The hubby and I are big fans of tomato sauce. Friday nights are pizza nights at our house and tomato sauce plays a big part in making a delicious pizza. Hubby is also wild about pasta so we eat some sort of tomato sauce and pasta dish usually once a week. On average we go through a quart jar of sauce per week. We regularly had the pantry stocked with the name brand spaghetti sauce, which wasn’t a real frugal option. Last summer I grew tomatoes in quantity and discovered a whole new world of tomato sauce. Roasted homegrown tomatoes, fresh herbs, onions, and garlic make a beautiful combination that outdoes anything you can get in the store. This recipe is meant to be a soup but I tweaked it a bit , making it thicker and safe for canning. Last year I didn’t make nearly enough and we ran out sometime in March. I learned my lesson and have been saucing like crazy these last couple weeks. I won’t lie to you. Canning tomato sauce is a bit of work. I usually spend a few hours on each 6-7 quart batch. But don’t let the scare you. Homemade tomato sauce is amazing and totally worth the effort.
This recipe is adapted from The Barefoot Contessa.
7 pounds of ripe tomatoes
1/3 c. olive oil (approximately)
2 tbsp sea salt (plus more to taste)
1/2 tbsp pepper (plus more to taste)
2 c. chopped onions
7 cloves garlic, minced
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (depending how much kick you want)
5 c. fresh basil (lightly packed)
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1/4 c. oregano leaves
1, 12 oz can of tomato paste (this will help thicken it, I sometimes use an extra can of paste depending on what type of tomatoes I am using)
citric acid or lemon juice (to add to the jars before filling with sauce)
Heat oven to 375 degrees. On a baking sheet or large pan (I use a large cookie sheet with sides and a 13×9 pan) drizzle 1/4 c. of olive oil (divide it between pans), sprinkle on 1/2 of the salt and pepper. Core tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise, and place skin side up on the pans. Place in the oven and allow to roast for 30-40 mintues. The skins should look wrinkly when they are done.
After removing the tomatoes from the oven let them cool until you can touch them without burning your fingers (about 20 minutes). The tomatoes can be skinned easily now. Pull off the skins and dispose of them.
In a large stockpot (and I do mean quite large), fry up onions in remaining oil until they are soft. Toss in the garlic and saute a few minutes longer. Add in all skinned tomatoes and juice from the pans. Stir in basil, thyme, oregano, pepper flakes, tomato paste, and salt and pepper. Let this simmer uncovered for 30-45 minutes.
While your sauce is simmering, heat up a large canning pot (I have a big pot with a rack on the bottom so the jars aren’t in direct contact with the heat) of water. Place your clean glass canning jars (6-7 quart jars) in the water to heat up the same time as the water. Bring the water to a boil and boil jars for at least 5 minuets. This kills bacteria and assures that your jars are ready to receive the hot sauce later.
Remove sauce from the stove and get out your food processor or blender (if you use a blender you will get a smoother sauce). In small batches, process sauce until it is smooth.
*Very important note: Make sure you leave some of the top of your processor open to vent the steam while you process it or else it will explode out of the top because of how hot it is. (How do I know this? Well, let’s just say I have had first-hand experience with such an explosion.)
Place smooth sauce back in the pot. Taste and add salt or pepper if needed.
With a jar lifter, remove your hot canning jars from the pot of water and place them on a towel on the counter. Add 1/2 tsp. citric acid or 1 tbsp lemon juice to each jar. Ladle the hot tomato sauce into the jar (I use a funnel to minimize mess) and leave 1 inch of head room (meaning fill it up to about 1 inch below the top of the jar).
Once you have filled all of the jars, wipe rims with a wet paper towel. This removes any wayward sauce and bacteria so you can get a perfect seal.
Ladle some of the boiling water from the canning pot into a small bowl and put your canning jar lids in the water. With a magnetic lid lifter, pull out each lid and set it on the clean filled jars. Screw on a band to each jar, tightening to finger tightness (snug but not super tight). The jars are now ready for a water bath.
Place filled jars back into the canning pot using the jar lifter. Water should cover the tops of the jars by at least one inch. Put cover on and bring water to a rolling boil and boil jars for 40 minutes.
Remove the jars from water and set on a towel on the counter and do not disturb. After 1 hour check to see if they sealed by pressing down on the middle of the lid. If the lid moves up and down, it is not sealed correctly and you need to refrigerate it immediately and use it up within a week. In addition to the lid test, you can also use your ears to hear if they have sealed. You will hear a popping/pinging noise that tells you the jars are sealing, which can happen a few minutes after you take them out of the boiling water bath. After you have checked the seal leave them undisturbed for at least 12 hours and then move them to storage.
Sauce that has correctly sealed will keep for a year on the shelf.
*Note: Please be aware that improperly canned items pose a health risk. The acidity in the tomatoes and the citric acid add enough accidity to be safely canned in a water bath. Do not change proportions of vegetables because this can change the acidity, making the sauce unsafe to can in a water bath. Make sure that all your canning equipment is clean and that you make sure your jars are sterilized. If you are new to canning or for more in-depth information, check out the book Canning for a New Generation or the Ball Canning Site.