Recipe: Homemade Tomato Sauce (and a Canning How-To!)

I am really excited to share this post with you! Last week I got a 25 pound box of organic tomatoes from my local food cooperative. I've just been dying to make my own tomato sauce, and also to do some canning. It can be difficult to get a bulk amount of product, so I don't get to can an often as I'd like.

This will be a long post, but I'll try to make it simple. I took lots of pictures, so hopefully that helps to break it up a little. As always, if you are confused by anything or have any questions, feel free to leave me a comment here, through e-mail, or on Facebook!

lemons or bottled lemon juice

Supplies Needed:
canning pot with lid
large non-reactive pot (such as stainless steel)
small saucepan
canning jars
canning rings and lids (either the ones that come with the jars or reusable lids)
jar lifter

Supplies Optional, but Recommended:
canning rack (often comes with a canning pot)
immersion blender

The first thing to do is to sterilize the jars. I just use the canning pot for this. Place the jars in the pot, fill the pot with enough water to cover the jars, and turn the stove on low - they'll be on the heat long enough to get sterilized.

At the same time, have the canning rings and lids sterilizing in the saucepan. Again, put the pot over low heat and just leave it. Don't let this one come to a boil.

Now it's time to work with the tomatoes. First, the tomatoes need to be peeled. You can choose to leave the skin on, but I don't recommend it as you will have chewy bits in your tomato sauce. To peel the tomatoes, get a large pot of water boiling. Once it has come to a boil, throw in 5 or 6 tomatoes. Leave them in for 45 seconds to 1 minute.

Don't leave the tomatoes in the boiling water any longer than that. Remove immediately to a bowl of ice water. I just plugged up one side of my sink and filled it with cold water and a few pieces of ice.

After just a few seconds the tomatoes will be cool enough to touch. Pick up one, score it with a knife, and the skin should peel right off.

Repeat with all the tomatoes. I didn't have a large enough bowl to set all the tomatoes in, so here's what I ended up with...

Next, take each tomato, cut it in half, and then cut out the stem and other hard or bad spots.

Take each half and give it a squeeze. This removes some of the water (which would need to be cooked down anyway) and most of the seeds. Don't worry about removing all of the seeds.

Place the squeezed tomatoes in a colander in the sink that way they can continue to drain while you cut and squeeze out the rest of the tomatoes.

After all the tomatoes are ready, it's finally time to make tomato sauce! Dump the tomatoes in a large non-reactive pot. I was able to do all 25 pounds of tomatoes in two batches.

Now we just have to wait for the tomatoes cook down. Cook over medium heat. Use a large spoon or a potato masher to crush them down. I used an immersion blender, because it's really fast and makes the sauce nice and smooth. Cook the tomatoes until they have reduced by 1/3 to 1/2, according to your preference for thickness. This will take anywhere between 1 and 2 hours, depending on how big your pot is. Here's mine after about 30 minutes (and before I used the immersion blender).

When your sauce is nearly ready, prep the area for canning. Remove your canning jars with the jar lifter and put them onto a towel. Bring the canning pot up to a boil. Use the tongs to remove the canning rings and lids from the saucepan.

Squeeze the lemons (or use bottled lemon juice). Add the lemon juice to each jar as follows:

Half-Pint jars - 1/2 Tablespoon
Pint jars - 1 Tablespoon
Quart jars - 2 Tablespoons

Now, very carefully add the tomato sauce to the jars. It's easier to ladle some tomato sauce into a large measuring cup with a spout first to do this. Fill each jar to within 1/4 inch from the top. Use the funnel to prevent messes.

Now add the canning rings and lids. If you are using the traditional lids that come with the jars, just place the lid on top and then screw the ring on. You can also get reusable BPA-free canning lids from Tattler Reusable Canning Lids. If you are using these, place on the rubber ring and plastic lid, then screw on the metal ring but do not overtighten! These must be allowed to vent!

Once all the jars are ready, use the jar lifter to place them back into the canning pot. Put the lid on the pot and process as follows:

Half-Pint jars - 30 minutes
Pint jars - 35 minutes
Quart jars - 40 minutes

After time is up, pull on the handles of the canning rack to remove all the jars at once (or use the jar lifter). Set the rack on a towel.

If you used the Tattler Reusable Canning Lids, tighten the lids the rest of the way as soon as they come out. Then, do not disturb the jars. If you used traditional lids, you should hear them pop. I used some Tattler lids and some traditional lids (these will be gifts and I know I'll never get them back!). I heard the regular lids pop right away.

Once the jars have cooled, remove the metal rings. The way to check the seal on the Tattler lids is to pick up the jar by the lids. If it picks up and doesn't come off, it is sealed! I had no problem using the Tattler lids, every one of my jars sealed successfully.

I ended up with 4 quarts, 8 half-pints (1 broke), and a little sauce left over.

This was a time-consuming project, but it was so much fun. There's really no greater sense of accomplishment than making and canning your own food. I did get to taste the tomato sauce, and it was delicious! I hope you enjoy the experience as much as I did!

Printable: Homemade Tomato Sauce and Canning How-To


  1. Congrats on canning your own tomato sauce! This is a project I hope to do this year, so I appreciate your photos and well-written, detailed descriptions! I also am glad you shared how many jars you got from your 25 pounds of tomatoes. I always wondered if it would be worth it to make my own, and I can see from your experience that it certainly is! Thank you!!

    ~Lisa @ HappyinDoleValley
    (visiting from Frugally Sustainable)

  2. Nice step by step! Great idea to cool the tomatoes in the sink. I always use a big bowl and it is a mess.

  3. You make it look easy! I just might give this a try! Thanks.

  4. Great post! I have always wanted to learn how to can my own food. Thanks for the great pictures too :)

  5. I can't wait to try this. Thank you for sharing with us. Just one question: How long do they last and how do you store them?

  6. They will last 12-18 months in the pantry. After they are open, they need to be refrigerated or you can even freeze them for long-term storage.

  7. I'm going to have to try this. I recently made tomato sauce and froze it in a glass jar, leaving the lid off to start with, but I would prefer to do this as I can cook in bulk and don't need to remember to leave my sauce out to defrost in time!

  8. This is fantastic! Love the pictures that go with it too. Will be doing this as soon as my tomato's are ready. :)

  9. I love making tomato sauce. Do you have a food mill? It might go faster if you core and quarter the tomatoes, simmer them for 20 minutes, immersion blend and then run through the food mill to get out the seeds and peel. Then cook down what is left until it is the desired consistency. Just a thought.

  10. Would you make this and then freeze all of the extra jars or is it really safe that long in the pantry? Also do you add basil and others to it once you actually making it for a meal or just the tomato and lemon juice?

  11. Sinus Away, as long as the jars are properly sealed they are safe in the pantry for at least one year. One the seals have been broken, they need to be put in the fridge. They will be good in the fridge for a couple of weeks, if you have them longer than that they need to go in the freezer.

    When I use the tomato sauce for a meal, sometimes I add seasonings, but sometimes I don't. It just depends on what I am making. The benefit of organic, farm fresh tomatoes is that they are so good they often don't need anything added. It's up to you whether you want to add seasoning or not.

  12. Hi Christina,
    Great tutorial. I love canning tomatoes. I have not done it for a while. Thank you so much for sharing with Wednesdays Adorned From Above Link Party last week. This weeks Link Party is opened at
    Hope to see you there.
    Debi Bolocofsky
    Adorned From Above

  13. You may wish to contact your local extension office. I've always been told that the lemon juice must be bottled, and not fresh squeezed. Something about the level of acidity?

  14. I am comfortable with fresh lemon juice.

    1. can you use anything else? I am allergic to citrus fruit....

    2. Substitute with distilled white vinegar or apple cider vinegar. It is such a small amount that you won't taste it, but it will make sure that the acid is high enough to be safely canned.

  15. Thanks for a great post, I'm new to canning so your pictures were very helpful! I'm visiting from Frugally Sustainable today :)

  16. Great post! I've been freezing my tomtato sauce for the past few years, this will be my first year canning them & I was very glad I stumbled onto your blog! It's always nice to compare others' methods.
    I roast Roma tomatoes, sweet onions & garlic for my sauce, at 400F, for about an hour before I put them on the stove. I also wait to remove the skins util after the roasting process, so the skins just slip right off. Then, I use a food mill to get rid of the remaining seeds ( I cut the Romas in 1/2, then squeeze out the water & seeds prior to roasting. I also season the tomatoes w/salt, olive oil, traditional dried Italian herbs during the roasting process). This time, I added 3 fresh hot red peppers during the reducing stage, so they add a kick to my foods. Thank you for the great pictures!

  17. I have found that coring the tomatoes before slipping the skins is much easier. And if you are making only sauce, you can core, then squeeze them as you put into the pan. After there is sufficient juice in pan, just heat through and run through tomato strainer or food mill to remove skins and seeds. No added water to cook down. Just a thought. FYI, heirloom tomatoes naturally have higher acidity than the yucky hybrids (and not to mention better flavor). :)

  18. I made sauce, boiled it down for a few hours put it into 4 jars, added lemon juice and put in the fridge, assuming I would use it in t a few days. Well, i didn't use it right away but it remained in the fridge and after about 7 days I processed it in my pressure canner. Is it safe to consume even though I didn't process it right away but it was kept refrigerated?

    1. At 7 days in the fridge, it is probably okay. When you open the jars to use, check to see if the sauce looks and smells normal. If it does, then it is fine to use.

  19. I'm new to canning.

    Can you please define what you mean, by processing here : Once all the jars are ready, use the jar lifter to place them back into the canning pot. Put the lid on the pot and process as follows:

    Half-Pint jars - 30 minutes
    Pint jars - 35 minutes
    Quart jars - 40 minutes

    Is there heat under the pot during this time ... I'm assuming low heat, since that is what you referenced earlier. Thank you for clarifying.

    1. The canning pot is the large pot of boiling water. Put the jars of salsa in the pot (make sure the water covers them by 1 inch) and process as described. This canning process seals the jars and kills the bad bacteria so that the contents will be shelf-stable for a long time.

  20. Thank you for listing the processing time for half pints! I have canned tomatoes and such in half pints and even in the smaller jars with no guidelines to follow except those for pints and quarts.


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