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How to can homemade tomato sauce?

I developed a couple of recipes for homemade tomato sauce using tomatoes from the garden, so these are not recipes that have been tested and proven with regards to canning.

One sauce is a quick-cooked sauce using fresh herbs, another is a longer-cooked sauce using dried herbs. Neither has meat, but if I decided to incorporate meat into the longer-cooked sauce, I'd like to can it as well.

So, how can I safely can these three types of tomato sauces?

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  1. Everything you could ever need to know is here:


    If you use meat, you'll need a pressure canner.

    1. Be sure to check out this site, The National Center for Home Food Preservation, for the complete USDA guidelines on home canning and preserving:


      1. Yes, I recommend looking at the guides to home canning. High acid can be water-bathed, meat and low acid need pressure canning. I have never done pressure canning. I've only canned tomatoes, not the sauce. I find it easier to just make the sauce as needed.

        1. Agree with all that's been said so far. Read up on canning.

          standard tomato sauce only needs water bath canning.

          If you make a tomato sauce with meat in it or cooked in it, you would need to pressure can using the longest time recommended for whatever type of meat you used.

          Example just for the sake of it:

          Let's say you made a 'gravy' containing beef, pork, and lamb, and you want to can it.
          If proper beef pressure canning suggests 90 minutes @ 10 lbs, pork for 100 minutes @ 10 lbs, and lamb for 110 minutes @ 10 lbs...

          ...then you would use the lamb's canning time/pressure for the whole thing because it requires the longest time and would equally process the other meats in their needed time.

          I hope this makes sense.

          1. You need to pressure can the meat sauce.

            1. I would can only the tomato sauce, and add meat at the time of use.

              13 Replies
              1. re: GH1618

                Great suggestion.

                My main question is how do I can my own recipe for tomato sauce (contains onion, garlic, olive oil, and herbs). Everything I see tells me how to can their recipe, but not just any recipe. I'm looking for guidelines on how to can any tomato sauce regardless of specific recipe.

                1. re: 1POINT21GW

                  I have an old copy of the Ball Blue Book, which has a recipe for "Tomato Purée — Seasoned." this is for a precooked sauce containing other vegetable ingredients, and processed in a boiling water bath. That should do for any similar tomato sauce.

                  1. re: GH1618

                    So just look for guidelines on tomato sauces with similar ingredients and follow those guidelines?

                    What if it calls for adding citric acid or lemon juice? I don't want that in my tomato sauce. How do I get around that?

                    1. re: 1POINT21GW

                      You don't want the recipe, just the processing instructions. The recipe in my BBB contains peeled chopped tomatoes, onions, carrots, celery, green peppers, and salt, cooked. The processing is 45 minutes for pints in a boiling water bath.

                      1. re: GH1618

                        Exactly. That's what I meant. I'm just looking for a similar recipe, but use the processing times as a guide for my recipe, right?

                        Also, does that recipe you have call for the addition of any type of acid?

                        The ones I've found so far do, but I don't want to use their processing times as the acidity level in their sauce would probably be different from mine and, therefore, require different processing times.

                        1. re: 1POINT21GW

                          No additional acid or other ingredients. I suggest getting a new BBB, study the method for tomatoes, and pick the closest recipe, using a conservative processing time. For example, the processing time given above may be a little long because of the carrots and celery. Without those ingredients, using the given time would be the conservative way to do it.

                      2. re: 1POINT21GW

                        It is NOT SAFE for you to can non-acidulated tomato sauce in a water bath canner.

                        You cannot just disregard the recipes, omit the citric acid or lemon juice, and pay attention only to processing times. Botulism is not a toxin to take lightly, and you risk botulism if you choose not to acidulate your tomato sauce, then can in a water bath method. Here is an excerpt from the National Center for Home Food Preservation:

                        "Low-acid foods have pH values higher than 4.6. They include red meats, seafood, poultry, milk, and all fresh vegetables except for most tomatoes. Most mixtures of low-acid and acid foods also have pH values above 4.6 unless their recipes include enough lemon juice, citric acid, or vinegar to make them acid foods. Acid foods have a pH of 4.6 or lower. They include fruits, pickles, sauerkraut, jams, jellies, marmalades, and fruit butters.

                        Although tomatoes usually are considered an acid food, some are now known to have pH values slightly above 4.6. Therefore, if they are to be canned as acid foods, these products must be acidified to a pH of 4.6 or lower with lemon juice or citric acid. Properly acidified tomatoes . . . are acid foods and can be safely
                        processed in a boiling-water canner.

                        Botulinum spores are very hard to destroy at boiling-water temperatures; the higher the canner temperature, the more easily they are destroyed. Therefore, all low-acid foods should be sterilized at temperatures of 240° to 250°F, attainable with pressure canners operated at 10 o 15 PSIG. PSIG means pounds per square inch of pressure as measured by gauge."

                        Please in the interest of food safety, read up on home canning and botulism. Did you know if you suspect that one of your canned goods has botulism it needs to be treated and handled as hazardous waste, not just discarded in the trash?

                        1. re: janniecooks

                          This is good advice. My BBB doesn't specify adding acid in canned tomatoes processed in boiling water, but it is a very old edition. I'd be interested in what the latest edition has to say on this point.


                          1. re: GH1618

                            This is what my 2006 edition of the "Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving" has to say about home canning tomatoes:

                            "Although tomatoes are classified as high-acid foods, they have a pH of 4.6, which falls very close to the dividing line between high- and low-acid foods. Differences among varieties of tomatoes, growing conditions, their maturity and how they are handled can cause their natural acidity level to vary. As a result homemade tomato products MUST (emphasis added) be "acidified" by adding bottled lemon juice or citric acid before they are heat processed. We specify the use of bottled lemon juice rather than freshly squeezed because the commercial product has a known and consisten pH. Fresh lemons produce juice of variable acidity."

                            The book goes on to discuss water-bath canning versus pressure canning for home-canning tomatoes, and says that as a general rule tomato products with added vegetables are too low in acidity to be processed in a water bath and must be pressure canned. The book also says that acidification is required for all home-canned tomato products, regardless of the canning method used.

                            1. re: janniecooks

                              Exactly. If one is canning, one needs to follow the directions, for a reason. There is leeway in flavor additions, but as for the main ingredients, including the addition of acid, following canning directions is the way to go.

                              1. re: wyogal

                                Right, otherwise it might be the way you go!

                    2. re: 1POINT21GW

                      You need to have it at or below a safe pH before you can it. Tomato sauce - especially if you've added onions and garlic - is often not acidic enough to be safely canned. Hence the addition of lemon juice or citric acid to lower the pH to safe levels.

                      If you're pressure canning rather than just waterbath canning, you have more scope, but cutting down on the acidity, using oil then hot water bath canning is a huge gamble. I wouldn't do it and I preserve using British techniques - lower safety levels than accepted in the US - I'd never jar my own tomato sauce without adding acid and testing with pH strips to make sure it was a safe level.

                  2. If there is any question of safety, you should just freeze it.

                    1. A pressure canner is the way to go if for no other reason than because it is so much faster. I never have acidified my tomatoes before canning.

                      My folks canned tomatoes as well as green beans ( by the truck load) in a water bath. IMO, the National Center for Food Preservation is the definitive source for canning instructions.