Tips for Canning Tomato Sauce

“Only two things that money can’t buy
And that’s true love and homegrown tomatoes”

Singer Guy Clark tells it like it is. There is simply no way to match the exquisite flavors of a homegrown tomato. The best of the store bought varieties tastes like plastic after you’ve enjoyed a summer of tomatoes fresh from the garden. You can enjoy that sunshine-on-the-porch flavor year round by canning tomato sauce at home.

Tomato Sauce from Fresh Tomatoes

Secret #1: If you’re canning tomato sauce that will bring an August picnic to January’s chilly dinner table you need to be using the right tomatoes. Here’s what to look for:

  • Fresh – Preferably picked this morning from your garden (or your neighbor’s, or that cool organic farmer’s place down the road).
  • Determinate – Determinite tomatoes all mature at one time, while indeterminate varieties mature over several weeks or months. If you’re canning tomato sauce you want all your tomatoes ready at once.
  • Paste – Choose a heavy paste tomato for canning tomato sauce, like a Roma, San Marzano or Big Mama tomatoes. Paste varieties have little water, so you don’t have to boil them for too long to get a nice, thick sauce.

You can choose from over 600 varieties of heirloom tomato seeds, including tasty paste varieties for canning tomato sauce.

Canning Tomato Sauce Heirloom Tomatoes

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Recipe for Canning Tomato Sauce

Before you jump into canning tomato sauce, you have make a tasty sauce.

You have two basic options:

Basic Canning Tomato Sauce

This is a simple base sauce that you can use for any recipe, from spaghetti sauce to red curry to stews. A basic tomato sauce is a flavorful liquid for simmering tough meats like oxtails or shortribs into delicious tenderness.

The best fresh tomato sauce canning recipe is easy: Simple cut whole, washed tomatoes in quarters and cook gently in a saucepan until they are soft and the skins are separating. Mash the tomatoes through a sieve or strainer to remove seeds and skin, and you’re ready to start canning tomato sauce.

Seasoned Tomato Sauce

Some people like to add dried herbs to their tomato sauce. This makes for an easy meal of spaghetti, lasagna or soup. Just heat it up and it’s ready to go! Follow the recipe for canning tomato sauce above, but put your favorite herbs or spices in the jar before adding the tomato sauce. You can follow your favorite authentic homemade Italian sauce recipe using herbs like basil, oregano or marjoram, or get creative with your own herb and spice blends.

Important Note: Do not add garlic, onions or other vegetables when canning tomato sauce, as they can lower the acidity and increase the risk of botulism. If you want to mix veggies into your sauce, follow the guidelines for canning stewed tomatoes.

Canning Tomato Sauce Recipe

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Start Canning

Canning tomato sauce can be done using a pressure canner, a water bath canner or a pot of boiling water on the stove. Be sure to acidify your sauce with lemon juice, vinegar or citric acid, especially if you don’t use a pressure canner. Remember that using a pressure canner lets you reduce cooking time, making for a healthier final produce with vitamins and nutrients intact.

RELATED: The Importance of Acidifying Canned Tomatoes

Use the following time tables for canning tomato sauce:

Process Times for Canning Tomato Sauce with Boiling Water Canner

The following times are based on hot-packed sauce. Do not raw pack when canning tomato sauce.

  • Pints – 35 minutes
  • Quarts – 40 minutes
  • Altitude Adjustment – Increase time by 5 minutes for every increase of 1000 feet in altitude.

Process Times for Pressure Canning Tomato Sauce

  • Dial-Gauge Pressure Canner
    • Pints or Quarts- 20 minutes at 6 lbs of pressure
    • Pints or Quarts – 15 minutes at 11 lbs of pressure
    • Altitude Adjustment – Increase pressure by 1 lb for every increase of 2000 feet in altitude.
  • Weighted Gauge Pressure Canner
    • Pints or Quarts- 20 minutes at 5 lbs of pressure
    • Pints or Quarts – 15 minutes at 10 lbs of pressure
    • Altitude Adjustment – At any altitude over 1000 feet, increase pressure by 5 lbs.

RELATED: How to Can Spaghetti Sauce with Meat

Extended Reading

The Complete Guide to Canning Tomatoes

You know you want to hear the song now. There really isn’t anything better.