Here we work through the USDA procedure for home canning whole, plain tomatillos.
Unlike for tomatoes, you do not peel tomatillos in this process.
See here for usage ideas.
Quantities of fresh tomatillos needed
Numbers are approximate guidelines. Results will always vary.
On average, as a very, very rough guideline, for fresh tomatillos expect to need about 1 kg per 1 litre jar (about 2 lbs per US quart jar) .
- 6.5 kg (14 lbs) of fresh tomatillos = 7 litres (US quarts) of home-canned tomatillos
- 4 (9 lbs) of fresh tomatillos = 9 x ½ litres (US pints) of home-canned tomatillos
- 1 US bushel fresh tomatillos = 14.5 kg (32 lbs) = 14 to 16 litres (US quarts) of home-canned tomatillos
Jar size choices: Either half-litre (1 US pint) OR 1 litre (1 US quart)
Processing method: Water bath or steam canning or pressure canning
Headspace: 2 cm (½ inch)
Processing time: For water bath or steam canning the times are as follows. Half-litres (pints) 40 minutes; litres (quarts) 45 minutes
Home canning whole tomatillos
- Husk all the tomatillos and discard the husks.
- Wash tomatillos in fresh, potable water.
- Leave tomatillos whole. Do not cut or attempt to deseed.
- Put tomatillos in large pot, cover with water, and bring to a boil.
- Simmer the tomatillos gently under just tender — about 5 to 10 minutes.
- Drain tomatillos.
- Pack hot tomatillos into jars, leaving 2 cm (½ inch) headspace.
- MANDATORY. Acidify jars. To each half-litre/ pint jar add either 1 tablespoon bottled lemon / lime juice OR ¼ teaspoon citric acid. To each litre/quart jar add either 2 tablespoons bottled lemon / lime juice OR ½ teaspoon citric acid.
- OPTIONAL: ½ teaspoon salt per half-litre / pint; 1 teaspoon per litre / quart jar.
- Fill jars with fresh boiling water, leaving 2 cm (½ inch) headspace.
- Debubble, top up as needed with clean boiling water from a kettle to maintain headspace.
- Wipe jar rims.
- Put lids on.
- Process in a water bath or steam canner.
- Process half-litres (pints) for 40 minutes; litre (quart) jars for 45 minutes. Increase time as needed for your altitude.
Steam-canning is a great option. Use water-bath processing times. But it cannot be used as an option if the processing time at your altitude would be over 45 minutes, owing to concern that some smaller steam canner models would simply run out of water.
Pressure canning process
The USDA also offers a pressure canning process.
Guidelines below are for weighted-gauge. See also if desired: Dial-gauge times.
|Jar size||Time||0 to 300 m (0 - 1000 feet) pressure||Above 300 m (1000 ft) pressure|
|½ litre or 1 litre (1 US pint or 1 US quart)||15 mins||5 lb||10 lb|
|½ litre or 1 litre (1 US pint or 1 US quart)||10 mins||10 lb||15 lb|
|½ litre or 1 litre (1 US pint or 1 US quart)||1 min||15 lbs||not recommended|
Please note that using one of the acid ingredient options in the recipe is still mandatory for safety even when pressure canning because the pressure process was designed only to save time, not to be enough to make the product safe on its own without the added acidity.
How to water bath process.
How to steam can.
When water-bath canning or steam canning, you must adjust the pressure for your altitude.
How to pressure can.
When pressure canning, you must adjust the pressure for your altitude.
Lime juice of course is a traditional complement to the taste of tomatillos. However, it’s much more distinctive than lemon juice, so only use lime if you are sure you are going to want that taste in whatever you make with your tomatillos. But, do not skip the step of adding one of the acidifiers listed. Acidification is mandatory for safety.
The salt is completely optional. It’s there as a seasoning and adds nothing to safety. Instead of the salt, you can use a non-bitter, non-clouding salt sub. We have found Herbamare Sodium-Free performs well in that regard. OR for the most flexibility when you go to use your tomatillos, just omit!
Tomatillos. United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Complete guide to home canning. Agriculture information bulletin No. 539. 2015. Page 3-13.
- Added options to use salt and lime juice.
Using canned tomatillos
What can you do with the plain canned tomatillos?
These have essentially necessarily been cooked by the preserving process, so if you were going to use them for salsas, you’d use them in cooked rather than fresh salsas.
Martha Shulman from the New York Times food section gives some advice:
If you can find only canned tomatillos, an 11-ounce can be substituted for 1 pound of fresh tomatillos in this week’s recipes. The canned variety has already been simmered until softened, and all you have to do is drain them. Cooking by simmering or, preferably, broiling is the first step in all of my tomatillo recipes; skip this step if you’re working with canned.” Shulman, Martha Rose. Cooking With a Mexican Favorite, the Tomatillo. New York: The New York Times. 13 September 2010. Accessed July 2017 at https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/13/health/nutrition/13recipehealth.html
The Joy of Cooking says,
Canned tomatillos can be served as a condiment with grilled meats and poultry, and are especially good with grilled fish and shellfish.” Rombauer, Irma S. et al. Joy of Cooking: All about Canning and Preserving. Page 33.
You can use them in this hot sauce recipe: Jalapeno Hot Sauce.
The pH of tomatillos
Tomatillos are even more acidic generally than green tomatoes.
The USDA’s table of “Approximate pH of Foods and Food Products” assigns a pH value of 3.83 to tomatillos.  USDA. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Acidified and Low-Acid Canned Foods. April 2007. Accessed March 2015 at https://www.foodscience.caes.uga.edu/extension/documents/fdaapproximatephoffoodslacf-phs.pdf.
Per half-litre / US pint, no added salt: 163 calories
|↑1||Shulman, Martha Rose. Cooking With a Mexican Favorite, the Tomatillo. New York: The New York Times. 13 September 2010. Accessed July 2017 at https://www.nytimes.com/2010/09/13/health/nutrition/13recipehealth.html|
|↑2||Rombauer, Irma S. et al. Joy of Cooking: All about Canning and Preserving. Page 33.|
|↑3||USDA. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. Acidified and Low-Acid Canned Foods. April 2007. Accessed March 2015 at https://www.foodscience.caes.uga.edu/extension/documents/fdaapproximatephoffoodslacf-phs.pdf.|