How To: Canning Tomatoes For Homemade Tomato Sauce

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Boiling the mason jars to create a seal

Along with making our own wine and sun dried tomatoes,  my family also cans fresh plum tomatoes every August for use throughout the year.  The canned tomatoes are used mostly for making tomatoe sauce.  Canning your tomatoes produces a better tasting tomato sauce and, of course, saves you money over the long term (especially after you’ve owned the canning equipment for several years).

Tomato canning should be done outdoors and with a large group (you’ll want to set up stations to work efficiently).  Pasta with tomato sauce is probably one of the most popular dishes made at home in the US, so you’ll definitely go through the jars you produce.  Let’s get into the details:

Supplies and Tools

Let’s start with a list of the equipment and supplies you’ll need:

Using a mechanical tomato crusher to make passato or canned crushed tomatoes

 

Filling the mason jars with crushed plum tomatoes and basil

 

Neighbors and friends making canned tomatoes
  • Mason Jar handler (this is used to lift the boiling jar out of hot water)
  • 3-4 sharp knives for cutting plum tomatoes
  • 2-3 extra large stainless steal bowls
  • 2-3 extra large ladles
  • Lots of clean dish towels and old clothing (you’ll want to wear old clothing during the entire process)
  • Plum tomatoes are ideal for making tomato sauce; my family usually purchases about 6 bushels from any one of the local fruit and vegetable markets in our area.
  • 2-3 fresh basel leaves are needed for each mason jar, so you’ll want to have 8-10 bunches of basel available (grow your own beginning in the Spring so you don’t have to buy it!)

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Large pots for boiling the mason jars - done outdoors for multiple reasons

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If you’re canning in large groups I would suggest that you split costs with your friends and family and rotate the location of the event each year (a large backyard or garage is an excellent choice).

General Process

  1. Start by washing all of the plum tomatoes and laying them out on some cardboard covered by an old table cloth or two (clean of course)
  2. You’ll next need to core all of the tomatoes and cut into four small pieces.  This is where a large group will come in handy; you should be able to get through six bushels of tomatoes in about two hours with four people cutting and coring.
  3. Take the cored and chopped tomato pieces and cook in an extra large pot for 30 minutes (remember you’re cooking the tomatoes without any other ingredient)
  4. Move the cooked pieces from the pot to your tomato crushing machine.  This step is probably the messiest, requiring that you clean the machine’s filter every 15 minutes or so (the filter should catch the seeds and most of the tomato skin).  You’ll need several extra large bowls to catch the crushed tomatoes coming out of the machine.
  5. Next, you’ll want to have your sterile mason jars lined up and ready to be filled with both crushed tomatoes and 2 basel leaves per jar.   Use the extra large ladles to fill the jars and try to be as neat as possible.
  6. After you’ve filled the jar, you’ll want to place a NEW lid and a ring top on each jar.  You can re-use the metal ring tops, but the metal/plastic lids need to be new in order for a proper seal to take place.
  7. Tighten the lids and rings as securely as possible.
  8. Fill your extra large pot with water and set on the cast iron stove burner and bring water to a boil
  9. Place between 8-10 mason jars into the boiling water bath for approximately 45 minutes.  You can manually drop the jars into the water with a jar handler but use caution.
  10. Remove the jars from with boiling water using the jar handler and several dish towels (here you will need two people, one who will remove and another who will grab the jar)
  11. After the jars have cooled make sure to check a few of them to see if the lids have formed a tight seal (you can do this by unscrewing the ring or band).
  12. You’ll want to store the jars in a cool dry place.  You can label the jars with the date, if you wish.  Stay tuned for a tomato sauce recipe!  Note the above process will yield about 125 12 X 1L size jars (so it’s best to can with 2-3 families).

Here’s a printable version of the supplies/ingredients/process:

Note and Disclaimer (viz a viz Clostridium Botulinum) It’s vital when preserving tomatoes, canning vegetables in olive oil, etc. that you thoroughly clean the jars as well as all the ingredients and utensils used in the preparation. My family has been curing and pickling vegetables (as well as tomatoes for tomato sauce) for well over 50 years and we haven’t had any health issues. Although our family has been doing this for many years without incident, there aren’t good studies establishing this practice as safe. Many food safety authorities advise against preserving tomatoes and garlic in oil as well as canning tomatoes due the risk of bacterial contamination and proliferation of spores, especially clostridium botulinum, which could be fatal.  While Botulism poisoning does happen, it is very rare. In the US, over the last 50 years, there have been about 110 reported cases of Botulism poisoning per year. Of these, the majority are Infant Botulism. About 25% of cases are Food Borne – the kind that you are citing here (and some Wound Botulism). You can, of course, control Boutulism when canning fruits or vegetables by either controlling the acidity so C. Botulinum Spores never germinate or via heating so the spores themselves are killed

How To: Canning Tomatoes For Homemade Tomato Sauce
 
Cook:
Ingredients
  • Ball Mason Jars (12x1L size)
  • Bands with dome lids
  • Extra large pot for boiling jars (buy the largest pot you can find; the ones available at canningpantry.com seem small, so shop around in your area and see if you can find pots that hold between 8-12 jars at a time, as it will make the process go a lot quicker)
  • Electric Tomato Crusher
  • Cast Iron Stove Burner
  • Mason Jar handler (this is used to lift the boiling jar out of hot water)
  • 3-4 sharp knives for cutting plum tomatoes
  • 2-3 extra large stainless steal bowls
  • 2-3 extra large ladles
  • Lots of clean dish towels and old clothing (you'll want to wear old clothing during the entire process)
  • Plum tomatoes are ideal for making tomato sauce; my family usually purchases about 6 bushels from any one of the local fruit and vegetable markets in our area.
  • 2-3 fresh basel leaves are needed for each mason jar, so you'll want to have 8-10 bunches of basel available (grow your own beginning in the Spring so you don't have to buy it!)
Process
  1. Start by washing all of the plum tomatoes and laying them out on some cardboard covered by an old table cloth or two (clean of course)
  2. You'll next need to core all of the tomatoes and cut into four small pieces. This is where a large group will come in handy; you should be able to get through six bushels of tomatoes in about two hours with four people cutting and coring.
  3. Take the cored and chopped tomato pieces and cook in an extra large pot for 30 minutes (remember you're cooking the tomatoes without any other ingredient)
  4. Move the cooked pieces from the pot to your tomato crushing machine. This step is probably the messiest, requiring that you clean the machine's filter every 15 minutes or so (the filter should catch the seeds and most of the tomato skin). You'll need several extra large bowls to catch the crushed tomatoes coming out of the machine.
  5. Next, you'll want to have your sterile mason jars lined up and ready to be filled with both crushed tomatoes and 2 basel leaves per jar. Use the extra large ladles to fill the jars and try to be as neat as possible.
  6. After you've filled the jar, you'll want to place a NEW lid and a ring top on each jar. You can re-use the metal ring tops, but the metal/plastic lids need to be new in order for a proper seal to take place.
  7. Tighten the lids and rings as securely as possible.
  8. Fill your extra large pot with water and set on the cast iron stove burner and bring water to a boil
  9. Place between 8-10 mason jars into the boiling water bath for approximately 45 minutes. You can manually drop the jars into the water with a jar handler but use caution.
  10. Remove the jars from with boiling water using the jar handler and several dish towels (here you will need two people, one who will remove and another who will grab the jar)
  11. After the jars have cooled make sure to check a few of them to see if the lids have formed a tight seal (you can do this by unscrewing the ring or band).
  12. You'll want to store the jars in a cool dry place. You can label the jars with the date, if you wish. Stay tuned for a tomato sauce recipe! Note the above process will yield about 125 12 X 1L size jars (so it's best to can with 2-3 families).
Notes
Yield 125 12 X 1L size jars. Notes Note and Disclaimer (viz a viz Clostridium Botulinum) It’s vital when you cure vegetables in olive oil that you thoroughly clean the jar itself as well as all the ingredients and utensils used in the preparation. My family has been curing and pickling vegetables (as well as tomatoes for tomato sauce) for well over 50 years and we haven’t had any health issues. Although our family has been doing this for many years without incident, there aren’t good studies establishing this practice as safe. Many food safety authorities advise against preserving tomatoes and garlic in oil due the risk of bacterial contamination and proliferation of spores, especially clostridium botulinum, which could be fatal.

 

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Comments

comments

42 Comments

  1. Hi Vincent,
    I found your site when you linked to mine (thanks for the linkback!)
    Just wanted to say I love what you’re writing about, especially this post about canning tomatoes! It looks like a lot of work, but it also looks super fun.
    I’ve always wanted to do this, and am definitely going to bookmark this for summertime. I don’t get enough sun to grow my own tomatoes, but I do live within two blocks of a fabulous farmer’s market where I can stock up for cheap.
    Thanks for the great information!
    -Heather@TheGreenestDollar.com

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  3. I love this how to article. I have always wanted to try my hand at canning tomatoes and hopefully this year, I will have enough to can.

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  7. This is sooooo gr8….This is exactly the way my parents used to make the sauce…..as kids we had soo much fun….I can’t beleive I found a website with the same method my parents made sauce. They’re not around anymore, so i’ve been scouring the internet inhop I could find a recipe like the one dad used…..& I have…..So thank-you very much……it’s so exact, the way you guys do it, is the same way we did it…..exactly…..that’s why i’m freaking our eh! Except my parents weren’t Italian, they were RUSSIAN…..Anyways just wanted to say thanks a bunch for putting this on the internet 🙂
    God Bless you so much 🙂
    Anna
    xx

  8. Hi Anna,
    Glad I could bring back some memories! Interesting how Russian culture cans tomatoes as well! Keep on reading Scordo.com and leave comments!
    Vince

  9. hi vincent,your description of making your own tomato sauce,brought me back,fifty years,when I was newly married and only 20yrs old,and never exposed to that kind of cooking quantity,even though my father was Italian,my mother wasnt,but in any event I wanted to learn how to make fresh sauce,never expecting exactly what you described,I think I told my husband,Ismelled tomatoes for week after we finished,infact the whole neighbor-hood had the scent of tomatoes (bensonhurst,bklyn) and I must say, that is one of my treasured memories. thanks for the pictures. diane

  10. Hi D.,
    Thanks for the comment. I’m glad you liked the pics. Thanks for sharing your memories!
    Best,
    Vince

  11. Joseph Chiaravalloti

    My secret method, good for one working alone indoors. Fill a stockpot with washed and stemmed Roma tomatoes and add a cup of water. Cover and heat for a few minutes until the tomato skins crack open. There will be a little straw-colored liquid in the pot besides the cooked tomatoes.
    Using a large food processor (I use a Cuisinart DLC-X), process the tomatoes in several batches, putting the pulp into a food mill (I use a Foley Food Mill) or Chinoise. Strain out the skin and seeds, fill the quart jars, add a pinch of salt and some basil leaves.
    Apply scalded lids and process 30 minutes in a pressure canner. I use a 7 quart Mirro-Matic.

  12. Hello,
    Does anyone know where to find the large aluminum tubs that are shown in the picture above? I have searched almost every website there is but most of the canner’s I find are made for indoor use,
    Thanks a bunch!
    Laura

  13. hi laura, those pots are made out of aluminum and are probably 30 years old or so. you may want to try a restaurant supply store, I haven’t seen them online (per your point)
    Vince

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  17. Hi Vince, I found a place right near my house and I brought the pots and some other equipment there. Thanks for the help this was very imformative, this will be my first year doing it alone, my family used to do this when we were kids and I want to start up the tradition again, everyone tells me I’m crazy but I cant resist a good sauce, wish me luck!!
    Big Thanks,
    Laura

  18. Hi Laura,
    Great, if you need any help , please feel free to send me an email and I’ll respond as quickly as possible! Good luck and keep the tradition going!
    Best,
    Vince

  19. Hey Vince,
    This saturday my family and I made the sauce but some of the jars did not seal correctly, is there any way I can re-seal them again? or should I just cook them right away before they go bad
    thanks
    Laura

  20. Hi Vince,
    My family and i spent all day Saturday jaring the tomatoes, but some of them did not seal properly, do you know if there is anyway i can either try to reseal them? or do you reccomend freezing them?
    Thanks
    Laura

  21. Hi Laura,
    Did you have new tops? New tops are necessary every time you can and if the screw lids are bent, I would buy them new as well. Did you have your water at the right, boiling ,temperature?

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  24. Hi, i live in italy. I’m from Florence.
    My family and I do tomato sauce – “pomarola” or “ salsa di pomodoro” every year. It is not as fun as some of you have sayed but is far way better than anything you can buy.

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  29. thanks for sharing :o) very delicious

  30. Hey Vince, My children were raised canning tomatoes, whether they liked it or not!  nothing like canning your own tomatoes.  you have to be a serious Italian to do this!!!

  31. Ciao, Vincenzo!  My children were raised canning tomatoes, whether they liked it or not!!!!  you have to be a serious Italian to jar tomatoes!!!! 

  32. After many years, many gardens, and lots of tomato sauce, we streamlined our “sauce” processing. When the tomatoes are peeled, etc., we make the sauce in a huge pot, then boil it down, then freeze it in quart bags. We used to can the tomatoes, but freezing the sauce after cooking saves the jar step. It works for us!

  33. I used to can 100 quarts of tomatoes every season. Half as sauce and half plain to be used flexibly. This would last us through the winter.

  34. Is the sauce very watery? How long do you boil it down?

    • Rob, I just canned 25 quarts of sauce and I do it in my Nesco roaster, I wash and quater my tomatos and then scald them to remove the skin and then run them thru my food mill to remove the seeds and then put them all in my roaster with olive oil and my spices and let it cook all day on the highest setting , but stir it often and after it cooks down I put it in the jars and process for 20 minutes in my pressure canner. It is the best! I hope this helps!

  35. I thought the jars had to stand upright, can they really lay on their sides?

  36. Where can I buy those big pots! I love those! I do a lot of canning and these would really help my job to be easier!!

  37. Botulism disaster!!! Suprised they aren’t sick or dead!! They need to be upright & fully immersed in water.

  38. This is a disaster waiting to happen. Anyone reading these comments please DO NOT process this recipe!! I am a Master Food Preserver with Oregon State University and this is not a safe recipe, nor a safe way to can!! I wish there was a way to have these types of recipes removed from the internet before someone get botulism.

    • Denise, we appreciate the comment. While Botulism poisoning does happen, it is very rare. In the US, over the last 50 years, there have been about 110 reported cases of Botulism poisoning per year. Of these, the majority are Infant Botulism. About 25% of cases are Food Borne – the kind that you are citing here (and some Wound Botulism). You can, of course, control Boutulism when canning fruits or vegetables by either controlling the acidity so C. Botulinum Spores never germinate or via heating so the spores themselves are killed. Every one who cans vegetables, cures meat, picks wild mushrooms, etc. is taking a risk.

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