Canning Green or Frozen Tomatoes

A bowl full of peeled, frozen tomatoes, waiting to be canned.
In past posts, I've briefly mentioned that I never throw away green tomatoes left in my fall garden. Instead, I can them. I get lots of questions about how to do this, and I've never given all the details in a single post - until today.

In this post (or others linked here), you will learn how to:

* Eat green tomatoes, if you want to
* Ripen green tomatoes easily in your home
* Easily freeze tomatoes
* Easily make tomato paste from dried tomato skins
* Can tomatoes that have been frozen (or are fresh)

Pick green tomatoes before the first fall frost or before the weather grows very wet.
How to Eat - or Ripen - Green Tomatoes

Yes, you can eat tomatoes while they are green; learn more about that here. However, I feel they are more worthwhile if I ripen them first.

The beautiful thing about tomatoes is that once they are in the fruiting stage, they don't need sunshine to ripen. They just need some warmth. So when I know a frost is coming that will kill my tomato plants - or I know we're headed into the rainy season that will make my tomatoes split and rot - I pick the green fruit off the plants. (Some people like to pull up the whole plant and hang it somewhere relatively warm, but this is pretty messy and takes up a lot more space than my method.)

Then I set the tomatoes in a single layer (not touching) in my pantry, on top of the jars and cans already there. Once a week or so, I check on the tomatoes. As they begin turning red, I'll usually check on them every other day or so. Checking is no big deal because I get into my pantry pretty much every day.

Once any tomato is fully red and no longer hard, I either use it as if it were fresh from the vine or I freeze it. Typically, I freeze it. That's because green tomatoes ripened off the plant aren't as tasty as those that come off the plant in summer. They are still better than store bought tomatoes, mind you, but I prefer them cooked, rather than raw.

How long does it take for the tomatoes to ripen? That depends upon the variety you have, how warm your home is, and what stage of maturity the tomatoes were when you picked them. However, I generally find it takes about two months for all of my tomatoes to fully ripen.

How to Freeze Tomatoes

To freeze tomatoes (any time of year!), lay them in a single layer in the freezer. If you like, place them on a baking sheet first. Once the tomatoes are hard, transfer them to a freezer bag.

As fall and winter proceed and more and more of your tomatoes ripen, keep freezing them.

Once all the green tomatoes are ripened and frozen, you can use them as is for cooking. However, you'll have to add more liquid to whatever recipes you are making, since frozen tomatoes don't have the lovely liquid canned tomatoes do.

Dried tomato skins stored in a jar. Add water, and you have tomato paste.

Canning Frozen or Fresh Tomatoes - and Making Paste from Tomato Skins

That's why I prefer to can them. And because the tomatoes are frozen, canning is actually easier than if you were using fresh (unfrozen) tomatoes! Just clean the sink well (or use a large bowl) and fill it with hot water. Dump the tomatoes, one bag at a time, in the water. Pick one up and rub it; the skin will easily fall away. If the water cools down and the skins aren't coming off as well, add more hot water or put the tomato under running hottish water.

If you like, save the peels to dehydrate them and make an easy tomato paste. (Learn how to do that here.)

Once the peels are off the tomatoes, place them in a large bowl and let them thaw. It's absolutely vital to let them thaw before canning, or they won't come up to the proper temperature to kill bacteria. That means your home canned tomatoes will be unsafe to eat.

Also, because frozen tomatoes may have a different density than fresh tomatoes, in canning, you should only use them in sauce.


  1. I've thought about canning my frozen tomatoes in tomato form, but the texture is such that I worry how the end product will turn out. Are there varieties that are better suited for this process than others?

    For what it's worth, I turned mine into tomato sauce--and didn't have to worry about the thawing process since it had to cook anyway.

  2. Liberty, I've used a wide variety of tomatoes like this (freezing, then canning in halves) and never had a problem. Because you are using them for cooking, there's not a texture problem. I would have loved to have done sauce - but I didn't have tomatoes that would have been ideal for that. Good for you for doing something with them!