How To Make A Simple Tomato Sauce

This year I decided to make tomato sauce with the tomatoes I froze from the garden. I use a lot of tomato sauce in my cooking, and with the addition of different spices it’s easy to change the flavor to suite many dishes.

Tomato Sauce Canning Recipe

You can use either fresh or frozen tomatoes. I prefer frozen because they’re super easy to skin. Just plop them into hot water, and they practically peel themselves.

Tomat Sauce Canning Recipe

After soaking frozen tomatoes in warm-hot water for a minute, make a small slit in the skin and they’ll slide right off.

Cooking It Down

Tomato Sauce Canning Recipe

For this batch, I had enough to fill two 21-1/2-Quart Canners. I’m using these as my cooking pots because they’re the biggest thing I’ve got.

Tomato Sauce Canning Recipe

Cover the pots, and cook over medium heat until the tomatoes are swimming in water. Pour it off, and continue cooking down, pouring off the water to keep only an inch or so in the bottom of the pot. By draining the water out before smashing down the tomatoes, you reduce the cooking time significantly.

Tomato Sauce Canning Recipe

Believe it or not, after reducing these tomatoes I was able to combine all of them into one pot. Cook over medium heat until the tomatoes are soft, then run them through a strainer.

Straining Out The Seeds

Tomato Sauce Canning Recipe

It’s not a very pretty setup, but it works. Since my Back to Basics Food Strainer & Sauce Maker doesn’t fit on my countertops, I have to clamp it to my kids’ play table (or sometimes the bathroom counter).

Spoon the softened tomatoes into the hopper, turn the crank, and out comes smooth tomato juice.

Tomato Sauce Canning Recipe

The pulp and seeds are discarded out a side shoot. This gadget really is great to have for making sauces. Save the discarded pulp- we’re gonna do a little experiment with it!

tomato juice

Pour the strained tomatoes back into the pot. You now have tomato juice. See {Canning Tomato Juice} if you’d like to put it up just as it is. Today we’re making tomato sauce, so let’s keep rolling.

Reducing The Sauce

Tomato Sauce Canning Recipe

Simmer, uncovered, until the liquid has reduced quite a bit and the sauce has thickened. I don’t have an exact time, just keep cooking it until it’s as thick as what you’d typically find with store bought tomato sauce.

When your sauce is as thick as desired, start getting your canning supplies ready.

Filling Your Jars

Canning Tomato Sauce

In a small pot, bring some water to a simmer (never boil) and allow your canning lids to simmer for about 15 minutes. The ones I’m using here are Tattler Reusable Canning Lids, which I love because they can be used over and over again, indefinitely (a real money saver when you do a lot of canning).

You’ll also want to make sure you have clean, sanitized jars ready to fill. I run mine through the dishwasher beforehand, and keep them in there so they stay hot until I’m ready for them. You can also boil them in a large pot of water for 10-15 minutes, keeping them in simmering water until ready to use. You want to work with warm/hot jars when pouring hot liquids, so the jars don’t crack.

Tomato Sauce Canning Recipe

Using a funnel and a ladle, fill the jars about half way with hot tomato sauce.

Tomato Sauce Canning Recipe

At this point we’ll add some lemon juice for acidity, since we won’t be pressure canning these tomatoes. Many varieties of modern tomatoes have reduced acidity, so we add lemon juice just to be safe. Add 1 Tbsp lemon juice per pint jar, 2 Tbsp per quart. I add the lemon juice halfway through the process, as opposed to pouring it in the jar first, because it came straight out of the fridge and the juice is cold. If I was to pour cold lemon juice into a hot jar, the glass would crack. (Ask me how I know.)

Tomato Sauce Canning Recipe

Continue filling the jar to 1/2″ headspace (space from top of rim). Using a damp cloth, wipe any food from the rim, which might prevent the lid from sealing.

Tomato Sauce Canning Recipe

Place a previously simmered lid on the jar, and screw on the ring/band. With the Tattlers, you want to screw them on semi-loosely. (It takes some practice getting the Tattlers right.) (The new, improved Tattler lids can be used exactly like the metal lids, so there’s no difference in how you screw them on anymore. Yay!)

Processing In The Canner

Tomato Sauce Canning Recipe

Fill a 21 quart Water Bath Canner with enough water to cover the jars by 1-2″. Bring to a rolling boil, then fill the rack with jars and lower into canner. Cover, and process pints for 35 min, quarts for 45 min.

Tomato Sauce Canning Recipe

Using a jar lifter, remove the jars from the canner and place them on a towel or rack to cool. Allow them to sit for about 24 hours before testing the lids to make sure they sealed properly. If any of the lids come off, you can bring that sauce back up to a boil and reprocess them in a new, clean jar; or you can put the opened jar in the fridge to be eaten within the week.

Note: I started out with about 7 1/2 gallons of tomatoes (approx.), and ended up filling 15 pint jars. There often isn’t really an exact measurement for canning recipes, because the results can vary greatly. But at least this will give you a general idea of how many jars you might need.

Dehydrated Tomato Pulp

Dehydrating tomato pulp

Now for our experiment! Take the discarded pulp from the straining process, and spread it out thin on a dehydrator sheet. I have an inexpensive Nesco Dehydrator which works great. You can also do this on a nonstick baking dish to bake in the oven.

Note: Next time I do tomatoes, I think I will core them before freezing. That way when I make this dehydrated pulp, there won’t be hard core bits in it. Also, I should have saved the tomato peels to dehydrate as well!

Dried Tomato Puree

Dehydrate at 135* (or bake at a low temperature) until the pulp is dried through and brittle. This may take the good part of a day, or even overnight.

How To Make Tomato Powder

In a blender or food processor, grind the dried puree into a powder. Store in an airtight container and experiment with adding it to your favorite dishes for a boost of tomato flavor!

{Simple Tomato Sauce Canning Recipe}

  • Approx. 7 1/2 gallons of tomatoes
  • lemon juice
  • 15 (more or less) pint jars

Peel tomatoes, and place them in a large pot. Do not add water to the pot. Cook over medium heat, stirring, until the tomatoes have softened. Run cooked tomatoes through a strainer to remove the seeds. Pour puree back into pot, bring to a simmer over medium heat, and continue cooking until reduced to suit your preference.

Ladle hot tomato sauce into hot jars, filling half way. Add 1 Tbsp lemon juice per pint, 2 Tbsp per quart. Continue filling each jar to 1/2″ headspace. Tap jars, or use the back end of a plastic or wooden utensil, to remove any possible air bubbles. Wipe rim of jars with a damp cloth, and affix previously simmered lids.

Process pints for 35 min, quarts for 45 min. in a Water Bath Canner.



Do you have a favorite tomato sauce canning recipe to share?

Get the equipment to make this yourself: