Saturday, August 11, 2012

Easy tomato sauce + canning instructions

You do not need to have a ton of tomatoes to make sauce, in fact, if you have a small garden, you may just have enough to make sauce for two meals at a time or can two jars at a time. This is my case.
This year, we found ourselves slightly overrun with tomatoes and not wanting to throw them away, I have decided to can them, one small batch at a time.
So of course this blog post will tell you how to do that but really you do not have to can/jar your sauce afterwards, you can enjoy it right away! I just wanted to give canning a try and thought blogging about it could be neat as well.
So here goes for the ingredients:

  • Tomatoes of various sizes and varieties
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 whole garlic
  • 1 eggplant (I only used one instead of the two shown on the picture)
  • Fresh herbs - here I have fennel, basil and chives
  • Olive oil, salt and pepper.

Making tomato sauce (or gravy as some Italian families call it) is not complicated, there are different methods however as to the preparation, for instance, some folks would puree all the ingredients first, then cook them as a sauce while others would cook all the ingredients first, then puree them to make the sauce.
This is the later, in which I cooked all my ingredients in a large pot first and later pureed them before canning. I really cannot tell you whether one is better than the other, perhaps readers can leave comments below this post and compare notes as to which is best.


Chop your garlic and add to a large pot where the Olive Oil has been brought to temperature. The garlic should bubble under the heat. You do not have to use a lot of oil, in this case I have about 3 tablespoons.

Once the garlic has taken a bit of a golden color, add the chopped onions...

Let the onions soften under the heated oil, stirring occasionally, then add the cubed eggplant...

Stir occasionally and once the mix become very fragrant, add your tomatoes, again, I only sliced the larger varieties, cherry tomatoes went in as is...

After a few minutes, add the herbs all chopped into small sections, but not too small, for instance I kept the fennel stalks at about 3/4 in. size.

Add your salt and pepper to taste. You can also add crushed pepper flakes if you wish. It is important to add a little bit of salt at that stage as it will help the tomatoes lose some of their juice. For that reason, you do not need to add water to the pot!

In this picture below, you can see that I really do not have a lot of ingredients as I only planned on making two jars of sauce.

Stir all the ingredients one more time, cover and let the pot simmer for 3.5 to 4 hours under very low heat. It is best to use a tight lid.


While the pot was simmering I went and fetched a few empty glass jars I had around the house. I found these two:

You can tell that they are leftover jars from tomato sauce we had purchased at the store. Well, I am all about recycling, so the first order of business was to remove the labels...I soaked the jars in hot soapy water for a good 20 minutes and the labels came right off.

Once you have "almost brand new" jars, you need to think about sterilizing them which is just about the same process you would use to sterilize baby bottles:

Plunge your jars into boiling water, turning them around and making sure all surfaces are exposed, then turn off the heat and cover. Let the jars sit in the steam for at least 10 minutes (don't forget to throw the lids in the water as well).

Remove the jars from the water using a kitchen utensil such as a tong and make sure you never directly touch them with your hands.

Meanwhile, the tomato sauce is ready to be pureed!

Step Three:

Setting the pot aside, you can either puree your ingredients using a hand mixer or a manual "moulinette" which is another one of my French manual food mill.
Whichever you use, make sure you remove as much liquid as you can first, unless you want a watery sauce.

Here I am using my French food Mill from the Martha Stewart collection.

Once the sauce is pureed and ready for canning, carefully pour it (one ladle at a time) into the jars. Remember never to touch the inside of the jars, or the lids with your bare hands. Always use utensils that are cleaned and sterilized.

Here I managed to make one full jar (right) and 3/4 of the larger one (left). I planned on using the large one first.

Now that that the tomato sauce is canned, it needs to be vacuumed sealed and sterilized again. The best way to do that is to let the jars sit in a few inches of boiling water, cover the pot, turn off the heat and let the jars stand in the steam for at least 20 minutes. This process will vacuum seal the lids and prepare the jars for a longer shelf life. I really could not tell you how long of a shelf life, but I have seen my grandmother do this exact same process for her canning and we have enjoyed vegetables and sauces years after their original canning time!

We ate the sauce from the large jar first because it was not full. The other jar has been labeled and placed on a shelf in the basement with the rest of my store bought tomato sauces. I have to say that none of them compare to this homemade sauce. It was relatively easy to make and so much richer in taste and flavor, not to mention healthier!

I am hoping you found this post informative as well as inspiring. I really think that we all should take advantage of whatever little plot of land we have to grow our own organic food! There is no sugar added nor preservatives when you can your own food and if you live in an apartment, nothing stops you from canning the food you buy from the store - recycle your jars!

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1 comment:

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I welcome your feedback and comments. If you have a question or a specific request, do not hesitate, I am here to help! Thanks, S.

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