Secrets to Saucy Success

Tomato SauceLast weekend, Sandi went to the Garden Park to shop for produce. She asked me if we should do any canning. So, I told her that it was her decision and she could get whatever she thought best. To my surprise, she walks in with 15 pounds of tomatoes. “We’re making sauce!” she says. “Great!” I say. I was quickly to discover why more people don’t make their own tomato sauce.

Our epic sauce journey began on Sunday morning. We settled on a classic recipe from our trusty Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving (recipe below) and we got down to work. Now, normally, Sandi and I do these sorts of things as a team. It had been our first weekend home together in more than a month, so there were all sorts of chores to do around the house and Mikey to play with. So, I ended up doing most of the work on this, while Sandi worked on other things. Let me tell you, “always swim with a partner” kind of applies here. There is enough work here for two people.

The bulk of the work involved the peeling and seeding. 15 pounds of tomatoes is a lot, and each one had to be blanched, peeled, seeded, and strained. Three hours later (yes, three) I finally had all the tomatoes pureed and ready for the sauce. I had to take a break at this point, because I was already exhausted. How did our grandmothers do it? Break over, and next came chopping and measuring the veggies, followed by some time on the stove to reduce the sauce to 2/3 of what where it started. Seven hours later, I finally had the sauce in the cans and cooling. Whew!

In the end, all I ended up with was five lousy jars of sauce.

So, I now know why most folks suggest using roma-style tomatoes for sauce. They are easier to seed, and that could have saved me a ton of time and back-ache. A working food-mill would have done the trip also, but we couldn’t find the fine plate for it, so it sat on the counter mocking me every time I passed it.

In case you are up for similar torture, here is the recipe:

Italian-Style Tomato Sauce

Serves 5 jars
Prep time 3 hours
Cook time 55 minutes
Total time 3 hours, 55 minutes
Dietary Vegan, Vegetarian
Meal type Main Dish
From book Complete Book of Home Preserving
A classic italian tomato sauce with no oil, balancing the the low-acid vegetables with the addition of lemon juice.


  • 12 cups fresh tomato puree ((see notes))
  • 1 cup celery (finely chopped)
  • 1 cup onion (finely chopped)
  • 3/4 cups carrots (finely chopped)
  • 3 cloves garlic (finely chopped)
  • 6 tablespoons lemon juice (bottled)
  • 3 teaspoons salt
  • 3/4 teaspoons black pepper (freshly ground)
  • 3/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes


Step 1 Prepare boiling water canner. Heat jars and lids in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
Step 2 Combine 1 1/2 cups of tomato purée, onion, celery, carrot and garlic in a large stainless steel saucepan, Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat, cover and boil gently until vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. While maintaining a steady boil, add remaining tomato purée, 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently. Stir in lemon juice, salt, black pepper and hot pepper flakes. Increase heat to high and bring to a full rolling boil; boil hard, stirring frequently, until mixture is reduced by one third, about 20 minutes.
Step 3 Ladle hot sauce into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles and re-measure headspace. If needed, add more sauce to meet recommended headspace. Wipe rim. Center lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
Step 4 Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 35 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove from heat and let sit 5 minutes. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.


This recipe delivers traditional Italian flavor with no oil and balances the quantity of low-acid vegetables with added acid (lemon juice) for waterbath canning. Altering ingredients or quantities may result in an unsafe product, due to a change in the pH balance.

You will need about 15 pounds of tomatoes to make the tomato puree. To make the puree, blanch the tomatoes for one minute (depending on size) and plunge into ice water bath. Once cooled, remove the skin, Cut the tomatoes in quarters and remove all seeds. Place in a colander or strainer and let stand for 15 minutes. Discard liquid and puree the tomatoes in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process in batches.


Was it worth it? The jury is still out. But, sometimes you have to suffer for your supper and to live up to your ideals.


Secrets to Saucy Success on Punk Domestics
Print Friendly

, ,

4 Responses to Secrets to Saucy Success

  1. Frieda September 19, 2012 at 10:30 am #

    Thanks for the tips and inspiration. This has been on my to-do list for awhile.

    With soup season right around the corner I bet you’ll be savoring your hard work!

    • Michael Wangbickler September 19, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

      Yes. I see carrot soup (in the pressure canner) in my future. :)

  2. Trish September 20, 2012 at 4:15 am #

    I hear you on the time and effort for this. And it’s not really a moneysaver unless you grow the tomatoes yourself. One way I’ve made it easier for myself is that I no longer blanche and peel. I freeze the tomatoes for 24 hours, then set them out to defrost for about 4 hours before I start cooking. The skins crack and peel easily, and I just smush the tomatoes into the pot. I pull out the big pieces of core, but other than that, I leave the rest. No seeding for me.

    • Michael Wangbickler September 20, 2012 at 9:18 am #

      Thanks for the comment Trish. This is an interesting idea. I’ll have to try it.

      We actually did try to grow our own tomatoes this year, but we didn’t plant enough. In addition, it’s not really a cost savings when it comes down to it. Stay tuned for an upcoming post on this subject. Should be this weekend.

Leave a Reply