Home Canning Tomato Sauce

I know you. I've seen you in the pasta aisle at the grocery store. You're scanning the utterly unending varieties of "pasta sauce" trying to compare prices and flavors and brands. You look a little confused. I don't blame you.

And what really is "pasta sauce"? I mean, I could throw some milk on pasta and call it "sauce", couldn't I? Heck, I could throw practically anything in and call it sauce...I'm sure that's what Prego does.

Next time I see you, we're going to have a little intervention. You're not gonna like it. But you need it. You need to know what real, homemade tomato sauce tastes like. Now, you're going to pout a little. Say "it's too hard!" But I'm going to make you do it.

And you'll be much happier afterward.

Why? Because you don't need to pay $5 at the store for a bottle of so-so "pasta sauce" that probably contains a cup of sugar or, worse, high fructose corn syrup. You know better. And now, you have me. I will teach you, oh lost one.

Let's begin! First, veer left to the produce section - get five pounds of tomatoes, stat!

Recipe after the jump.

Home Canned Tomato Sauce

Makes 2 pints (or, if you're like me, one pint and one half-pint canned, the other half eaten for dinner that night)

  • 5 pounds red tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/3 green bell pepper, diced small
  • 2 medium carrots, diced small
  • 1 celery rib, diced small
  • 2 tablespoons finely minced flat-leaf Italian parsley
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • A few cracks of black pepper
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice

Start by removing the skins of the tomatoes. The easiest way to do this is boil water in a large pot. While water comes to a boil, wash and remove stems from tomatoes. Then, use a small knife to make an "x" in the bottom on each tomato. Just enough to pierce the skin. This will make the tomatoes very easy to peel after they've been boiled / shocked.

Once water is boiling (or near boiling), plunge in tomatoes and time for 1 minute. Remove tomatoes and place in a large bowl filled with water and lots of ice. This is called "shocking" and will stop the tomatoes from cooking.

Allow tomatoes to sit in ice bath for about a minute, then start peeling skins off, one by one, with you hands. The "x" you made at the bottom will peel away perfectly in all four directions, making them easy to peel.

Place peeled tomatoes on a cutting board and chop into medium/small pieces - reserve juices and pour everything into a large bowl, set aside.

In a large enamel or stainless steel pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and saute for 2 -3 minutes until soft. Add peppers, carrots, celery and tomatoes. Stir to combine.

Next add the parsley, oregano and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium heat until thickened. This can take anywhere from 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Just stir occasionally, but you can pretty much ignore it most of the time as long as you maintain a low simmer.

When you think you're 20 - 30 minutes away from a thickened sauce, start a canning bath for your jars. Use a large pot big enough to fill and fully cover the top of the jars you'll be using. Bring to a boil.

Prepare your jars and lids by washing with soap thoroughly, then drying with a very clean towel or air dry. You'll want to then heat your jars for canning. You can do this one of two ways: place perfectly dry jars on a rack in the oven heated to 325 degrees; or place the clean jars in the water bath and leave them there (over medium heat) until you are ready to fill them.

Whichever method you prefer, make sure to have hot jars at hand when you're ready to fill.

Once thickened, remove sauce from heat and stir in the lemon juice.

Using a ladle and a large-mouth funnel, pour the hot sauce into your prepared jars. Wipe the rim with a clean towel if any sauce splashes. Leave 1/2 inch of headspace at top.

Place lid and ring on jars and twist to tightly secure. Place jars in the boiling water bath and process for 35 minutes.

Once 35 minutes is up, remove jars from water bath, dry gently with a towel and let cool on countertop.

Pint jars are large and will probably need 2 - 3 hours to cool completely.

If you want to eat sauce immediately, just reserve some of it from canning and enjoy in the next few days, refrigerating if not using immediately.