This season, I made it a priority to educate myself on the basics of canning, pickling, fermenting, and food preserving . Thankfully, I was able to put my knowledge to work when I finally confronted a boiling-water canner and my Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving . My parting thoughts after this first brush with home canning? It's not as hard as it sounds, and once you get the rhythm of it, it can be well worth the effort . My advice for those new to jarring: start with a project, such as this one, that isn't too complicated. To see how I canned whole tomatoes in their own juice, keep reading.
Start with fresh, unblemished tomatoes.
While I don't recommend buying an entire 50-pound crate of Early Girl tomatoes  like I did, I do suggest selecting firm tomatoes at their peak of freshness and flavor, and avoiding any that have cracks, spots, and growths. Wash and drain the tomatoes.
X marks the spot where you'll peel later on.
Cut a small "X" in the base of each tomato with a sharp knife. The skin will split around the X, and you'll be able to peel back the corners of the base, making peeling a very deft process.
Blanch tomatoes in boiling water.
Place the tomatoes into a wire basket or colander that's able to sit in a sauce pot, then lower it into a pot of boiling water for 60 seconds, or until skin starts to crack. Remove from boiling water; dip immediately into cold water.
Peel off skins.
Slip off skins using a paring knife. Cut out the core — I found a strawberry huller to be very helpful in this process. If desired, cut tomatoes into halves or quarters; I left them whole.
Fill hot quart jars.
Fill quart jars (make sure they're already hot from a run through the dishwasher — this'll prevent them from cracking) with two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice each. Then, pack with blanched tomatoes, pressing gently on tomatoes until the natural juice fills the spaces between tomatoes and all air bubbles are visibly gone. Leave about a 1/2-inch head space, then screw jars until finger-tight with sterilized lids .
Process jars in boiling water.
Using jar lifters , lower as many quart jars as you can fit into boiling water, making sure they're on top of a wire or wooden rack (this allows boiling water to flow around jars evenly) and covered by one to two inches of boiling water. My pot fit six quarts at the same time.
Wait . . . patiently.
Find something else to do around the house while you allow jars to boil for 1 hour and 25 minutes. (I tested out three different new kinds of Kraft macaroni and cheese ).
Allow jars to cool.
While lid gaskets cool, they'll eventually become firmly sealed to the jars, so allow jars to cool overnight, up to 24 hours. Check to make sure they're airtight after this period of time by pushing down on each metal lid; it shouldn't spring back up. If it does, it hasn't properly sealed and should be eaten within about a week.
Canned tomatoes keep for up to a year, but you'll want to label them to remind yourself of what you have and when to use it by.
Enjoy the fruits of your labor — which will taste better than any canned tomato you've ever had, by the way — by using them in anything that calls for fresh tomatoes. You'll be enjoying vine-ripened Early Girl tomatoes long into the Winter!