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How to Can Tomatoes: My Family’s Style

Updated on June 10, 2019
I Am Rosa profile image

This mom of two has worked with non-profits to provide educational and health programs for local children, and improve the local workforce.


So, the harvest season has caught up with you once again and the ripe Roma tomatoes are calling. They’re teasing you with their shimmering red skins, rich heady fragrance and explosively tangy taste. You break down, buy a bushel or two (or twelve) and cart it home with toe-curling contentment … now what?

Hopefully, you bought that many because you were going to can that tomato-y goodness to enjoy year-round. Instead of just tomatoes in a jar, maybe you’re wanting to make a simple sauce that can be used as a base for mouth-watering pomadoro, creamy salsa or to use as-is when you’re crunched for time. If so, you may be interested in how my family cans tomatoes …

Ingredients you will need ...

To Taste:

  • Olive Oil
  • Butter
  • Banana peppers
  • Garlic cloves
  • Fresh Basil
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic powder
  • Crushed red pepper

Tools you will need ...

  • Knife
  • Pail or container for cut tomatoes
  • Pail or container for tomato grindings
  • Compost or discard pail
  • Large bowls
  • Stock pot (or larger depending on what size batch you’re working with)
  • Stove or burner
  • Cheesecloth
  • Hanging hook
  • Tomato grinder
  • Wooden stir stick
  • Cooking spoon
  • Juice jug or measuring cup
  • Sterilized jars, lids and rings
  • Baskets or rubber tubs
  • Blankets

Step 1 - Prep

→ Wash your tomatoes thoroughly to remove any debris or insects that might be caught in the box with them.

→ Remove the stem ends and any part of the tomatoes that are bruised or rotten. These parts can taint the flavour of your finished product.

→ Quarter the tomatoes.

Step 2 - Softening

→ Place the quartered tomatoes in a large stock pot with some water.

→ Cover and boil until tomatoes are soft.

→ Remove from the water and strain with a cheesecloth.


Step 3 - Grinding

→ Feed the strained tomatoes into your tomato grinder. You’ll notice that your machine produces mostly liquid from the first run-thought. Be sure to catch the skin that the machine spits out. You will need to feed them through the grinder two more times (that’s three times in total).

Note: Don’t push your luck by trying to run them through a fourth time or you may clog your machine.

During the second run-through, the tomatoes will yield some pulp. On the third time through, you will get the most valuable meaty content of the tomatoes.

Step 4 - Cooking

→ Put olive oil and butter in your stock pot and heat it up.

→ Skin and quarter your garlic cloves.

→ Slice the banana peppers.

→ Fry the garlic and peppers in the oil and butter. When the peppers are golden, remove them. (We just needed them for flavour.)

→ Take the juice/pulp you’ve harvest from the tomatoes and strain it through the cheesecloth. Let some of the clear liquid drain off. Be careful not to remove all the liquid or your sauce will be too thick. Dump the remaining pulp into your stock pot.

→ Season with basil, salt, pepper, garlic powder, and crushed red peppers.

→ Bring to a boil, stirring frequently to avoid scorching the sauce to the bottom of the pot.

→ Leave the pot uncovered so any excess water can be boiled off.

Note: Boiling will cause a foam on the top of your sauce. This is the acid boiling off.

You will know when your sauce is done when the foam has been boiled off.

→ Boil for 2-3 hours, adding more seasoning to taste.

→ If the oil and butter float to the top your sauce, carefully skim it off with a cooking spoon and discard.

Step 5 - Canning

→ Have your jars set up with 2-3 leaves of basil in each.

→ Make sure your jars are warm. It is very important that the jars are not cold, otherwise they may crack or refuse to seal properly.

→ Take your basket and place a blanket inside, leaving enough hanging out to wrap.

This is where my family tradition differs from other families. Everyone has their own method of canning that works for them. Since this is about my family’s style, this is how we do it ... You’ll need at least two people for this next part:

Note: It’s always a good idea to label each jar with the year and contents.

→ One person scoops the sauce out of the pot and pours it into the jars. The other person quickly places the lids on the full jars and screws the rings on tightly. The jars are then placed in the basket.

→ When the basket is full, the excess blanket is wrapped around the jars and the basket is put aside to cool for a few days. The jars will seal as they cool, preserving your yummy sauce for years to come.

This sauce is an excellent base for many recipes and can also be used on its own over pasta if you’re in a hurry for a quick meal.

From my family to yours: Buon appetito!

© 2011 Rosa Marchisella


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