Canning Tomato Sauce

tomatoes in basketsCanning tomato sauce: it’s my end of summer ritual. I’ll do anything to prolong tomato season! Fortunately, I have a lot of friends who agree with me, and we get together each year for a Big Tomato Crush work party – a ton of fun, and satisfyingly productive.

Link to: host your own tomato crush

It’s not a difficult process at all – wash tomatoes, crush them, cook, put in jars, seal. As long as you follow some straightforward guidelines, you’ll end up with a robust sauce that has all the flavor of August tomatoes in one easy to open jar. There are a few tricky bits, though, as I’ll point out here, and also in the recipe itself.

find good tomatoes

Look for ripe Roma (paste-style) tomatoes, oblong, brilliantly red, and heavy for their size. Feel free to purchase the tomatoes a few days before you use them; spread them out in a single layer where they won’t be disturbed, and they’ll ripen just a bit more. On the work day, you’ll clean each one by one, cut out any spoiled or moldy bits, and slice them to go through a squeezer.

tomato crewwhat you’ll need

To can tomato sauce in large quantity, you’ll want this equipment:

  • a water source and a place to wash tomatoes
  • cutting boards and knives
  • something with which to squish the tomatoes
  • a bit pot or two
  • a stove, indoors or out (see photo below for an idea)
  • many jars, bands, lids
  • jar lifters, canning funnel, ladles
  • dishtowels and potholders

a note on equipment

I use the fruit strainer attachment with my KitchenAid stand mixer, but you can instead use a hand-crank version, as I did for years. If you use a hand-crank model, recruit a strong young helper(s), because it’s hard work once you go past a half bushel! Bribe your helpers with jars of finished sauce.

set up your work areas

We choose to do as much as possible outside on a brick patio, which could be simply hosed off after the work day. We had four work stations: wash tomatoes, check and cut, squish, and cook.

Browning 2 burner stoveYou may like to cook the tomatoes outside in the breeze. We used a 2-burner camp stove (pictured: a Browning stove with 2 30,000 BTU burners) which will permit you to keep two 20-quart pots of sauce on the simmer at once. It kept the mess (wash, cut, squish, AND cook) in one place, where the crew could switch jobs, chat, share jokes and stories, and laugh at the confused squirrels who hoped for handouts.

squeeze and strain tomatoes

Follow the directions for your specific strainer. You’ll want the squeezings (the remains) to be as dry as possible – I tend to put them back through the strainer once or even twice, to extract the most pulp that I possibly can. At my house the seeds and skins go into the compost pile, though Joel MacCharles at likes to dehydrate them and use the resulting tomato powder as a seasoning.

Link to: canned tomato sauce in quantity


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  1. […] This year, we processed five half-bushels – that’s about 125 pounds of tomatoes. It was a full day and we finished tired, but pleased, with lots and lots of jars of wonderful tomato sauce. […]

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