processor. I’ve made spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce, soup, chili, and many more recipes with this simple item: canned tomatoes.

Supplies and Ingredients:
Pressure cooker
Quart-size canning jars
New canning lids and rings
A large pot of water
Small saucepan with a few inches of simmering water

Items that make your job easier:
A canning funnel
A clean, wet cloth

To prepare, wash the jars, lids, and rings in hot, soapy water. Rinse and turn over to dry.

Place the lids in a small saucepan with a few inches of simmering water.

  • Throw all of your tomatoes in a sink filled with water, and let them soak until they’re ready to be processed.
  • Boil water in the large pot.
  • Place some tomatoes in the boiling water for a minute or two (until the skin starts to peel).
  • Take them out of the boiling water and place them in a bath of cool water. When the tomatoes have cooled, the skin will come off pretty easily in your hands.
  • Peel the skin off the tomatoes, cut them into the size pieces you want, and stuff them into a canning jar until the jar is full with an inch of space at the top.
  • Use a spatula or knife to clear the air bubbles out of the jar.
  • Clean off the rim of the lid with a wet cloth and top it with a lid (pulled out of the simmering water).
  • Place the quart of tomatoes in the pressure cooker.
  • Repeat this process until you have a pressure cooker full of jars.
  • Cook in the pressure cooker at 5lbs pressure for 10 minutes.
  • Remove the jars from the cooker and place together, side-by-side, for 24 hours. When the cans are cooled, press on the lids to make sure they have sealed. If they click when you press them, they are not sealed.
  • Remove the ring from sealed jar and store jar in a cupboard until ready to eat!

Christiana Peterson spent her childhood in Texas, writing poems about alligators and stars. After college, she lived for four years in Scotland, studying theology and writing. There she discovered the creativity and sacredness of the natural world and has been learning how to care for all of God’s creatures ever since. She currently lives with her husband and daughter in a Mennonite farming community in Illinois. Her blog about life on a farm can be read at


  1. I LOVE canning food, and one of my favorite late summer sounds is the popping of the canning jar lids! I, too, feel a connection to women long past when I can food.

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