Canned Tomato Sauce


August 28, 2011 by Sara Kreidler

Another weekend, another half bushel of tomatoes.

This weekend, though, we decided to can a simple tomato sauce instead of crushed tomatoes.

The process is not very different from canning crushed tomatoes, except that you cook the tomatoes down in a pot for about a half hour to make the sauce.

Although the Ball Blue Book provides a few tested recipes for seasoned sauce that are safe to can in a boiling water bath, we decided to go with the simple, unseasoned recipe for sauce because it is more versatile.

The recipe below yielded 7 quarts of tomato sauce.  Actually, we had about 1 pint extra and there wasn’t space for it in the canner,so we put it in the fridge to use this week.

Adapted from the Ball Blue Book 


  • ½ bushel canning tomatoes
  • Citric acid or bottled lemon juice


  1. Wash the jars in the dishwasher.
  2. While the jars are washing bring a large stock pot of water to a boil.  Cut a small x on the bottom of each tomato.  Drop 6-8 scored tomatoes into the boiling water at a time and blanch for about 1 minute.  Use a handled strainer to remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and transfer to a bowl of cold water.  Once tomatoes have cooled enough to handle, peel off the skin (start at the x mark, this makes for easier peeling) and cut out the tomato’s core.  Transfer the skinned and cored tomatoes to a large bowl.  Repeat until all of your tomatoes are skinned and cored.
  3. Also, while the jars are washing, prep your canning area.  I like to put down old (clean) kitchen towels and hot pads so I don’t have to worry about scorching the counter.  Get your jar lifter, lid wand and wide mouth funnel ready.  I use a chopstick to remove air bubbles, but you can also use a small plastic spatula or plastic spoon (just don’t use a metal utensil, which can scratch and/or crack your jars).  Make sure your rings and lids are ready too.  You’ll also need a ladle.
  4. Transfer skinned and cored tomatoes to a large pot or two (we had to split them between two pots to cook them all down at the same time).  Cook tomatoes over medium high flame.  Use a potato masher or meat beater (my favorite kitchen tool) to break up the tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 3o minutes, stirring often.
  5. While the sauce is cooking, remove the hot jars from dishwasher, place inside canner and fill the canner with hot water so that all of the jars are full and covered by 1 inch of water.  Put the canner on your largest burner and bring the water to a boil.
  6. Bring a small pot of water to a simmer.  Add the lids to the simmering water; do not boil the lids.
  7. Remove the small pot of simmering lids from the stove and place on a hot pad near your jar filling station.  Remove sauce from the stove and place near the filling station. Have your lid wand, funnel and a ladle handy.
  8. Remove 1 jar from the canning pot and dump out the water.  Add to each empty quart jar 1/2 teaspoon of citric acid (or alternatively, 2 tablespoons of bottled lemon juice).  Place the funnel on top of the jar and ladle the tomato sauce into the jar, leaving 1/2 inch headspace at the top of the jar (the bottom line of the screw marks on the jar is a good guideline for ½ inch of headspace). Take the funnel off of the jar and use a chopstick to remove the air bubbles; add more sauce if needed to maintain ½ inch of headspace after the jar is de-bubbled.  Wipe the rim of the jar with a damp paper towel.  Use the lid wand to remove 1 lid from the pot and place it on top of the jar.  Screw the ring onto the jar until it is finger-tip tight (you don’t want it to be too tight or the air won’t be able to escape during processing).  Repeat with each jar until all of the jars are full.
  9. Return the jars to the boiling water in the canner.  The water should cover the jars by at least 1 inch. Place the lid on the canner and process at a full boil for 40 minutes. Remove the jars from the canner and place on a towel on the counter.  Do not disturb the jars while they cool.
  10. Label the sealed jars and store in a cool, dry place for up to 1 year.  If any of the lids fail to seal, the unsealed jars should be refrigerated because they are not shelf stable.

10 thoughts on “Canned Tomato Sauce

  1. Hi, I bought some tomatoes from the farmers market and they said they don’t need lemon juice because their acid levels are perfectly balanced. Should I trust them, or add it anyway? I’m a novice canner! Love your blog, found you through Food In Jars. 🙂

    • Sara says:

      Stacy, first off, I have to say that I am a novice too! I would add either citric acid (1/2 teaspoon per quart, ¼ teaspoon per pint) or bottled lemon juice (important to use bottled, not fresh, to ensure acidity level; 2 tablespoons per quart, 1 tablespoon per pint) when you can any tomatoes. Your grower may be right and her tomatoes may be acidic enough to be canned without extra acid, but why risk it? The reason tested recipes for canning tomatoes call for the addition of citric acid or lemon juice is to prevent the growth of botulism, so if don’t add it and your tomatoes aren’t acidic enough on their own, you run the risk of cans contaminated with botulism.

      That said, I can tell you that my mother in law (and her mom and her mother in law) has canned tomatoes for YEARS without adding citric acid or lemon juice, and there’s never been a problem. And canning goddess Linda Ziedrich notes in her interview with Tigress that “adding acid to tomatoes is only a recommendation; there’s no reason to do it if your tomatoes are tart.”

      So, from one canning novice to another, I say play it safe and add either citric acid or lemon juice to your jars of tomatoes. But that’s just my two cents. Good luck and happy canning! And thanks for the compliment, so glad you like the blog!

  2. How helpful! I’m hoping to do exactly this with my remaining tomoatoes this weekend!

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