Canning Tomato Sauce

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This easy guide to Canning Tomato Sauce will teach you everything you need to know to enjoy fresh garden flavor all year long! Learn how to can tomato sauce using a water bath canner and discover tips to making the process much easier.

Discover what equipment you’ll need, types of tomatoes to use, and step by step instructions on how to preserve summer’s bounty.

heirloom tomatoes in a colander getting ready to be processed for canned tomato sauce.
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First Canning Experience

When my friends Becca and Travis posted their first canning experience on social media, I begged them to share it on this blog. I thought it would be fun for folks to learn about the canning process through the eyes of beginners.

I also had a personal reason for asking because I’d never canned tomato sauce myself! So, by sharing their story, I actually learned some helpful tips too.

Homemade tomato sauce has a unique flavor that’s perfect when used in pasta recipes such as Cheesy Skillet Spaghetti, Baked Ziti or Baked Meatballs with Feta. You could also use a pressure canner to make other tomato products like tomato juice, paste tomatoes, or a different types of spaghetti sauce.

You’ll love Travis and Becca’s small batch sauce recipe which features a tasty blend of basil, garlic and onions. It’s perfect served over a variety of pasta, and a great way to enjoy fresh tomato flavor all year long.


photo of Travis and Becca.

When asked about their first time canning, Becca said, “There’s not much to brag about considering it’s been done for hundreds of years. But, it turned out to be a momentous occasion!”

It all started with some seeds, a few solo cups, dirt, and a grow light.


Heirloom Tomatoes

Travis and Becca’s original plan was to grow their own tomatoes and preserve them in jars for the winter months. Thanks to the pandemic, it was everyone else’s plan for 2020 as well.

Becca and Travis used heirloom tomatoes harvested from their home garden to make their basil garlic sauce recipe. With names like Brandywine, Black Prince, Abe Lincoln, and Hillbilly, it’s hard to believe these heirlooms started out in a solo cup!

Mason jars were impossible to find (or at least ones that weren’t price gouged). So for their 2020 harvest, the bulk of their homegrown tomatoes had to be frozen.

home garden inside a pallet fence.

Choosing a Recipe

When 2021 rolled around, Becca and Travis were determined to start canning. They chose the water bath canning method which is a simple process recommended for high acidic foods. It uses a boiling water bath to safely seal food in a jar.

Becca looked though several options before deciding on a sauce that originated from the Ball Canning Website. Becca thought, “It’s from the Ball website!? I’m going to choose this tried and true recipe! I don’t want botulism!!” Smart girl. 🙂

red and green tomatoes on a vine.

Ingredients

The Ball Canning Recipe calls for 20 pounds of raw whole tomatoes. Wow! That sounds like a lot, but they cook down quickly.

You can use either hybrid or heirlooms, but tomatoes fresh from the garden taste best. If you don’t have a home garden, purchase them from your local Farmer’s Market, road side produce stand or grocery store.

To add layers of flavor, include vidalia onions, fresh basil and garlic to the mix. This marinara recipe also calls for a small amount of lemon juice to ensure the correct amount of acidity. See recipe card for exact quantities.

basket of heirloom tomatoes with basil.

Equipment

Below is a list of equipment you’ll need to create a water bath canner. Becca said she got the propane burner from her Nana who saved everything her grandfather ever owned.

ball jars full of tomato sauce.

How to Cook Tomato Sauce

The process isn’t difficult, but it’s a good idea to set up cooking and canning stations before you begin.

  • Wash tomatoes well in cold water.
  • Cut the whole tomatoes into small chunks.
  • Add vidalia onion and garlic to a large pot with a little olive oil. Sauté for a few minutes until onions are soft.
  • Place tomatoes in the pot.
  • Bring contents of pot to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.
  • While tomatoes are cooking, wash canning jars, bands, and lids thoroughly.
  • Once the sauce cooks down, blend in a blender. Then, strain with a sieve to remove skins and seeds. (This step is done in batches, but isn’t extremely time consuming.)
  • Pour sauce back into pot. Add basil to the sauce.
  • Cook the blended sauce down further (until it has reduced in volume by half).

How to Can Tomato Sauce

  • Fill up the canning pot half way with cold water. Cover and let simmer.
  • Keep lids and bands cool so they won’t burn you when tightening.
  • Place canning jars in water bath in the canning pot to preheat.
  • Carefully remove emptied jars from simmering water with tongs or jar lifter.
  • Place emptied jars on a baking sheet to reduce mess.
  • Using a canning funnel, begin to fill jars by ladling sauce into them one at a time.
  • Leave 1/2 inch head space from the top of the jar.
  • Wipe the tops of the jars clean with a towel.
  • Apply lids and lightly screw band using a kitchen towel.
  • Repeat until all jars are filled and fastened finger tight, but not tightly.
  • Using tongs, return the jars to the pot of water and make sure it covers jars 2 inches.
  • Put lid on pot. Heat to boiling. Allow the jars reach a processing time of 35-40 minutes. 
  • Turn off heat and remove lid from pot.
  • Let the hot jars cool down slowly for 5-10 minutes.
  • Remove from water with tongs and wipe jars dry with towel.  
  • Store jars upright for 24 hours. Do NOT tighten lids.
  • Listen for the seals to pop closed.
  • Fasten lids. Test seals and if they do not close, refrigerate the jar.
  • Store jars in a cool, dark place for up to 18 months.
canning pot on propane stove processing canned tomato sauce.

Recipe FAQS

What’s the difference between water bath canning and pressure canning?

Water bath canning uses a lower temperature to can foods that are higher in acid such as tomatoes, jams, fruits, and pickles. Pressure canning is used for foods that are lower in acid like green beans. They require a higher temperature in a pressure canner to safely preserve them.

How does canning work to preserve food?

It’s all about time and temperature. Your goal is to prevent any mold or enzymes from spoiling your food. When the jars of tomatoes are processed in the water bath at the right temperature, it creates a vacuum seal that keeps the bacteria out.

How long do canned jars of tomato sauce last?

Tomato sauce that has been canned in a water bath can last up to 18 months on a shelf in a cool and dry location. Be sure to label jars properly with the date.

Top Canning Tips

  • Wash and dry lids and bands before using. Use new lids for every recipe so they will close properly.
  • For best results, gather all of your equipment and ingredients in one place. This will help prep time go much faster.
  • Be sure to read these food safety tips from the National Center for Home Food Preservation before canning tomato sauce.

If you’re looking for some great recipes that use fresh tomatoes from the garden, check out these favorites…

Recipe Card

tomatoes for canning sauce in a silver colander

Canning Tomato Sauce

This easy guide on Canning Tomato Sauce teaches what equipment to use, tips on the canning process, and where to find the best tomatoes.
5 from 3 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Sauces
Cuisine: Italian American
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Cook Time: 1 hour
Total Time: 1 hour 15 minutes
Servings: 8
Calories: 216kcal

*See notes in blog post for detailed tips, photos and instructions.

Equipment

  • stock pot
  • blender
  • strainer
  • funnel
  • mason jars
  • canning pot

Ingredients

  • 2 large Vidalia onions chopped
  • 8 cloves of garlic diced
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 60 large heirloom tomatoes or tomatoes of your choice
  • 8 fresh basil leaves chopped
  • 8 Tablespoons lemon juice
  • 8 pint jars 16 ounces each

Instructions

COOKING TOMATO SAUCE

  • Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil in a big stock pot. 
  • Cut the tomatoes into small pieces and place in pot. 
  • Bring contents of pot to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes.
  • While tomatoes are cooking, wash jars, bands, and lids thoroughly.
  • Once the tomato sauce cooks down, blend in a blender. Then, strain with a sieve to remove skins and seeds.
  • Return tomato sauce back in the stock pot. Add basil to the tomato sauce and stir.
  • Cook the blended sauce down further (about 30 minutes) until it has reduced in volume by half. 

CANNING TOMATO SAUCE

  • Fill up the canning pot half way with water. Cover and simmer.
  • Keep lids and bands cool so they won't burn you when tightening.
  • Place jars in water bath in the canning pot. Preheat so they won't cause breakage.
  • Carefully remove emptied jars from simmering water with tongs or jar lifter.
  • Place emptied jars on a baking sheet to reduce mess.
  • Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to each jar to ensure acidity.
  • Using a funnel, begin to fill jars by ladling tomato sauce into them one at a time.
  • Check head space (leave 1/2 inch) from the top of the jar.
  • Wipe the rims of the jars clean with a towel.
  • Apply lids and lightly screw on band using a kitchen towel.
  • Repeat until all jars are filled and fastened, but not tightly.
  • Using tongs, return the jars to the canning pot and make sure water covers jars 2 inches.
  • Put lid on pot. Heat to boiling. Allow the jars to process for 35-40 minutes. 
  • Turn off heat and remove lid from pot.
  • Let the jars cool down slowly for 5-10 minutes.
  • Remove from water with tongs and wipe jars dry with towel.  
  • Store jars upright for 24 hours. Do NOT tighten lids.
  • Listen for the seals to pop closed. If they do not close, refrigerate the jar.

Notes

  • Recipe adapted from Ball Canning Website.
  • Read these food safety tips before canning tomato sauce. 
  • Tomato sauce that has been canned in a water bath can last up to 18 months on a shelf in a cool and dry location. Be sure to label jars properly with the date.

Nutrition

Calories: 216kcal | Carbohydrates: 40g | Protein: 9g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Sodium: 48mg | Potassium: 2255mg | Fiber: 12g | Sugar: 26g | Vitamin C: 135mg | Calcium: 106mg | Iron: 3mg

Nutrition info is an auto generated estimate.

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6 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    This is an awesome description on how to can tomato sauce. I’ve never done it before, but I’d like to try now that I’ve seen this recipe.

  2. 5 stars
    I’m so proud of Becca & Travis!! They have worked so hard in their garden and I can’t wait to try this sauce! Proud Mom 😘

  3. Thank you for sharing. I love their story. I grew up with family who always raised a garden and preserving and canning is a tradition that I’m so glad my husband and I both enjoy.

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