Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Monday, August 6, 2012

How To Can Tomato Sauce

If you've been hesitant to get into canning now is the perfect time to take that leap! Making and canning your own tomato sauce is a great way to dip your toe into the world of food preservation.

How fun is this? Home canned tomato sauce ready for action!

To be sure I was a canning-ninny for the longest time. I didn't trust it. I was afraid of it. Didn't want to take that chance. I was fine with just freezing everything, thankyouverymuch. Wow what a mistake! Once I got over my fears and found out how easy it is to do my own canning, my home food preservation took off like a shot and I've never looked back.

Come on along and I'll show you how easy and fun it is to make and can your own tomato sauce. To be sure the best online reference for canning is Pick Your Own. Its easy, fun, and approachable with lots of pictures. And of course you should run right out and get a copy of the indomitable Ball Blue Book Guide to Preserving. With these references you should have the confidence to give home canning a try.

First step to making and canning tomato sauce:  Go get your maters!  Run right out in the yard and pick a whole bucket of ruby goodness. Or head on over to your local farm stand and ask them for a bargain like I showed you in this post from last summer.

Just scoop out the seeds and you are all set!

Next step, clean them bad boys. Some people are more particular than I am about cleaning maters. I don't have time to remove every seed or peel off the skins. I just cut off the tops, cut them length wise in such a way that the seeds are visible, use my knife to slide out the seeds, then cut the maters into chunks and drop them in a big kettle. Easy peasy. Turn the heat on low to medium, add some salt, take the scraps out to the chickens, and then sit around and wait until that sauce has cooked down.

Chunks of maters waiting to be cooked down into terrific sauce.

After a while I'll use a hand blender to make it more of a puree. How long do I cook it? Until its done. Its just not that complicated. Sometimes I'll cook it for hours for a thicker sauce destined for pizza, or just about 45 minutes for more pasta-y applications. I don't add spices or anything else. You can but I don't because I like to have the flexibility to use the sauce for different things. And, you need to be careful to follow a canning-approved recipe so that its safe. Don't just make up your own recipe when you are canning.

Plain sauce is just so much easier. For instance I can open a jar and use half of it one day for a sweet and sour Asian-inspired pork stir fry...and then use the rest of the sauce on a pizza the next night. Or use the whole jar as a base for a low cooked roast. Or for a fabulous meat ball bake.

Beautiful, thick sauce ready to can.

There are so many uses for home canned tomato sauce. One of the biggest lies in the grocery store is that you need to buy their expensive, fake-Italian-named pasta sauce. Don't do that. Fresh tomato sauce that you can yourself is delicious enough to stand up on its own, even plain. And you don't have to taste the stupid corn sweetener that is rampant in a lot of jarred products. Want to fancy it up? Then do it when you are making dinner. Add garlic and/or onions to a pan, saute a bit, add some wine, then the sauce then cook it for a few minutes and voila! Easy peasy.

Jars are in the water bath ready to be simmered.

While you are cooking down your sauce get your jars ready. Use your pressure canner or the biggest, deepest stock pot you have. Fill it with water and your jars - make sure the water level is above the jars and bring the whole thing up to a simmering boil. I let them simmer in there at least 10 minutes.

All my tools ready for canning. I do the same thing, the same way every time.

Got your jars simmering? Got your sauce simmering?  OK, now fill the jars - but first make sure you add lemon juice!  Why? It has to do with keeping the sauce acidic enough so that bacteria wont grow in it. I get bored with the scientific explanation so read about it in your book or on the Pick Your Own site - but just don't skip this step! How much you add depends on how big your jars are. Follow the directions given in your reference.

I don't like to can with a lot of confusion going on and I like to make sure its done safely and methodically. So I don't have the TV on or over-interested cats underfoot... I have my workspace arranged so its the most efficient and most effective. I fill the jars the same way every time so I don't forget any steps.

Make sure you follow the directions for how full to fill the jars, and also how to do the lids and rings. They need to be hot in order to seal properly. Wipe down the jar top, add the lid, and tighten.

Use a jar holder to put the filled jars into the boiling water. You need to make sure that the water level is above the jars. Then let that baby boil for the recommended amount of time. How long you boil, or "process," the jars depends on how big the jars are or if you live at an altitude.  So be sure to follow the instructions to the letter.

You can pressure can tomato sauce but for my money its easier just to use this "water bath" method. I don't find that pressure canning saves much time and I like to remove the jars and dump the hot water as soon as I can. Having a huge hot pot of water sitting there just keeps the kitchen hot and in the summer who wants that?

The jars will merrily start plinking soon after they are removed from the water - that's the sign they are properly sealed. Just let them sit there over night so they can cool. Then remove the rings and check to make extra sure that they sealed - just try and remove the lid with your hands. Doesn't budge? Then you are set. Use a wet towel to wipe down the jar, label it with the date and contents, and sit back and congratulate yourself! You did it!

See? Isn't that fun and easy? You can do it.. come on... give this a try and you'll get your confidence up to try something else!

Happy Monday everyone! Now get out there and can your own tomato sauce!


freemotion said...

Yummmmm......I love canning! The best part is leaving the jars on the counter for a day...or two....to cool. It is really so everyone can admire them!

Damummis said...

Still waiting for maters....

Misty Pines Homestead said...

I was just telling hubby I wanted to can Tomatoe sauce next year but didn't know how.This is good!May I follow? he said as long as I didn't make him sick.lol

Traci Sumner said...

tomato sauce irritates me to can - can't explain it, just does. I do tons of tomato soup and spaghetti sauce. I don't even seed my 'maters. Cut the green out, quarter those bad boys, and cook. Blend it up with the stick blender (BEST KITCHEN UTENSIL EVER!) and can

We've finally had 3 (I counted!) ripe tomatoes - tons of huge green ones one. I'm going to busy when they all turn red at once.

I did do 52 quarts of garlic dill pickles this weekend, 5 pints of pickled beets, and 6 pints of pickled garlic.

Ken Broadhurst said...

This what I do, except I put in a little distilled vinegar instead of lemon juice (which we don't get in France except by buying whole lemons — at least I haven't seen it). The vinegar works fine, and that tomato sauce tastes great all winter.

Mary Ann said...

A good post, and a good reminder how easy it can be... AND that our homemade sauce needn't be full of sugar!

David said...

Yep, in a canning frenzy over here!

Summer in a jar!

Unknown said...

I hope to have enough to can, otherwise I mayjust buy some local, as i LOVE tomato suace in the winter...

Bec - Farmers Wife said...

Haven't canned anything in my life but I'm on the verge. Thanks for sharing this post it doesn't seem as daunting as I'd thought.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Free - the jars are so pretty! I just love them.

Damummis - sorry! hee hee

hi AnnNF!! You will do a great job! But dont wait for next year - go and get a box of maters and give it a go.

Ha! Traci, but good on you for all your hard work! Pickled garlic? wow!

Hi Ken! always great to see you. I've been watching our garden progress - hopefully you'll have a big harvest soon.

Thanks Mary Ann, it is easy! Real tomato sauce doesnt need any of that fancy stuff. Just maters.

Keep up the good work, Dave! I love a good canning frenzy.

Nancy, its just like summer isnt it? I love having "summer in a jar."

Bec you can TOTALLY do it! Give it a try!

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