Total Ingredient Control – homemade canned tomato sauce

One of the toughest things to control is what goes into your body. When you add 2 Tbs of tomato sauce to a thin toasted slice of garlic baguette, you can calculate calories , carbs, fat and protein but what else? What micronutrients, vitamins, and other essentials are in there? WHen you are keeping to 1000 calories a day, it is critical that every bite of food be necessary to a healthy life. There are days when I am so weak and dizzy, I have to wonder if I gave my body what it needed to feel good.

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I love tomato sauce, the real stuff. I only buy good, organic sauces but even the best have ingredients they are required by law to include. Also, they are faced with the challenge of millions of jars that must be transported with an extended shelf life under a variety of conditions.


There is a learning curve, especially if you’ve never canned or even cooked much. I learned to can when I was young during my first marriage to the son of a dairy farmer. My father in law was recently widowed and he took on the task of training me to be a good farm wife. I was in college at the time and enjoyed sharing my country adventures with my classmates. We even ‘stir fried’ a squirrel, which was declared a complete failure by a consortium of foreign students and my stunned husband.

My father in law took me to the homes of various farm wives who were renowned for a particular dish. We both learned a lot, my father in law became quite a cook. There was an odd comfort in sitting down to a Sunday dinner and opening a jar of his late wife’s peaches, it was a solemn event. No one said a word, I’d catch a tear in a few eyes. I never met her but I felt I knew her through her recipes and her canned foods. There is an oddness to creating foods that sit in glass jars waiting for a meal that you may not even be around to enjoy, yet will nourish the people you love.

Last month we finished the last of my roasted tomato sauce. I called it roasted because it was burned. My husband asked me to follow him to the gas station to fill up his Mustang. His car died at the station and my 10 minute break became an hour and my sauce on low burnt. But, it was thick and luscious. Everyone who tried it raved about it and it was considered very cutting edge, since roasted everything is now considered cool.

So, this year I am on the Road to Small and need more tomato sauce. I decided to can more than just one batch of sauce. I bought a pressure canner (which scared me to death) and a tomato strainer. I followed the advice of the many commenters on Amazon and bought the best to last a long time!

Our first project was a recipe my husband found in the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, a roasted red pepper sauce. I figured if I had him invested in the first canning project, I’d have him hooked. Didn’t exactly work out that way but when I call him from his WOrld of wAr cRaft, he can help without too much explanation. The sauce is so good and knowing we have another 6 jars downstairs is comforting.

In fact, whilst in the middle of my first tomato sauce of 2012, R came home and made supper by tossing together some pre-portioned foods in the freezer. He grilled two pieces of chicken added some red pepper slices we froze and arranged the sliced chicken and peppers on a bed of romaine lettuce with a sprinkle of parmesan. Yummy and I didn’t have to tell him what I could or couldn’t eat! We also had a slice of homemade roasted garlic bread and roasted red pepper sauce on the side!

At midnight, I went to bed with 6 quarts and 1 pint of Spicy Tomato Basil and Garlic Sauce cooling in the opened canner.


    (except tomatoes, everything is to taste)

  • 25 pounds of Roma Tomatoes, strained = 12 quarts of puree
  • 2/3 cup of chopped garlic
  • sugar
  • salt
  • red wine vinegar
  • balsamic vinegar
  • homemade pesto
  • red pepper flakes


Wash tomatoes in a vinegar-water wash (1:3). Run tomatoes through strainer. Put puree into one large pot, you will have about 12 quarts, so a large pot! Or divide between two pots. Add the garlic and set burner to a low-medium, trust me, better to go slow than to have to tell people it is a roasted tomato sauce! Reduce sauce by half. Pour into one pot and begin seasoning. Taste, add sugar; taste, add salt, etc. Get to ‘know’ the sauce by tasting at each step. Try to taste with eyes closed in a quiet frame of mind.
Pour sauce into hot jars (I keep them in dishwasher on hot dry cycle), wipe rim, place new lid and ring, screw ring only finger tight, –it is only holding lid in place. Place into 2-3 inches of hot water in pressure cooker. Follow instructions and pressure cook at 10 pounds, 20 minutes. You may need to adjust for altitude, Google your location it will show your altitude on the Wikipedia page.

Allow jars to sit in opened canner for 5 – 10 minutes or longer to equilibrate to cooler temps. Set jars on towel and leave undisturbed for 24 hours. Remove rings, if any jars do not seal for whatever reason, put in refrigerator to eat now or pour into new jar with new lid and reprocess. Check tops of lids for any cracks or chips in glass and always use new lids, you can reuse rings.

I take rings off, it is easier to find a contaminated or spoiled jar that way… toss out any that spoil!

You now have a batch of jars to store in a dark, cool location for 6 months or longer. Google canning sites, you can make your own low calorie meals in a jar! I have a lovely tomato soup in pint sized jars for a quick comforting lunch anytime, ready and waiting.

About Safety:

Botulism is a deadly poison. It is not a bacteria, it is the toxin produced by the spores of Clostridium botulinium, a bacteria normally found in soil. This bacteria can only thrive in an anaerobic (no oxygen) environment that is also low acid, like tomato sauce. Only pressure cooking will reach a temperature high enough and long enough to kill the bacteria and destroy any toxin. Water boils at 220 degrees Farenheit 100 degrees Celsius. You need a temperature of 240º F or 115.5 Celsius; which is reached only in a pressure cooker. Don’t mess around with your family’s safety.

You can also acidify your sauce, which creates a Ph too high for the bacteria but honestly, do you want a high acid sauce?