One of my favorite things about canning at home is the huge variety of foods that you can process. Fruits, veggies, even meats. There’s virtually nothing that’s off the table! You can even can soups.
I love a big bowl of warm soup on a cold winter day, and there are lots of recipes out there that can tell you how to preserve your own soup.
But the problem is that many of these recipes go against established guidelines when it comes to safety. When you see dairy products and thickeners in the ingredients list, you know you’re getting into questionable territory!
A better and safer way to can tomato particularly is to prepare it simply, and thenadd the few last-minute ingredients when you are ready to open and eat it. It’s quicker and easier than you might think.
Plus, I think you’ll be really pleasantly surprised at how good it turns out. Keep reading, and I’ll tell you how to can your own tomato soup at home in the rest of this article.
Your Canned Tomato Soup Won’t Be a Complete Soup
To clarify, it is possible to can all kinds of different soups at home, but chances are those soups aren’t going to be exactly what you’d recognize in your bowl when it’s time to sit down and eat.
That’s because, most of the time, you can’t combine low-acid and high-acid ingredients safely, and worse, many ingredients like dairy products, thickeners, and even things like herbs, rice, cheese and pasta can dangerously impede the canning process and allow serious bacterial contamination.
Despite this, there’s no shortage of recipes that claim to be safe out there featuring all of those things and more! It makes me nervous, and you should be nervous too.
Canning your tomato soup according to the method below might sound like extra work considering you’ll need to add some things when you open, but you’ll find it’s actually quite simple to prepare when the time comes and, just as importantly, your finished recipe will taste as good as you remember it.
Trust me on this one; you don’t want to take any chances on coming down with botulism or something else by playing fast and loose with the rules for canning soup!
They’ve done all of the research and testing so you don’t have to, and you can rest easy knowing that your tomato soup is completely safe if you follow this guide.
Can You Can Tomato Soup in a Pressure Canner?
Yes, you can. Although most soups with mixed ingredients should only be processed in a pressure canner, tomatoes, and tomato juice are fairly unique among foods in that they can be safely processed in either a boiling water canner or a pressure canner. We’ll be using a pressure canner for our walkthrough today.
Can You Can Tomato Soup in a Water Bath Canner?
Yes, but only if your tomato soup consists of tomato juice, tomatoes, water, acid of some kind, and salt and sugar.
When you start adding other ingredients like meat, beans, and so forth you can no longer safely can the soup using a water bath canner. Pressure canning is mandatory in those cases!
We’ll be using a pressure canner today in this walkthrough, but the NCHFP has published guidelines for this and similar recipes using a water bath canner.
Tools and Supplies
The process for canning your own tomato soup at home is fairly involved with quite a few steps as we will see, but you don’t need much beyond what you already have in your kitchen in order to do it.
Tomatoes: you’ll need tons of tomatoes for this recipe, some of them used to make fresh juice and others for pieces that will give your soup that wonderfully chunky, homemade quality. If you want to make a load of 7 quarts, you’ll need about 44 lbs of tomatoes.
You’ll need about 27 lbs for a load of 9 pint jars. Make sure that all your tomatoes are fresh, and firm and have not been taken from dead or frost-killed vines if picked yourself!
Sugar: you’ll need a pinch of sugar in each jar to offset the acidity of the acid we must incorporate for safety. You’ll need a teaspoon of sugar for each quart jar, or a half teaspoon for each pint jar.
Salt: good tomato soup is always a little salty, and it wonderfully offsets the acidic quality of the tomatoes and the sweetness of the sugar. Once again, you’ll need a single teaspoon for each quart jar or half a teaspoon for each pint jar.
Citric Acid: citric acid is mandatory for this canning recipe. Liquid works best here, but you can use any brand that you prefer. You’ll need a half teaspoon for each quart jar or a quarter teaspoon for each pint jar. Allocate accordingly.
Lemon Juice (optional): if you prefer to stay all natural or just have lemons close at hand, you can use lemon juice instead of citric acid, but you’ll need more lemon juice in comparison.
This will change the flavor of your soup somewhat, so keep that in mind. Use two tablespoons of lemon juice per quart jar, or one tablespoon per pint jar.
Water: you’ll need water to operate the pressure canner and also to peel your tomato pieces.
Ice: for chilling water needed during the peeling process.
Pressure Canner: any pressure canner that you prefer will work for this recipe as long as it is in good repair and you know how it works. A weighted gauge or dial gauge is fine. There are many variations on the market, and many more that are no longer in production.
Make sure you’re familiar with the ins and outs of your pressure canner because we won’t be covering that in detail in this recipe.
Saucepan, Large: a saucepan for simmering tomato pieces to make juice, and then simmering the pieces that will stay in the soup immediately prior to canning.
Saucepan, Small: a smaller saucepan will hold boiling water that will help you peel the tomatoes you’re going to process into pieces for your soup.
Mixing Bowl, Large: a large mixing bowl for holding the ice water needed to dunk the boiled tomatoes in to make peeling them quick and easy.
Rack: a canning rack is essential for pressure canning in order to safely hold the jars inside the canner during the process. One should have been included with your canner, but if not, make sure the one you have will fit safely and securely inside your model.
Jars, Pint, or Quart: you can use pint or quart jars of any vintage for this recipe as long as they are in good shape. Make sure there are no dings, cracks, or chips on the rim or threads. If in doubt, throw them out!
Canning Lids, New: if your jars don’t have attached, reusable lids you need a supply of new canning lids for each one of your jars and a few extra in case there are failures. Never, ever attempt to reuse a canning lid because they are highly prone to failure!
Bands: unlike the lids, assuming you are using disposable lids, bands can be reused as long as they’re in good shape and undamaged. That means no cracks, warping or rust. Again, you’ll need one for each jar.
Jar Funnel: a jar funnel is an absolutely essential piece of kit for canning all kinds of soup and most other foods, including our tomato soup here. It’ll help you get the pieces and the juice into the jar without making a huge mess and getting the rims sticky which could interfere with a good seal.
Jar Lifter: your jar lifter, or jar tongs, is another crucial piece of gear that will help you safely lift and handle scalding hot jars immediately prior to packing and after the canning process is complete. Don’t even try without them!
Measuring Spoons: common measuring spoons for measuring out how much acid salt and sugar to add to each jar.
Slotted Spoon: a slotted spoon comes in mighty handy for handling hot tomatoes when pulling them out of the boiling water and dumping them into the cold water and potentially also for scooping up simmered pieces immediately prior to packing.
Sturdy Spoon: if you’ve got a heavy-duty kitchen spoon of any kind now’s the time to use it. It can help you mash and crush tomato pieces for making your juice.
Masher: likewise, a specialized veggie masher to make quick work of crushing the tomatoes into juice while simmering them comes in really handy. You don’t have to have one of these for this recipe, but if you ever wanted to get one now is the perfect opportunity.
Sieve: once you’ve simmered the crushed tomatoes to make your juice for the soup, you’ll press everything through a large sieve in order to get out skin, bits of flesh, and other things you don’t want.
Food Mill (optional): if you don’t have a sieve or just want to speed things up, you can also pass the finished juice through a food mill to remove all of the debris mentioned above.
Knife: your favorite kitchen cutting utensil is needed for prepping and portioning the tomatoes.
Cutting Board: you’ll need two and probably three cutting boards for this recipe. Two are for processing your tomatoes at various points and one clean one to put your hot jars on immediately prior to filling. You don’t want them to burn your countertop!
Paper Towels: paper towels are a must-have for tackling the inevitable messes and spills that will occur during canning, and just as importantly for wiping off your jar rims so the lids can get a good, perfect seal.
Timer: any timing device that you want to use is fine. A phone app, your stovetop timer, or a standalone kitchen timer. Just make sure you know how it works and it’s accurate!
All right, not too bad. Once you’ve gathered all the ingredients and all of your tools and other materials, it’s time to make some soup.
Hot Pack Canning Tomato Soup, Step-by-Step
Take the time to review every step in the following guideline by line and, if needed, rehearse if necessary. Several operations are time-sensitive for safety and efficiency. Once you’ve got everything in hand, begin.
Step 1: sterilize canning equipment and utensils, inspect canner. Every utensil and item that is going to come into contact with your tomatoes must be sterilized before you begin. That means a thorough wash with soap and hot water or a cycle through the dishwasher immediately prior.
Also take this time to inspect your canner and make sure everything is as it should be and functional. Make sure your dial gauge, if your canner uses one, is functional and accurate. Consult the manual for your canner for additional information.
Step 2: prepare canning area. Get everything in its place before you begin because there’s going to be a lot going on with this recipe. Make sure there’s room on the stovetop for your saucepans and canner.
Get all of your tomatoes placed nearby, along with your seasonings, tools, and anything else you need. Make sure you have plenty of room to work and there’s nothing that could snag you or cause an accident.
Especially sure that you have plenty of room above the canner to get the jars in and out without tilting them.
Step 3: portion tomatoes for juice and pieces. Separate your tomatoes into two piles one pile is for pieces that will be in your soup: You’ll need about 21 lb if you’re making a load of 7 quarts or 13 lb if you’re making a load of 9 pints. The other pile is for making the tomato juice: Here you’ll need about 23 lb for a seven-quart load or 14 lb for a nine-pint load.
Step 4: fill canner with water, pre-heat jars. Going and fill your counter with water according to the directions for your model and turn the heat on. Load the rack with jars, tops removed, and place it in the canner or place the jars inside individually if the rack is not removable. Turn the heat on to get the water simmering and preheat the jars.
Step 5: trim and prep tomatoes for juicing. Working over each pile of tomatoes, remove the stems and any leftover greenery, and cut away any bruised or discolored portions. Discard fruit that seems obviously bad. Replace discarded fruit if needed.
Step 6: slice 1 lb. juice tomatoes into quarters, add to large saucepan. Starting with the pile of tomatoes intended for the juice, take about a pound of them and cut them into quarters, working as quickly as you can. Toss them into your large saucepan.
Step 7: quickly mash tomatoes, heat large saucepan to boiling. Turn the heat high enough to boil. Quickly crush the pieces you added to the pan until the juice covers the bottom. Crush all the pieces in the pan thoroughly using a sturdy spoon and your masher if necessary.
Step 8: quarter, add and mash remainder of juice tomatoes. Once the juice in the pot starts to simmer, quickly quarter and add the rest of the tomatoes from the juice pile in batches, crushing them as you go before adding more until they are all added. Take the time to make sure each and every piece is totally crushed for maximum juice extraction.
Step 9: simmer juice 5 minutes, remove from heat. Once all of the tomatoes from the juice pile are added to the saucepan and crushed, bring the juice to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
Step 10: press tomato juice through sieve or mill. Once you’ve simmered the juice for 5 minutes, carefully pass the still-warm liquid through your sieve or food meal to remove the seeds, skins, pulp, and other solids. Return the juice to the same pot but do not put it back on the heat yet.
Step 11: peel and quarter remainder of tomatoes. Heat water in your smaller saucepan until it is boiling. Fill your large bowl with ice water.
Taking the tomatoes from the pile intended for pieces, dip them in the boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds and then move them to the ice water using your slotted spoon.
You should be able to slip the skins right off and remove the cores. Use a spoon to help you pop the core out if necessary.
When this is done, cut these tomatoes into quarters on your cutting board.
Step 12: bring tomato juice to simmer, add tomato pieces to juice, boil gently. Bring your tomato juice and a larger saucepan back to a simmer.
Working quickly, add your newly sliced tomato quarters into the simmering juice and then boil them gently for 5 minutes. Set your timer as soon as the juice is boiling in all the pieces are added, and then move on.
Step 13: remove jars from canner. While the tomato pieces are boiling, carefully remove your jars from the canner and set them nearby on a clean cutting board to protect your counter.
Step 14: add acid, sugar, and salt to jars. To each hot jar, add your chosen acid, sugar, and salt.
Use the following amounts depending on the size of your jars: Use ½ tsp citric acid per quart jar or ¼ tsp per pint jar. Use 2 Tbsp of lemon juice per quart jar, or 1 Tbsp. per pint jar. Add 1 tsp each salt and sugar to each quart jar, or ½ tsp each to pint jars.
Step 15: pack jars halfway with pieces, cover with hot tomato juice. With the other ingredients added to the jars, use your spoon and funnel to fill each jar with tomato pieces anywhere from ½ to ¾ of the way full.
Then cover each jar of tomato pieces with the still boiling tomato juice, leaving a half-inch of headspace.
Step 16: wipe off rims and seal jars with lids and bands. Take a moistened paper towel and quickly wipe off the rim of each jar.
Then place a lid, holding them only by the edges or with a magnetic wand, on each jar before securing it with a band. If your jars have non-removable, reusable lids secure them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
If using bands, do not overtighten them! Hand-tight and snug is fine.
Step 17: place jars carefully into canner, secure lid. Using your jar lifter carefully place each jar of soup back into the canner. Make sure to keep each jar upright and level so the soup doesn’t slosh against the lid. This could result in lid failure and ruined soup!
Once all of the jars are loaded, put the lid on the canner and secure it. Leave vent pipes and petcocks open or uncovered.
Step 18: exhaust canner for 10 minutes. Turn the heat up under the canner to full. Once steam is venting out vigorously, start your timer and exhaust the canner for 10 minutes.
Step 19: pressurize canner, keep an eye on gauge. Once the counter has exhausted for 10 minutes, add your counterweight or weighted gauge to the vent pipe according to your model, or close the petcock.
Leave the heat on high and watch your gauge closely until it reaches the needed pressure detailed in the following step. Do not leave the canner unattended from here on until processing is completed!
Step 20: start timer for processing. Keep a close eye on the gauge until your canner has reached the needed pressure. Follow the guidelines below depending on your type.
If using a dial gauge canner: the pressure should be at 6 lb if you are under 2,000 ft in elevation, 7 lb if you’re between 2,001 and 4,000 ft of elevation, 8 lb if you’re between 4,001 and 6,000 ft of elevation or 9 lb if you’re between 6,001 and 8,000 ft of elevation. Set the timer for 40 minutes regardless of elevation.
If using a weighted gauge canner: the pressure should be at 5 lb if you are at or below 1,000 ft in elevation or 10 lb if you are above 1,000 ft in elevation. Set the timer for 40 minutes regardless of elevation.
Keep watch on your gauge during the process!
Step 21: adjust heat if needed. Again, do not leave your canner during the canning process because you might need to adjust the heat to maintain the required level of pressure.
At or slightly above the indicated pressure is okay, but you need to reduce the heat if it goes significantly above to keep it at the required level.
Note that if at any time pressure dips below the required level, you must restart the timer completely once the pressure has been reestablished. This is imperative for food safety!
Step 22: when processing is finished, shut off heat. Once the timer goes off and you know that the canner has stayed at the required pressure level during processing, cut the heat.
If you can do so safely without tilting the canner, remove it from the heat to a cold burner or to a heat-proof cutting board on your counter. Ensure you do not tilt the canner!
Step 23: depressurize and cool canner, remove lid. Leave the camera alone at this time to cool down and depressurize. The lid should unlatch or be safe to remove once it is cool enough. Consult the manual for your model for details on safety and lockout systems.
Never use water or anything else in an attempt to cool the canner rapidly!
Step 24: carefully remove jars and cool. Once your canner has cooled down enough or you can remove the lid, take it off carefully opening it towards you as a shield to protect you from steam. Then use your jar lifter or remove the rack to take out the jars. Again, make sure you do not tilt the jars!
Set them aside to cool down completely where they will be safe from drafts. Don’t put them near a door or window or set them on a metal or stone surface. Temperature shock can cause them to shatter.
Step 25: check seals. Once your jars have cooled down completely, a process which will take anywhere from 12 to 24 hours, check the seals. Press on each jar lid with your finger. It should not pop, make a ding sound or move in any way.
Assuming they pass, remove the band and then gently pick up each jar by holding the lid by the edges. You should not hear a hiss or feel any movement.
Set aside any jars that fail either phase of the inspection.
Step 26: wipe off jars. Wipe down all jars that passed inspection with a clean, dampened paper towel to remove residue.
Step 27: store. Store your jars of soup in a cool, dry, dark area that is protected from extreme temperatures and sunlight. Your soup will last about a year stored this way.
Step 28: clean and maintain canner, if done. Assuming you’re done canning for the day or don’t have any more soup to process, take apart, clean, and dry all components of your canner before putting them away. Never put it away wet or dirty!
Step 29: finished! You are done. Your delicious homemade soup is completely shelf-stable and will be ready to eat with just a few minutes of work.
What Do You Do if a Jar Lid Fails?
You’ve got two choices if a lid fails, but you don’t need to worry because it doesn’t mean your soup is ruined.
Your first choice, if you want some soup right away or if more than 24 hours have passed before you checked it, is to simply prepare the soup and eat as usual, or put it in the fridge and eat it within 3 days.
Your other option is to pour the soup into a freshly prepared jar and, using a fresh lid, reprocess it in the canner using the same steps detailed above. Assuming it passes the next lid check, you can store it normally.
Preparing Your Soup After Opening
As mentioned, this tomato soup recipe is more of a tomato soup base, but it is quick and easy to prepare with very little work simply by heating it up and adding what ingredients would normally go into your soup.
That means you can add in things like butter, cream cheese, herbs, other canned veggies, and anything else you want just by simmering the decanted tomatoes and juice in a saucepan for a few minutes with those ingredients to heat them through and incorporate them. Then you’re ready to enjoy!
Trust me: a few extra minutes of work right before eating is a small price to pay for the greatly enhanced safety and certainty of canning your tomato soup correctly.
Tom has lived and worked on farms and homesteads from the Carolinas to Kentucky and beyond. He is passionate about helping people prepare for tough times by embracing lifestyles of self-sufficiency.