Many people dread peeling tomatoes. Faced with having to do it to any sizable quantity of tomato at all, their legs quake with terror.
It’s actually really easy.
You let hot water do all the work for you.
Why peel tomatoes?
Just about all home-canning recipes from reputable sources will call for tomatoes to be peeled before using in just about all recipes.
But why? Isn’t there a great deal of nutrition in tomato skins, and besides, it’s not as though there isn’t already enough prep work in canning…
- One reason is preference and habit: old-time cooks don’t like to get or see bits of paper-like peel in their food;
- The second reason is food safety to reduce the bacterial load by removing the skin, where a lot of bacteria will be.
Because the recipes are counting on that skin being removed, and the surface-layer bacteria and moulds with it, you need to bite the bullet and do it, even if you normally would ignore those directions for other non-canning recipes.
The USDA Complete Guide to Home Canning says,
Most bacteria, yeasts, and molds are difficult to remove from food surfaces. Washing fresh food reduces their numbers only slightly. Peeling root crops, underground stem crops, and tomatoes reduces their numbers greatly.”  United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Complete guide to home canning. Agriculture information bulletin No. 539. 2015. Page 1-6.
The National Center for Home Food Preservation says,
Peeling tomatoes may seem like an unimportant extra step, but the texture of the skin was determined to be undesirable and product testing did not include considerations of how the skin would alter the final product safety. So, scald, peel, and chop tomatoes as described in the procedure. Our canning recommendations are meant to be followed as written, since that is how they were developed and changing ingredients or steps may influence not only the quality but also the safety of the final product.” National Center for Home Food Preservation. Preserving Food at Home Blog. Try It: Tomato Jam. 19 August 2015.
How to peel tomatoes
Boil the tomatoes for 1 to 3 to 5 minutes (depending on the tomatoes) in hot water, then plunge them into a pan, sink or large bowl of very cold water.
The skins will pull off easily.
If they don’t, pop them back in the pot for a few more minutes boiling. The skin of some tomato varieties will cling more determinedly to the tomatoes than others.
But in the end, the skin does come off really easily.
(And remember, not only must jars of tomato products always be processed, they must also always be presumed to be low-acid products and have some acidity added to them to nudge them into the safe range.)
Tomato peeling machines
Some people hate the chore so much, regardless of the boiling water trick, that they invest in machines which skin the tomatoes for you.
This can be worthwhile if you know you will be canning tomatoes for years to come.
If you look for one, try searching on “tomato milling machine“.
Tip for tomato skins
If you have any amount of tomato skins to speak of, you can make a tomato peel powder which you can use to jazz up salads, pastas or devilled eggs. Lightly oil a sheet of waxed (or parchment paper), place it on a baking sheet, distribute the tomato skins on it and bake for about 45 minutes at 110 C ( 225 F). Pulverize the dried skins in a blender, coffee or spice mill, etc, till they are a fine powder, and store refrigerated in a sealed container for up to a month, or freeze for up to 6 months. Courtesy: CooksInfo.
More information about canning tomatoes in general.
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