Saturday, July 31, 2010

Preserving Summer's Bounty- Homemade Tomato Sauce

When I was growing up, a big part of summer was all about freezing or canning the summer bounty to prepare for the winter. Back then, we always knew where our food came from. My dad raised cattle, pigs and chickens for meat and eggs. We had a cow for milking. We always had a huge garden and grew plenty of vegetables for eating and putting away. Many evenings were spent shelling peas or lima beans, or snapping the ends off of green beans. We didn't have air conditioning like most homes today have, and I still remember that steamy kitchen! When my mom wasn't freezing something, she was canning, pickling or making jam or jelly. (She still is, for that matter!)

 We always had an abundance of tomatoes. I hated picking tomatoes. I didn't like the way the vines smelled, or the green streaks they left on everything they touched. But the worst part was reaching for a tomato and finding one of these instead. I probably whined a lot about picking tomatoes which is probably how I ended up helping in the kitchen. No hornworms there. But it was very satisfying to see the neat packages of vegetables in the freezer and the beautiful jars lined up on the shelves. (My dad would say "They're better than snowballs!")

We always canned a lot of those tomatoes. My mom still does, and uses them all winter long in soups, chili, stews and sauce. They are so much better than the cans of tomatoes you buy at the grocery store, and doing it yourself puts you a little bit closer to knowing where your food comes from.

I got some tomatoes from my brother last weekend and decided to make sauce, since that's what I use the most. I cooked this particular batch down until it was thick to use for pizza or maybe pasta. Once you've made your own sauce, I guarantee it'll spoil you for the store-bought varieties. If you have an abundance of tomatoes, I heartily recommend that you get out your apron (this can get messy) and try putting some away for later. This recipe makes a small batch, so it's easy to freeze or can. 

Tomato Sauce for spaghetti or pizza sauce
adapted from the Ball Blue Book of Canning
15 lbs. tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tblsp. olive oil
1 tsp. oregano, dried or fresh
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. dried basil ( or a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped)
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tblsp. sugar (or to taste- some tomatoes are sweeter than others)
salt to taste
bottled lemon juice, should you decide to can your sauce.

Wash tomatoes. Remove core and blossom ends, and cut into quarters. Set aside.
In a large stockpot, saute onions, pepper and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add tomatoes and other ingredients (except lemon juice) and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft. 

Run the tomato mixture through a food mill to remove seeds and skin. (I strain out some of the watery liquid when I put the tomato "mush" in the food mill.) Put the strained mixture back into the stockpot and slowly simmer, uncovered, until sauce thickens. (You want to reduce volume by one-half.) Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Scorched tomato sauce is not so good. (Don't ask how I know this.) Taste and adjust seasonings.

Yield: about 3-4 pints  Your yield depends a lot on the type of tomatoes you use. Roma (plum type) tomatoes are meatier and have less water in them, so your sauce yield will be higher than if you use regular eating tomatoes. 

You can freeze your sauce or can it in jars. If you are canning, add 1 Tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each pint jar, or 2 Tablespoons to each quart jar. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Adjust two- piece caps. Process pints 35 minutes, quarts 40 minutes, in a boiling water canner.


  1. I think it is amazing to hear about families that were able to produce the majority of their food. Your family sounds lovely, and it is obvious that they've passed on so many wonderful traditions to you! These jars of tomato sauce look delicious...I just need to beg my neighbors for some tomatoes!

  2. Absolutely thrilled to have this recipe. I am printing it right now. We always canned tomatoes, but whole ones. This looks incredible. Thanks a ton. Your photos are gorgeous too.

  3. You should post this on Designs by Gollum's Foodie Friday.

  4. I just make a big batch of tomato sauce; always make it when I have fresh herbs. I make mine in teh slow cooker
    Great photos!

  5. This is definitely a must-try! It is so nice to read about your family and all the goodies from home grown veggies and fruits. You are indeed lucky! Can I use fresh lemon juice instead of bottled? Have a great weekend!

  6. I'm a city girl, but I may need to run out and pick up tomatoes at the green market. Your pictures are beautiful.

  7. Aren't those worms horrible things. I dislike them to this day :-). Your photos and the story of your background are just wonderful. I'm so glad you shared them and your sauce recipe with us. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

  8. Oh how cool, wish I could do this myself.

  9. Thanks everyone, for the nice comments. :)
    kitchen flavours- Canned tomato products call for bottled lemon juice because of its standardized acidity level. Here is a helpful link:
    We never used lemon juice when we canned tomatoes at home, but producers are coming up with less acidic tomatoes now which could cause a problem with spoilage. No lemon juice at all is needed if you freeze the sauce. I hope this helps!

  10. This post is inspiring. Great tomato sauce recipe for canning. I will be sending this post along to someone who would love this recipe.

    Thanks for sharing.

  11. I love the idea of canning my own canned tomatoes. It must have been so nice to grow up in an environment like that even if you did have to deal with scary insects! The tomato sauce sounds absolutely delicious!

  12. I agree with adding lemon juice in this day and age and I agree about the hornworms!

  13. Hi! I'm so glad you stopped by my blog, you have a beautiful blog here! I'm signing up to follow and will be back later to read some more.
    PS-I love the spiced pickled beets too!

  14. That must have been amazing growing up on a farm and having the opportunity to eat such fresh foods! This looks like a delicous sauce recipe!

  15. Deliciously beautiful!!! And I love it in those German canning jars!! Fortunately, I have them in all sizes. Thanks so much for sharing yet another way to preserve summer's tomato bounty.


  16. I would love to open a jar of this sauce for a homemade pizza in the winter. While canning is a pain while you're in the act of it, I am always so glad I went through the trouble over the course of the rest of the year :)

  17. Beautiful sauce, and equally beautiful pictures!!

  18. Great pictures. I love anything jarred, great reminder that all food comes from a field not a factory....and I find that a cold beer helps with all the summer canning heat.

  19. OK, now you've got me wanting to make my own tomato sauce. You are too inspirational! I need fleet service from Level Green Farm to my doorstep! :-)


Thanks for stopping by scrambled hen fruit! I appreciate all of your comments and look forward to reading them.

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