If you’re anything like me, any time you purchase something ready made from the store, you wonder if you can make it at home. (Can I get an amen I’m not the only one who has these thoughts?)
So if you ever opened a jar of store bought tomato sauce and thought, “how can I make tomato sauce at home” then you’re going to love today’s post. And if you ever wondered how to make your own cream soups for recipes instead of the condensed chemical filled ones from the store, then you’ll love my processed replacement make your own cream of soup replacement. Now that’s a whole lotta foodie love happening.
You might think organic tomato sauce isn’t too expensive to purchase from the store, but all of the tomato sauce in my neck of the woods from store, even organic, is in metal cans. And we all know tomatoes are a bit acid, which means the bad chemicals in the metal cans is leached out at a higher rate than regular vegetables. You can read Why You Should Never Use Canned Tomatoes here.
So what’s a person to do? Make their own tomato sauce of course. And I’ve got just the homemade tomato sauce recipe for you, with canning instructions for both the water bath and the pressure canner. Yep, because a girl can never have too many options or canning recipes. Right?!
First off, you can use any tomato, but truly, paste tomatoes are the best for making sauces. Why you ask? (I love it when you ask questions, I truly do) Paste tomatoes have less water inside and are fleshier, meaning a thicker sauce without so much reduction time. And saving time, I’m all about saving time in the kitchen.
Some good paste tomato options are Roma tomatoes and of course, the mother of all paste tomatoes and possibly, quite possibly, the best paste tomato of the bunch is the heirloom San Marzano Lungo No. 2 (it also happens to be one of the varieties I grew this year and ripened first) We liked the flavor diced and tossed onto pizza, but it really shines in sauces and pastes.
Second, you need a lot of tomatoes at once to make sauce. I’ve heard some folks blanch and freeze theirs until they get enough for a big batch.
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What you’ll need to make tomato sauce: Recipe adapted from Ball Complete Book of Home Canning *affiliate link This should be front and center on any home canner’s shelf, it’s packed with cook recipes and tips
Tomatoes (about 20 pounds makes 7 pints of sauce)
Bottled lemon juice
Canning jars, lids, and bands
First step, pick yourself some tomatoes! I don’t have a food scale so I harvested what was ripe. I had about 45 ripe tomatoes which I’m guessing was about 10 pounds of tomatoes.
Cover the bottom of the stock pot in one layer of chopped tomatoes. Take a potato masher and squish them to get some juices running. Turn the pot on medium high. Wait until it begins to boil and then add 6 more chopped tomatoes. Stir frequently to prevent scorching, but also make sure the tomatoes continue to boil.
It was kind of like a dance in my kitchen, chop tomatoes, turn to the pot, dip and dump tomatoes, stir, and twirl back to the island, repeat. Or a square dance… Reminder, never clean your kitchen before making or canning tomato sauce, because your dancing partner, she’s really messy. Oh wait, maybe that’s me who’s messy, not the tomatoes. Either way, mess, gonna happen.
Continue adding chopped tomatoes one layer at a time until you’ve added all your tomatoes or you’re in danger of overflowing your pot. You can also use two pots if you’re doing a large batch. After you’ve added all of your tomatoes and mashed them, continue to boil for about 10 minutes. You want all the tomatoes cooked and mooshy, with the glorious juice released.
Remove cooked tomatoes from heat. Put mixture through a fine sieve (which is my preference) or a food mill. Do you see that sieve? It was my great-grandmother’s. I hope one day it will be my daughter’s. I get a little bit sentimental every time I use it. Yes, kitchen appliances can do that to a girl. Here’s a similar canning sieve on Amazon. *affiliate link
You can dehydrate the leftover skins for a tomato powder, but I fed mine to the pigs as I’m doing my best to get them up to weight before butchering next month and avoiding purchasing pig feed.
I prefer to strain mine over a large mixing bowl with measurements on the side so I know how many cups of sauce I’ve got. This lets me know approximately which size jars and how many I’ll need.
Put the strained tomato mixture back into the stock pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and allow to reduce down to desired thickness. I reduced mine for about 40 minutes and let about an inch of liquid evaporate.
In your jars, add bottled lemon juice, salt, and herbs. For a pint size jar you need 1 Tablespoon lemon juice and 2 Tablespoons for quart jars. I add 1/4 teaspoon salt to pint jars and 1/2 teaspoon to quarts. I use 1/2 teaspoon dried basil in my pint jars. These should be added to each jar, not the pot of tomato sauce. You must add the bottled lemon juice for safe shelf stability.
Fill jars with tomato sauce up to a 1/2 inch headspace for water bath canning and 1 inch headspace for pressure canning. I did water bath due to the smaller size of the run… ie. only 3 jars. Run a spatula around the jar circumference to remove air bubbles. Add more tomato sauce if needed to keep 1/2 inch or 1 inch headspace depending upon your method of canning. With a damp clean cloth, wipe the rim of the jar clean. Place on lids and screw down the bans to fingertip tight.
Water bath instructions: Place jars in waterbath canner, make sure rack is in place. Make sure at least 1 inch of water is covering the tops of the jars. Bring to a roiling boil and then process pint size jars for 35 minutes or quart jars for 40 minutes. Turn off heat and remove the lid from the canner. Allow jars to rest inside the waterbath for 5 minutes. If you remove them immediately you run the risk of cracking the jars or the siphoning of liquid, which can inhibit a proper seal.
Pressure canner instructions: Add water to pressure canner, put in rack, and load jars. Lock lid and allow pressure canner to vent for 10 minutes. Put the weight on at 10 pounds of pressure. Start processing after weight begins rocking and hissing. Process both sizes of jars for 15 minutes. Allow pressure canner to cool down on it’s own and for pressure to return to normal. Remove lid and wait another 10 minutes before taking jars out of canner.
Place jars in a draft free area on a towel folded in thirds. Never place hot jars on a cold counter top. Don’t touch jars for at least 12 hours. Check seals and move to the pantry for storage.
Not sure about the difference between water bath and pressure canning? Check out this post on water bath vs. pressure canning for the nitty gritty details.
Note: If you have enough tomato sauce to fill all the jars needed for a run in the pressure canner, I’d use the pressure canner. Food may reach a hotter temperature in the pressure canner, but because it’s processed for less time, it retains more of the nutrients. But, if you don’t have enough or don’t have a pressure canner, the water bath is completely fine with this recipe.
Stand back and look at those gorgeous scarlet jars, just begging to be simmered all day for spaghetti, in chili, or in these slow cooker cabbage rolls.
Seriously, does anyone else like to sit and stare at the rows of home canned food, or am I the only one weird that way?
Melissa K. Norris inspires people's faith and pioneer roots with her books, podcast, and blog. Melissa lives with her husband and two children in their own little house in the big woods in the foothills of the North Cascade Mountains. When she's not wrangling chickens and cattle, you can find her stuffing Mason jars with homegrown food and playing with flour and sugar in the kitchen.