If I had to preserve one recipe for the rest of my life it would be tomato sauce, and this post will explain why and how you can too.
Tomatoes weren’t my first canning project but they will likely be my favorite, most frequent, and are absolutely the most versatile.
My first canning project that I completed and repeated over and over on my own was applesauce. I was pregnant and realizing that I had a genuine desire to make homemade food for my baby and applesauce turned out to be a beginner friendly first.
From applesauce I ventured forth into the canning world and by the time I had a six month old, I was finally into the swing of motherhood, Baby S was napping reliably, and it was summertime.
Tomatoes are not hard to can. They do however have two points that make them a tiny bit more difficult than, say, apples.
Tomatoes have skins that either have to come off or get processed up so the subsequent sauce is smooth and delicious. If you’ve not cooked much, and there’s no shame if you haven’t, you wouldn’t know that there’s a couple ways to peel and process tomatoes, and if you are an experienced canner, I have a great post about exactly that right here.
The second point that makes canning tomatoes a bit different is their acid level. Canning safety relies on several elements, one of which is the acid level of the foods in question.
Foods are safe to water bath can when they are naturally acidic (more acid than a 4.6 on the pH scale) or by the addition of an acidifier like lemon juice or vinegar. Foods like lemons and strawberries are around a 2 on the acid scale (very acidic) and foods like green beans are around a 6 (not acidic).
Tomatoes are interesting because they have a widely known reputation for being acidic, except they actually aren’t. Tomatoes have been hybridized for many years to develop qualities shoppers were looking for like hardiness, the ability to be transported long distances, size, and so on. The consequence of bigger, sweeter tomatoes is that they aren’t as acidic as they used to be years ago.
Most tomatoes today are much closer to the cusp of being safe to water bath can with an acid level of a 4- 4.6. The magic number is 4.6. You want all foods inside the canning jar to be an acid level of 4.6 or lower (lower means greater acid…I know, kinda confusing).
Because of the fact that modern tomatoes (even if you grow your own heirloom, organic, super fancy, this still applies) canning tomatoes requires the addition of an acidifying ingredient like citric acid (a white, flavorless powder you get at the grocery store) or lemon juice (bottled so it is a standardized acid level) or vinegar (also standardized).
By following a modern, tested, and trusted recipe that follows USDA protocol for safe canning, you simply avoid any worry that your tomatoes won’t be shelf stable after canning them.
These two elements, the skin and the acid, are what make tomatoes a bit different than canning other beginner friendly recipes.
If you are new to canning, (maybe never tried it at all, or maybe tried it a time or two) I have an awesome resource for you.
I’ve created a video workshop that is super affordable and perfect for a beginner who has never canned at all.
In the video workshop you can watch crystal clear, professionally edited (no wobbly iphone videography!) videos exactly HOW to start canning at home.
I designed the workshop to feel like you are at home with me canning right by my side.
A great canning cookbook is nice but being able to SEE what’s happening is invaluable.
The canning tomatoes video workshop shows you how to preserve tomatoes safely and easily AND it teaches you the smart ways to peel or process them in a food mill.
There’s a whole beginner module that explains the canning process, gives great info about jars (holy cow there are a ton to choose from!), safety information so you know you’re doing it right, and more. That whole module is explains everything so even if you don’t cook, you can learn how to can. Honestly, that beginner module is worth it’s weight in gold and in some ways, is the most important part of the course.
After you take the course, you can apply what you learn to tons of other recipes. I’m all about teaching TECHNIQUES rather than just a single recipe- you will be able to apply the techniques I teach you to tons of other canning recipes. Believe it or not, canning peaches isn’t that different than canning tomatoes 😉
If you’re not sure about taking an online workshop, here’s what it looks like inside one. There’s no homework, no time limit, no deadlines; you have forever access to a locked “classroom” full of videos, checklists & PDFs you can print off, an ebook, and more.
The Canning Tomatoes Video Workshop is a screamin’ deal at just $29!
Not sure what you’d do with jars of delicious, wholesome homemade tomato sauce?
If I had to can ONE recipe for the rest of my life, it would be tomato sauce.
Canned tomato sauce can be dinner in about 5 minutes: Just open a jar of sauce, warm, and pour on top of pasta.
By investing an hour or two to can a batch of tomato sauce now, you can have a dozen or more jars of sauce ready to be transformed into:
- Tomato soup (just add a little cream!)
- Pizza sauce
- bread stick dip
- Spaghetti sauce
- Stromboli filling
- Spaghetti squash topping
- Sauce for roasted vegetables like eggplant
- Stew and crock pot meals
- Sloppy Joe’s
- and more!