Tomato sauce wasn’t even my first project, but it was the one that weighed most heavily on my mind. While friends were gathering up strawberries and other earlier crops to make jellies and jams and all sorts of things, I was just waiting. My family won’t eat jellies and jams so there was no reason to make any.
But tomato sauce! We go through that like crazy! It was one of the biggest things I’ve planned to can and no, I am STILL not done! But I actually did this one in a few different stages so I “perfected” my technique a bit. I’ll share with you the way that I did it, and explain why some of the other ways are not my preferred way.
2022 update: Tomato sauce is the one item I’ve canned the most of over the years (13 years canning so far!). I still use the same method I started out with, because it’s easy, and it’s yummy. I’ve done at least a couple thousand jars over the years — more some years than others. This is my tried-and-true recipe!
How to Make and Can Tomato Sauce
You’ll need a lot of tomatoes to get started. For a single recipe, to make it worth your time, you’ll need at least 20 lbs. of tomatoes at a time. (That will make approximately 5 quart jars when it’s cooked down.) I have a big family, so I often process hundreds of pounds of tomatoes each year.
This was my 2021 haul….
In a perfect world, I like to grow and harvest my own tomatoes. Things don’t always go as planned, and I may not get enough from the garden. Or, they may trickle in, making it difficult to get enough to make a large batch of sauce. I usually do a combination of my home-grown tomatoes and tomatoes from nearby Amish country. Boy, are we busy when this haul comes home!
Making the sauce is truly not hard. Over the years, I have taken the time to seed or peel tomatoes…and I have abandoned doing so. It doesn’t make a big difference to the final sauce texture — and since I don’t notice the skins or seeds much, why take the time?
If you’re more sensitive to that sort of thing, you can take the time to do both if you prefer. When I did peel tomatoes, this is how I did it. If you’re really processing a lot at once like I was…it just slows you down. But it’s up to you.
The Actual Recipe
- 20 lbs. of tomatoes
- 1 lb. of onions (about 1 large)
- 6 – 8 cloves of garlic
- 2 tbsp. salt (or to taste)
- 2 tbsp. basil leaves
Step 1: Quarter your tomatoes into chunks. If they’re very large, you can chop them into eighths instead. Romas sometimes don’t need to be chopped at all.
Step 2: Fill your blender with the chopped tomatoes, then blend until smooth. If you prefer a chunkier sauce, you can blend less time, or skip the blending entirely (although I have never tried skipping it).
Step 3: Blending turns the tomatoes into a foamy, pink puree. Pour this into an 8-qt stock pot. Continue quartering, blending, and pouring until all the tomatoes are in.
Step 4: Turn the pot on medium heat and allow it to slowly come to a boil. The foam will rise to the top, and after awhile, it will look more like normal ‘tomato sauce’ (i.e. red liquid) but it will be really thin. Continue to let it simmer for an hour or so, until it’s partially cooked down.
Step 5: When the sauce is about half as thick as you’d like, chop the onion and garlic. Add the veggies, salt, and basil to the pot. (Your kitchen will now smell amazing.)
Step 6: Continue to simmer the sauce on medium heat until it is as thick as you’d like.
Now it’s time to can! If you’re new at this, be sure you read my tutorial post first.
Step 7: Fill clean jars with hot sauce, leaving approximately 1″ headspace (I fill to the bottom of the threads).
Step 8: Lid the jars and place them in a large stock pot, properly set up to can. Fill with hot water and turn it on.
Step 9: Process quarts for 30 minutes (from rolling boil).
Step 10: Remove jars from the pot and set on the counter to cool. Watch for them to seal within the first 30 minutes or so. If they don’t seal within 24 hours, re-process or put in the fridge to use right away.