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How To Can Tomato Sauce

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Learning how to can tomato sauce is so worthwhile. No store-bought tomato sauce can compare to the flavor of homemade tomato sauce made with fresh tomatoes from your garden.

If you have been growing tomatoes and had a great harvest of tomatoes too then you need to learn how to can tomato sauce so you can enjoy yummy homemade tomato sauce all year!

There are a lot of ways to can tomato sauce one of my favorite tomato sauce recipes to can is my roasted tomato sauce it’s a rich tomato sauce that is easy to can, but needs to be pressure canned.

But I always like to can some plain tomato sauce as well because you never know what recipe you might want to use it in later.

How to can tomato sauce text overlaid on a close up photo of homemade tomato sauce in a canning jar sitting on a wooden table.

Having a great tasting but simple tomato sauce means you can season it to fit each recipe before using it.

This tomato sauce recipe is also safe to can in a water bath canner because it only contains tomatoes, lemon juice, and salt. This makes a flavorful tomato sauce that can be seasoned to fit any recipe you want to make when you open a jar.

Can You Leave The Skin On Tomatoes When Making Sauce?

Most tomato sauce recipes tell you to blanch the tomatoes to remove the skins before you cook them into a sauce. But this is a lot of work when you have bushels of tomatoes to put up!

So you might be wondering if you really need to remove the tomato skins at all. The skins of tomatoes can get tough after cooking for a long time or canning, this is why they are normally removed.

Method 1: Blanching To Remove Tomato Skins

Blanching is a good method for removing tomato skins but does not remove the seeds.

To blanch your tomatoes:

Wash the tomatoes to remove any dirt from the skins. Then dip them into boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds until the skins start to split.

Then remove the tomatoes and place them immediately into a bowl or sink filled with ice-cold water. This will stop the cooking process.

The skins should slip off easily and then the tomatoes are ready to quarter and start cooking down.

Method 2: Freezing To Peel Tomato Skins

If you’ve been freezing tomatoes so that you can preserve them later you’ll be happy to find out that this makes it very easy to remove the skins.

Simply rinse the tomatoes under hot water and the skins will start to slip off.

Method 3: Separating Skins and Seeds With A Food Mill

Using a food mill will separate both the skins and seeds from the tomatoes leaving behind just the juice and pulp. This gives you a nice smooth tomato sauce when you are done cooking.

It’s much easier to strain cooked tomatoes with a food mill then raw ones. So start by placing a layer of sliced tomatoes in a heavy-bottomed pot.

Then crush them with a potato masher to draw out the juice.

Continue adding layers of tomatoes and crushing them.

When all of your tomatoes have been added, simmer over medium heat for 20 minutes or until the tomatoes are heated through and releasing juice easily.

Let the tomatoes cool until safe to handle and then process them through the food mill to remove the seeds and skins.

Method 4: Using A Blender Or Food Processor To Liquefy Tomatoes

A well-powered blender or food processor can also quickly puree tomatoes. I’ve used this method many times successfully. With a good blender, it will make the tomato skins undetectable in the finished sauce. However, it doesn’t remove the tomato seeds.

It’s important to remember that official recipes do say to peel tomatoes before canning. My thoughts are that this is mainly a quality issue. Tomato skins after cooking are sharp, leathery, strips in the sauce that no one would enjoy eating. Although there are multiple ways of removing or dealing with tomato skins.

My older Ball book and other older canning books show one option for making tomato sauce is to use your food processor to puree the tomatoes. But generally, the guidelines are to use canning books that are 10 years old or newer so that makes this edition slightly outdated.

The current recommendations are to remove the skins completely. This is an area where you will have to make your own decision, I just wanted to share all the information I have.

How Many Tomatoes Do I need To Can Tomato Sauce?

How many tomatoes you need to make tomato sauce will depend on what type of tomatoes they are. Paste tomatoes contain less water and will yield more sauce per pound then slicing tomatoes.

You will need about 21 pounds of tomatoes to make 9 pints of tomato sauce. 37 pounds is needed to make 7 quarts of tomato sauce for canning.

How To Make Tomato Sauce

Homemade tomato sauce in a mason jar sitting on a wooden table.

Supplies Needed

  • Tomatoes – Paste tomatoes have more pulp and have less juice then slicing tomatoes. This means they will cook down into sauce faster. However, you can use any tomato when making the sauce.
  • Bottled lemon juice – It’s recommended to use bottled lemon juice instead of fresh-squeezed lemon juice because the bottled version has a constant ph level.
  • Salt – Salt is optional in canning but helps to improve the flavor and retain the color of the finished recipe.
  • Food mill – Is an easy way to remove both tomato skins and seeds but there are other options you can choose from too.
  • Canning jars
  • Canning funnel
  • Ladle
  • Jar lifters – Very helpful for lifting canning jars out of a hot canner.
  • Stockpot – Make sure it’s a large, heavy-bottomed stockpot this will help the tomato sauce not to burn.

1. Wash The Tomatoes And Prep The Tomatoes

Wash your tomatoes well then remove the stems and any bruised parts.

If you are not going to run the tomato sauce through a food mill after cooking to remove the skins and seeds then you can use my quick method.

Cut the tomatoes in half and squeeze out the seeds and liquid. Then trim off the blossom and stem ends.

2. Decide What To Do With The Skins And Seeds

Before going further decide how you are going to handle the skins and seeds. Use one of the 4 methods to remove the seeds and skins from the tomato pulp.

3. Cook The Tomatoes

Into a heavy-bottomed stockpot place, the peeled and seeded tomatoes or tomato puree

Bring to a boil over medium heat string often, then turn down to a gentle simmer.

Continue to simmer the sauce until it has been reduced by 1/3 for a thin sauce or 1/2 for a thick sauce. When your sauce is almost ready add salt to taste.

How To Can Tomato Sauce

When your sauce has cooked down and is as thick as you like, ladle into your canning jars. Add 2 TBS. of lemon juice per quart jar, and 1 TBS per pint jar to raise the acidity level.

Release any air bubbles by running a plastic spatula around the inside edge of the jars.

Wipe the rims clean and add the lids and rings finger tight.

Place the jars into your water bath canner and process pints for 35 minutes and quart jars for 40 minutes, adjust the processing time to your altitude.

When the jars have finished processing take them out of the canner using a jar lifter and place onto a towel in a draft-free place. Let them sit undisturbed for 24 hours.

After 24 hours check to see if all the jars have sealed. Place your finger on top of the canning jar lid and press down gently. If it has sealed it will be in the pressed down position.

If the lid moves under your finger then the jar has not sealed. If you have jars that haven’t sealed you can place them in the fridge to use soon or reprocess the jars with new lids.

How To Can Tomato Sauce Without A Canner

You can’t safely can tomato sauce without a canner, methods such as oven canning or simply turning the jar upside down are not safe.

But if you want to water bath can your sauce but don’t have a canner you can make your own. All you need is a deep stockpot and something on the bottom to keep the jars from touching the bottom of the pot.

Just make sure the pot is deep enough to have 2 inches of water above the tops of the jars. For a makeshift canner rack, you can wire some canning jar rings together.

How To Can Tomato Sauce Without Lemon Juice

For many years tomatoes were canned without adding lemon juice because they are considered a high acid fruit. However, studies have shown that tomatoes can have a wide ph range. This is why it’s now recommended to add 2 tablespoons of lemon juice to each quart jar before canning.

If you want to can tomato sauce without lemon juice you can use 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid per quart jar instead. Another option is to pressure can the sauce instead of using a water bath canner.

Pressure canning is intended for low acid fruits, vegetables, and meat. Although the NCHFP still recommends adding lemon juice to its pressure canned tomatoes Colorado State Extention Service does not.

Pressure Canning Tomato Sauce

My favorite way of canning tomatoes is to use a pressure canner. They are processed for a shorter time and I find the final product to have a better taste. Pressure canning also opens up many choices that you don’t have with water bath canning recipes such as adding extra vegetables and meat.

Pressure can in a weighted gauge canner at 10 pounds pressure for 15 minutes at altitudes from 0-1000 feet. Above 1000 feet process at 10 pounds pressure for 20 minutes.

How Long Do You Water Bath Tomato Sauce?

How long you need to process tomato sauce in a water bath canner depends on the altitude that you live at. The chart below follows the USDA guidelines for canning plain tomato sauce in a water bath canner.

Canning Times For Tomato Sauce

Pack StyleJar Size0-1,000 ft.1,001-3,000 ft.3,001-6,000 ft.Over 6,000 ft.
HotPints35 min.40 min.45 min.50 min.
 Quarts40 min.45 min.50 min55 min.
Yield: 7 quarts

How To Can Tomato Sauce

Homemade tomato sauce in a quart canning jar sitting on a wooden table.

This simple tomato sauce recipe is really quick to make. A great way to use up tomatoes from your garden and enjoy this homemade tomato sauce all year!

Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 5 hours
Total Time 5 hours 20 minutes

Ingredients

  • 35 lb. Tomatoes
  • 14 Tablespoons Lemon Juice
  • Salt, to taste

Instructions

  1. Wash your tomatoes well then remove the stems and any bruised parts.
  2. Decide how you are going to remove the stems and seeds. Either blanch to remove the skins before cooking, freeze and thaw to remove the skins, use a blender to puree or process through a food mill after cooking the tomatoes a little.
  3. Place skinned and seeded or pureed tomatoes into a heavy stockpot.
  4. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then turn down to simmer. Let the sauce simmer until it's as thick as you like your tomato sauce to be. Reduce by 1/4 for thin sauce or 1/2 for a thick sauce.
  5. When your sauce has cooked down and is as thick as you like add salt to taste.
  6. Ladle into canning jars. Add 2 TBS. of lemon juice per quart jar, and 1 TBS per pint jar to raise the acidity level.
  7. Release any air bubbles by running a plastic spatula around the inside edge of the jars.
  8. Wipe the rims clean and add the lids and rings finger tight.
  9. Place the jars into your water bath canner and process pints for 35 minutes and quart jars for 40 minutes, adjust the time to your altitude.

Notes

This is a basic tomato sauce recipe that is unseasoned other than adding salt and lemon juice. It's perfect for using as a base in any tomato dish.

Did you make this recipe?

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References

“National Center for Home Food Preservation | How Do I? Can Tomatoes.” n.d. Accessed July 15, 2020. https://nchfp.uga.edu/how/can_03/tomato_sauce.html.

“Canning Tomatoes and Tomato Products – 9.341 – Extension.” n.d. Colorado State University Extension. Accessed July 15, 2020. https://extension.colostate.edu/topic-areas/nutrition-food-safety-health/canning-tomatoes-and-tomato-products-9-341/.

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