Canning Tomato Sauce

Canning Tomato Sauce

September 7, 2009 · 41 comments

I spent the last Saturday of summer the same way my grandmother did 70 years ago – canning thick tomato sauce out of heirloom organic tomatoes.

Six hours of roasting, skinning, crushing and carefully pouring into sterilized mason jars. The process is almost as enjoyable as the rich sauce it produces – as is the sense of accomplishment, watching full jars line the counter top.

My grandmother canned tomato’s from the bounty of the garden when she was a child. A fire pit in the backyard heated a cauldron of boiling water, where she’d sterilize jars wrapped in old newspaper. She remembered it as a chore–forced to stomp tomatoes on Saturdays in August while her younger sister played next door with the Clementelli’s.

roasting tomatoes 2

Canning is now something people do because they enjoy the process. It evolved from a strategy to survive fruitless winters to a mode of expressing culinary creativity. People still do it to conserve, but canning doesn’t have the economical impact of the past, nor is it as inexpensive to accomplish. We made 30 pints of sauce for an average of $4.85 per jar. I wouldn’t call that exuberant, but I doubt my grandmother would have to give up her Saturdays for such a price point.

We purchased 60 pounds of organic tomatoes from Happy Girl Kitchen (who gets them from Pinnacle Farms) for $90. We could have found them cheaper, but not much. Pint-sized jars cost $11.50 per dozen. Onions and garlic from Avalos Farm cost $10 and olive oil was about $6.

Maybe one day we’ll own property large enough for a fire pit and a decent garden. But for now, I’m happy to know some aspects of my life are the same as they were for my grandmother so many years ago.

How to Can Crushed Organic Tomato Sauce
(This is more of a guide than a specific recipe. Feel free to experiment with proportions, herbs and spices)

60 pounds of organic heirloom tomatoes
3.5 pounds of onions, diced
1 pound garlic, peeled and chopped
Fresh basil, chopped
salt, fresh black pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Equipment: 30 mason jars, large pot for boiling water, tongs

Makes 30 pints of sauce and 6 quarts of tomato stock

Preheat the oven to 400F. Core the tomatoes and if very large, cut in half. Place in a large roasting pan. Scatter onions and garlic around the tomatoes. Add about 3 tablespoons of olive oil (this will vary depending on the size of  your pan) and salt. Roast for about 10 minutes.

Heirloom tomatoes are very juicy, and much of the liquid will release into the pan while roasting. be sure to choose a pan with sides that are high enough to accommodate the juices. Remove tomatoes from the oven and carefully remove the skins. As you de-skin the tomatoes, crush and place in a large pot. Use a slotted spoon to pick up onions and garlic to add to the pot as well. Reserve the juices to use for stock.

canning tomatoes 2

Repeat with remaining tomatoes. When the pot of sauce is almost full, place on the stove and heat until bubbling. Add salt and pepper to taste, and toss in some basil. If you want your sauce to have a consistent texture and less “chunk”, blend it in a food processor.

Preparing the jars:
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Fully emerge jars and lids in water and boil for 10 minutes. Remove jars with tongs.

Fill each jar with sauce, leaving 1/2 inch of space on top. Secure the lids in place. Place jars back in boiling water for 30 minutes to sterilize.

When jars cool, you’ll hear the lids pop. If they don’t pop, refrigerate jars and use within one week.

canning tomatoes

A note about ph: To be safe, add 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid or 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to each pint. This will prevent scary things like botulism from growing in your jars. We didn’t add it because we found the citrus to be too tart for the sauce. If you decide the same, boil your sauce for at least 10 minutes when using, or you can check the ph of your sauce with a ph meter.

Where I Shopped:
Organic Heirloom Tomatoes: Happy Girl Kitchen (Pinnacle Farm)
Organic onions and garlic: Avalos Farm, Berkeley Farmers’ Market
Fresh Basil: Erin and Uri’s backyard
Mason Jars: Longs drugstore

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{ 3 trackbacks }

End of Summer Salad | Delicious by Nature
September 9, 2009 at 7:05 am
Canning Tomato Sauce « Foodshots
September 11, 2009 at 12:56 pm
Homemade Tomato Soup | Local Lemons
September 24, 2009 at 7:21 pm

{ 38 comments… read them below or add one }

jean September 8, 2009 at 6:27 am

I love your blog.
I planted tomates de colgar…which hung up in the kitchen they,ll keep till feb or so….but want to try this…happy tuesday!


Gary Millwood January 10, 2010 at 6:41 am

Jean, I have been searching for seed of the De Colgar Tomato and see you have grown it. Would you have seed to share/exchange. I grow only heirloom tomato varieties.
I look forward to hearing from you. Have a great 2010
Gary Millwood
Louisville, Kentucky


Amy September 8, 2009 at 8:50 am

Wow. This looks fabulous! I don’t quite have 60 lbs of tomatoes but I might try it with the leftover ones (11 lbs for $12 from Happy Boy Farms!) that I got this weekend.


Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction September 8, 2009 at 10:03 am

Looks so beautiful… I love the first picture of all of the jar tops. I’m sure you’ll enjoy all of that tomato sauce this winter!


Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen September 8, 2009 at 3:38 pm

This is a lovely post. I spent the weekend doing some canning – of pickles, that is. Although it may not be a huge economic impact right now, it may be at some point. I am looking forward to having a large garden next summer at our new house and doing a lot of canning projects!


SippitySup September 8, 2009 at 5:22 pm

This is a great and informative post. I always struggle with canning decisions. Especially with tomatoes. To peel or not to peel that is the question… GREG


Megan Gordon September 8, 2009 at 10:27 pm

Oh my word, those jars look amazing–what a treat to pull out in the dead of January, huh? Thanks for a great post. Once my tomatoes ripen, I’m consulting it…


George @ The Heirloom Orchardist September 8, 2009 at 11:29 pm

My tomatoes were terrible this season. The cold and rain….what a mess.


rach September 9, 2009 at 12:03 am

I’m impressed, this is great and inspiring
Are you going to decorate your kitchen with all those pretty jars ?
Really I am inspired and I might even take your lead when I get back to Rome, I know I will be glad i did during winter when we have no wonderful fresh red things. Vincenzo’s Sicilian nonna used to jar the tomatoes for all the family (it is a big family), The pan she boiled the jars in was big enough for 7 year old vincenzo and his cousin to hide in.


Angela@spinachtiger September 9, 2009 at 6:59 am

What a worthy and timeless post. One to return to again and again for reference.


erin September 9, 2009 at 12:19 pm

awesome to see pics of the canning weekend!


Dana September 10, 2009 at 7:46 am

In spite of the canvolution and all that, I’m still intimidated by the process. Still, I wouldn’t mind having a few of those jars of heaven!


abdi March 8, 2011 at 11:00 pm

i have to find tomato and lamens


canning tomatoes April 3, 2011 at 10:21 pm

Thanks for this very informative article. Canning should really be followed in a step by step process. You can also try canning other fruits and veggies aside from tomatoes.


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just when you thought it could not be better, it is, thanks for the post


Leslie August 22, 2011 at 1:22 pm

The USDA DOES NOT recommend putting oil (olive oil is in this recipe) in ANYTHING that you can! this recipe is at serious risk of creating botulism.


Mandyland September 26, 2011 at 9:45 am

I adore this recipe! I canned a marinara a couple weeks ago that took five hours of simmering and three passes through a food mill to reach a “sauce” consistency. While it’s delicious, I’m currently in possession of almost 200 lbs of tomatoes and don’t have that sort of time.

I’m going to try this tonight.


jackie August 4, 2012 at 9:52 am

I would have to agree with Leslie. While the recipe sounds wonderful, and it is a worthwhile endeavor to can, this recipe has oil in it and no extra acidity. Tomatoes are right on the acidity (pH) fence for water bathing vs. pressure canning. So if you don’t add any extra acidity they have the chance to go bad once water bathed. I would add some lemon juice or vinegar to this recipe to be on the safe side.


cypress July 22, 2013 at 10:52 pm


I’m wondering if local lemons can respond to this question. I’m canning tomatoes this week, and am getting lost in the information available online about lemon juice vs. no lemon juice in tomato sauce recipes for canning. i’ve canned plenty of times without lemon juice and using olive oil, and am wondering if there is evidence to back up the claim that boiling sauce for over ten minutes when you go to use it will mean you are ensuring you have safe sauce.



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