Simplifying Canned Tomato Sauce

simplified canned tomato sauceHere’s yet another article on canning tomato sauce to add to the forest of internet resources on the topic. As is my usual habit, I’ve taken what I think are the best techniques from trusted sources and tried to optimize for less time standing in the kitchen and more yummy food. I wanted a recipe that made a ready to use sauce and did not require fussy tomato peeling. As it turns out, one of my favorite sources of philosophy and inspiration had a great recipe for my starting point.

I’ve never canned my own tomato sauce before. We’ve never been able to grow enough tomatoes to enjoy wild abundance and usually tomato prices are high in the summer. But this year, with an unusually hot and dry Washington summer, I was seduced by Heyday Farm’s nicely priced flats. We got excited and made sauce, tomato jam, salsa, and fresh ketchup, filling our pantry shelves with summer

I found that this recipe took about one hour of upfront prep time, 3 hours on the stove top with periodic check-ins, and then the requisite water bath canning time. Not too bad. I halved the recipe in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (and, whew, it just did fit in my largest cooking pot!) Anticipating easy evening pastas and pizza Fridays this winter, I’ll be glad that I put in a Sunday’s worth of work to preserve these beautiful tomatoes.

Simplified Canned Tomato Sauce

(respectfully from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle)

Yields: about 4 quarts

15 pounds tomatoes, resulting in 5 quarts tomato puree
2 large onions
1/4 c. honey
1/2 c. dried basil
2 tbls. dried oregano
1 1/2 tbls. salt
1 tbls. dried lemon peel
1 tbls. thyme
1 tbls. garlic powder
1 tbls. dried parsley
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 c. honey
powdered citric acid, about 3 tsp. divided accordingly into each jar (see procedures below)

  1. Chop the onions by hand or in processor, according to your desires, and cook over medium low until soft. Set aside.
  2. Wash the tomatoes. Fill a clean sink with warm water and add tomatoes. Take each tomato out one at a time and wipe with a cloth.IMG_3150
  3. Core and chop the tomatoes. Using a paring knife, cut a cone around the stem and then hunk the tomato into fourths or sixths.IMG_3151
  4. Drop in a large, empty pot. Cover with a lid and over medium high, bring to a low boil. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the skins start to come off.IMG_3153
  5. Pour the softened tomatoes through the food mill, collecting the resulting puree in a large bowl or your cooking pot.IMG_3152
  6. To the tomato puree, add all of the rest of the dry ingredients, honey, and cooked onions. Stir well.IMG_3156
  7. Bring to a boil, and simmer for two to three hours.IMG_3157
  8. When nearing the end of your sauce’s cooking time, prepare your water bath canner. Heat water, sterilize jars, warm jar lids, and prepare your canning station (with tongs, jar lifter, dry cloths.) If you’re new to canning, please check out these tutorials.
  9. Fill your hot jars with the hot sauce and then, according to this measurement, stir the citric acid directly into each jar:
    1/2 tsp. to a quart
    1/4 tsp. to a pint
    1/8 to a 8 oz. (jelly jar)
  10. Boil lidded jars in the canner for 35 minutes. Cool on rack and check seals.


  • When chopping the tomatoes and preparing them to be milled, you may need to work in two batches. (I did – my large pot wasn’t large enough for all of the fresh chunks!) I had half the tomatoes in the pot simmering while I worked to core the second half. While the second half was heating, I milled the first batch.
  • Do NOT substitute fresh herbs. Do NOT use oil when cooking your onions. (DO celebrate your bulk aisle and do a little dance of frugality when stocking up on the long ingredient list.)
  • I canned the sauce into various size jars and you might want to too. Embrace customization! Large quarts for lasagna, small 8 oz. jars for pizza night, and half quarts for quick 3 person pasta meals.
  • Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is a must have for your locavore shelf. If for some reason you’ve missed it, summer is such a good time to read and enjoy this amazing story and handbook.
  • If you’re curious about tomato jam (which can be used as a sandwich spread), you’ll find solid recipes on Food in Jars and in Marissa McClellan’s books. I’ve been particularly enjoying Preserving by the Pint this season which has great recipes (and a great philosophy that inspires variety.)