Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Home-Canned Tomato Sauce

Today, an article I wrote on home canning appeared in the Topeka Capital-Journal newspaper. It features a great basic recipe for tomato sauce, plus a lot of tips on canning.

However, there is a story behind the article. Last month, I took my tomatoes, jars, and recipe to the family farmhouse in Missouri. The farm has been in my family for more than 100 years.

Mom and I spent a little over half a day making tomato sauce. She sat at the kitchen table cutting tomatoes and I stood at the stove cooking those tomatoes for the sauce.

Mom said, with a warm, far-away look on her face, “I remember Granny sitting here doing this while Mom was at the stove.”

A feeling of pride washed over me as I realized the spirit and traditions of past generations continued on through this simple act of canning tomato sauce.

Tomato Sauce
Adapted from the Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving
Makes about 14 pints or 7 quarts

45 pounds of tomatoes
Bottled lemon juice

Wash the tomatoes and cut away the core and blossom ends, plus any bad spots. Cut each tomato in half and then gently squeeze to remove the seeds. Cut each half into quarters and place in a large pot. Bring the pot to a simmer over medium-low to low heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes break down, about 20 minutes.

Process the tomatoes through a food mill to remove the skins and any remaining seeds. Pour the tomato pulp back into the large pot and simmer over medium-high heat, stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Reduce until the sauce reaches the desired thickness. (This will take some time.)

To process, start by sterilizing the jars: Place clean jars without lids into the canner on a rack so they do not
touch the bottom. (If you don’t have a rack, place the rings on the bottom and set the jars on top.) Fill with water to 2 inches above the jars. Cover and heat to boiling, and then boil for 10 minutes. After that time, turn heat to low and keep the jars in the water until needed.

Place the flat canning lids in a sauce pan off the heat and pour some of the liquid from the boiling pot over the top to cover. This will soften the rubber to help the lids seal.

One at a time, remove a jar from the water. Add 1 tablespoon lemon juice to a pint jar, 2 tablespoons to a quart jar. Fill the jar with the hot tomato sauce, leaving 1/2-inch headspace at the top. (Using a funnel helps.) Wipe the rim of the jar with a damp towel to clean off any drips, and then take a flat lid from the warm water and place on top. Screw on a ring until just tight.
Once all the jars are filled, gently place them back into the canner. Make sure the water covers the jars by at least 1 to 2 inches and the jars do not touch each other or the sides of the canner. Cover, bring the canner back to a boil, and process for 35 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts.

Remove the jars from the canner and place on a dry towel to cool completely, leaving 1 to 2 inches of space between the jars. You will hear the lids start to pop as they seal, but it may take some time. Let the jars cool 12 to 24 hours before checking the seal. If the ring band has loosed during processing, do not tighten. This could interfere with the sealing process.

To check the seal on the cooled jars, press on the lid. If it springs back, the jar is not sealed. Also remove the ring and try to lift the lid with your fingertips. If it stays tight, the seal is good. If a jar doesn’t seal, just store the unsealed jar in the refrigerator and use it first. Also refrigerate any jar after it’s opened.


  1. What a lovely story Linda. Thank you so much for sharing it today...

  2. What a beautiful example of how food is so much more then filling our bodies!! Clarice

  3. Such a lovely story, Linda. I remember my mom and grandmother canning together. Every summer they would spend days in the kitchen, canning tomatoes, peaches, pears and many other things for the winter. Your tomatoes look wonderful!

  4. Dear LInda, It is so nice to be part of the sharing of experiences of past generations.
    Blessings dear. Catherine xo

  5. looks delicious....just mouthwatering!

  6. That Blue Book is my bible when it comes to preserving. I'm surprised there's only lemon juice in this recipe. I'm going to have a ton of tomatoes very soon from my garden and the plans include tomato sauce. Thanks for this post.

  7. Lea Ann, yep, lemon juice and tomatoes were the only ingredients in the recipe, which I liked since that will allow me to use the sauce in any recipe. I'm hoping to can come more before the summer's tomatoes are gone.