Basics,  Canning

Why You Should be Canning Tomato Sauce

I need to apologize. I thought I set my Peach Jam recipe to post this past Thursday but I scheduled it for this upcoming Thursday and I did not realize it until Sunday. So I decided to leave it for Thursday and share with you why you should be Canning Tomato Sauce this summer.

Canning Tomato Sauce

Have you ever looked at the nutritional label of tomato sauce? Have you ever noticed how 1/2 cup serving can have up to 15g of sugar in it? No? It is a little over the top. For the last three or four years, I have been canning tomato sauce every August. Usually, I aim for 24 jars because that generally lasts me through to next years tomato harvest. Sometimes if I’m super lucky, my tomato garden will go crazy and I’ll get closer to 30 jars. For the cost of planting 6 or 8 plants and tending them throughout the season, I have a fantastic amount of sauce for the winter, seasoned exactly how I want it. With each batch being different.

This year I decided to research how people on YouTube make tomato sauce and see how I can improve my process. This lead me to find my favorite genre of youtube videos: Nonnas yelling at their grandkids for videotaping them cook and not helping. I highly recommend it. But one Nonna commented that she used to peel 10 bushels of tomatoes the old fashioned way of blanching them before icing them but she’s gotten smarter in her old age.

She bought multiple different kinds of machines to remove seeds and skins. That same week, my mother asks me if I had the Kitchen Aid Grinder Attachments (I did, she gave it to me) and then gave me her old Kitchen Aid Strainer Attachments which does the same thing as the machines the Nonna was using. The benefit to these attachments is that I can toss in chunks of tomatoes and the machine does the hard work of removing seeds and skins without me having to do it manually. This saves time!

If you’re new to canning, please be sure to check out my Introduction to Canning to get the basics on canning.

What Tomatoes Should I use for Sauce?

You can use any tomato for tomato sauce. But all tomatoes are not created equally.

Beefsteak tomatoes have much more water in them compared to plum tomatoes, which will result in a thinner sauce that would take longer to reduce. Some people suggest Roma Tomatoes which are a type of plum tomato. There are a lot of different kinds of tomatoes on the market, some are marketed as Sauce Tomatoes. Sauce Tomatoes tend to be longer than they are wide.

If I didn’t grow the tomato myself, I tend to buy them from my friend Gabe’s farm. He grows so many different types of tomatoes, that he can generally point me in the direction of great sauce tomatoes. His farm uses synergistic farming techniques to reduce incest eating his crop and negate the use of harmful chemicals. While not an organic farm, his techniques are in the same class as organic, if not better than organic.

I suggest finding a farmers market and local farmer who grows tasty tomatoes, ideally organic. Many farmers will cut you a discount if you are buying bulk tomatoes. If you’re polite and ordering enough, they might cut you a discount. If you’re planning on buying more than 5 pounds, order in advance. Additionally, I fully accept that I’m spoiled having Jersey Tomatoes at my fingertips. If your farmers do not have tomatoes, or they’re just not that amazing, you can use store-bought tomatoes.

I enjoy using Orange and Red tomatoes for sauce. I decided to keep them separate just because the orange was so pretty I wanted to use that for a recipe in the future. While I did crop the photo above, I did not play with the colors because they were so bright and fresh.

Can I just put my grandmother’s sauce in a jar?

I don’t know what you’re grandmother’s sauce looks like so I can’t say yes or no to canning it. But I can say if there is meat in it, you cannot water bath can it. You would need a pressure canner to preserve that with some possible tweaks. Use the longer time for tomatoes vs meat to safely pressure can it.

Tomatoes have a PH of about 4.6. While safe water bath canning, you need to below 4.6. Different types of tomatoes clock in at 4.5 or 4.7. The National Center for Food Preservation recommends adding bottled lemon juice or citric acid to each jar. For a quart jar (36 oz) they recommend adding 2 Tablespoons Bottled Lemon Juice or 1/2 teaspoon citric acid to each jar, this is cut in half for pint jars (16 oz). Sugar can be added to offset the acidic taste of lemon juice or citric acid. Vinegar could also be used, but you need more of it which changes the flavor. I do not recommend vinegar.

For my sauces, I use 16 oz jars. This is partly because my household is only two people and partly because when I started making it, my canning pot could not processing the larger jars.

How long do I process tomatoes?

Before you even turn on the pot to boil, make sure you have 2 inches of water above the top of your jars. Water evaporates during the boiling process, so to prevent excessive water loss, I like to add additional water after I lower my jars into the pot. Yo

For water bath canning tomato sauce, it takes time. Once the water is bowling, the timer starts. The National Center for Food Preservation makes the following recommendations based on altitudes.

This table is from the National Center for Food Preservation Section 3-10

Being in Bucks County, I’m close to sea level, so I set my timer for 35 minutes. I have an electric flat top, so I will turn off the power, but the residual heat will keep the pot boiling for a few minutes.

With all canning, it is a bad idea to put your piping hot jars onto your ice-cold counter. This can lead to the jars exploding, glass getting everywhere, and molten hot tomato sauce spilling onto you. Make sure a kitchen towel is on the counter for jars to cool on.

Canning Tomato Sauce is a delicious way to embrace the flavors of the summer. If you use tomato sauce often, invest the time, save money and make tomato sauce that you want to eat!

Don’t forget to customize!

Tomatoes, like any fruit, have variations in flavor. Some are sweeter, some are more acidic. Taste the sauce as you’re making it see what you need to add. Don’t be afraid to add a tablespoon or two of sugar to round out the flavor.

This is your sauce. Make it your own.

Basic Tomato Sauce

This basic tomato sauce is designed so you can customize it to your tastes. You can add spices and seasoning to make it how you enjoy!
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 2 hours
Course Canning
Cuisine Italian
Servings 9 Pint Jars (16 oz)


  • Water Bath Canner
  • Canning Supplys
  • Tomato Skin/Seed Remover


  • 30 pounds Tomatoes
  • 1 Onion Chopped (optional)
  • 5 cloves Garlic (optional)
  • 1 cup Celery or Green Peppers Chopped (optional)
  • 1 lbs Fresh Mushrooms (optional)
  • 1.5 tbs Salt (optional)
  • 2 tbs Italian seasoning (optional)
  • Sugar To Taste (optional)
  • Bottled Lemon Juice or Citric Acid


  • Wash Tomatoes
  • If using a Seed/Skin Remover (like the Kitchen Aid one), quarter tomatoes and run them through the processor. Skin and seeds will push out the front while pulp will go out of another spot. Have two bowls set up to catch the pulp and skins. Once all the tomatoes have been run through, run the skin/seeds through a second time to get all the juice out.
  • If blanching, cut an x into the bottom of the tomatoes, and cook tomatoes in hot boiling water for 30 to 60 seconds. Immediately dump tomatoes into ice water and peel skin off. Rough chop tomatoes and put them in stock pot to cook.
  • Optional: Sauté 1 onion, peppers, mushroom and garlic before adding to sauce. Add seasoning to taste.
    Note: Be bold with the seasoning, this makes a lot of sauce so use a lot of flavor.
  • Cook tomatoes until desired sauce consistency is reached, about 60 to 90 minutes.
  • When sauce is almost to the desired thickness, prepare water bath with jars and heat on medium heat until water is steaming.
  • Spoon Bottled Lemon Juice/Citric Acid into the bottom of each jar. Fill jars and leave 1 inch head space (generally just before the threads of the lid). Clean the top rim with a clean damp rag to remove any spill over before placing lid and rings on jars. Tighten to just finger tight.
  • Place in hot water bath for amount of time shown below, based on your altitude.
  • Allow to cool fully before removing ring cap and placing in the pantry.


Note, you can freeze tomato sauce and it unfreezes perfect. Get yourself some good freezer bags, and fill them equally. Lay filled bags on a cookie sheet, stack, and freeze. Once fully frozen, you can remove the tray and stack in your freezer as room dictates. You can use containers as well.  
Keyword Sauce, Tomato Sauce

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One Comment

  • Ann

    From the feedback I’ve gotten in the past, people often use recipes and processes as a starting point. If your recipe says “5 pounds of Tomatoes” you can scale it up and down based on how much you have. The boiling method of removing skins is great, I just hate it. I really like how easy my kitchen aid as made that step.

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