Canning Tomato Juice and Tomato Sauce

Okay, we’ve covered the basics of canningfreezing cornfreezing green beanscanning and freezing peachesmaking and canning applesauce

Now lets talk about tomatoes!

Last year, I planted 40…yes FORTY tomato plants.  On purpose.  Because I’m crazy.

I ended up having SO MANY tomatoes, that by the end of the summer, I had canned almost two years worth of tomato sauce, tomato juice and tomato soup.  And, I still had tomatoes!  I was begging people to please come pick my tomatoes and take them far, far away from my house. 

While canning that many tomatoes was a wonderful thing…I still hadn’t fully recovered from it when it came time to plant tomatoes this year.  Therefore, I only planted 20 tomato plants this spring.  *cough*

The good thing is…I never have to buy any tomato juice, sauce or soup.  Ever.  And the home-canned stuff is SO GOOD!!!

Here’s the way I make tomato juice and tomato sauce…

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First, you start with bunches and bunches of pretty tomatoes, like these.  You can take the skins off and the seeds out if you want to…I pretty much just WASH them.  I leave the skin on and and the seeds in…mostly because I’m just too lazy to do otherwise.  My family doesn’t know the difference, and you can’t really even tell that the seeds and skin are still there.  At all. 

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Next, I cut the tomatoes into fourths and put them into my blender.

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The tomatoes are then blended up until they are liquid. 
(Mmm, tomato smoothie anyone?)

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After I blend up my tomatoes, they go into a big pot.  Obviously this pot was not quite big enough!  Filling your pot this full will just about guarantee that your pot will boil over and spill all over your stovetop creating a cooked on tomato mess.  (Picture of the boiled over mess not available…because I scooped some out before it boiled over, thank you very much.)

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Next, I boil my tomatoes, uncovered, stirring occasionally.  After a while it begins to look like this.  Once that bubbly froth is just about all gone from the top (about an hour and a half or so after beginning the boiling process), you have made tomato juice, and you’re able to go ahead with the hot water bath process of canning tomato juice. 

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But, if you want tomato sauce, continue to let it boil for another hour or so.  You’ll know your tomato sauce is done “saucing” when most of the watery liquid has evaporated.  If you continue to cook it at this point, you will have tomato paste…which is fine…if you want tomato paste.

Can your tomato sauce for 25-30 minutes following the hot water bath instructions here.

Then, you will have tomato juice for yummy veggie soups and such…and tomato sauce for sloppy joes, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, enchilada sauce…and whatever else you use tomato sauce for.  (If you want to, you can add your herbs and spices into the sauce while your making it so that you’ve got your spaghetti and pizza sauce already put together in your jars!)

I have a wonderful recipe for tomato soup that I’ll be sure to share soon! 
Yumm-eeee!

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Comments

  1. says

    I was wondering if it made a big difference to use 4% vs 5% vinegar in canning recipes? I accidently grabbed the big jug of 4% and didn’t notice when I used it for my salsa. Friends weren’t sure so I thought I’d get your opinion. Also used it for dill and sweet pickles-do I need to worry?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I don’t think it matters either way – your 4% should be fine!

    [Reply]

    Kendra Reply:

    I’ve been told always use 5%.

    [Reply]

    AJ Reply:

    It is about the PH level of the sauce that matters. As long as the PH reaches under 4.5%, you will be fine.

  2. Janette McCune says

    Do you use an acid when canning? Lemon juice, citric acid, vinegar?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I don’t, because tomatoes are acidic on their own, although I have heard it advised to use lemon juice.

    [Reply]

  3. Sue O says

    I just thought I would share that last year I cooked all my apples in a large crock pot and let them cook until they were pretty well cooked through. I then added my other ingredents and canned them. I like the chunckier sauce. What I liked about using the crock pot is I didn’t really have to watch them and the apples never burned.

    [Reply]

    LuAnna Reply:

    That is how I made apple butter last year. It worked great and I was able to work on other things while the apples were cooking.

    [Reply]

  4. Starla says

    I just finished canning some tomato sauce and I realized I forgot to add my lemon juice. Will my sauce be okay for storage or did I just spoil the whole batch?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Your tomato sauce should be just fine! I never add lemon juice to mine because it is very acidic. :)

    [Reply]

    Leigh Sabey Reply:

    Hi Starla, just so you know…(and I’m sure your tomato sauce is fine)…I madde the same mistake last year. I decided to call my local CSU extension office (experts in home canning safely), and they advised me to throw away all of my beautifully canned tomato sauce because I forgot the lemon juice :(. They said that although tomatoes are usually acidic enough to be safe, they vary quite a bit, and you can’t really be sure. It was VERY painful to throw it out, but I decided to take their advice because I planned to feed the sauce to my young kiddos and didn’t want to risk it. I’m sure yours will be OK but just wanted to share my experience!

    [Reply]

    larry smith Reply:

    i never use lemon juice and have never had any problems. the tomatoes are acidic enough

    [Reply]

    Ward Smith Reply:

    If you are unsure you coud have just boil the sauce for 20 minutes before using; that destroys the botulism toxin if it was even present.

  5. Teresa says

    I never add lemon juice either..have canned spaghetti sauce for the past 2 years with great results :) I cook it for 3 1/2 hours,put in jars and bath it for 15 minutes :)

    [Reply]

  6. Phyllis says

    This is exactly how we do our sauce, except we puree them in a cuisinart. Why buy fiber when you can eat tomato skins? Plus we cook them much longer – sometimes as much as 2-3 days, very slowly, turning it off at night(and covering the pot). Endpoint is the same – thick and not watery. To prevent scorching, we put a steel plate from our woodstove cooktop on top of the gas burner under the pot, to spread the heat. Also, we shorten the evaporation process by dipping out some of the watery liquid (if you push your ladle down in the tomato sauce, you will create a crater that fills with thin but tasty juice). We dip that out into pint jars and can it separately, for soup base. Canning times seem to vary wildly – 10 minutes for tomato juice to 45 for quarts of tomatoes. I figure the sauce is well cooked already and is put into jars still hot – we process for 10-15 minutes and have not had a problem.

    [Reply]

  7. Michelle says

    What if the tomato sauce is cold (made yesterday and want to can today) will that work??

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    You’ll need to heat it again before canning, then it will be perfect!

    [Reply]

  8. Janet says

    Am thinking I will use my Foley Food Mill to make the sauce … anyone else done this? I love it for apple sauce and thought it might be one way to avoid the peeling (although now I read that many of you don’t peel .. that’ll be next year) and to get good tomato sauce!

    [Reply]

    Kia Reply:

    Janet, I’m doing that right now. I used my food mill and now have the sauce simmering on the stove to thicken. My friend makes hers this way and has for years and her sauce is wonderful.

    To answer an earlier question, my friend says she’s never used lemon juicke or any other citric acid in her tomato sauce and has done just fine. She has four little ones who have been eating it since day one and no one has ever gotten sick. =)

    [Reply]

  9. Ingrid says

    Southern New England has not had a frost, so I am busy canning 5 gallons of tomato sauce. I never peel or de-seed, I just cook the snot of it. I don’t use lemon juice either, but do add olives & capers along with peppers, onions, garlic, herbs and celery. I was going to use my food mill, but then ended up with so much sauce, I got lazy and just cooked it a whole extra day. yum.

    [Reply]

  10. says

    I found this page while looking up tomato juice for canning. My grandma (passed away last December) used to can tomato juice every summer and then we’d make soup from it by adding milk and simmering. It was wonderful with just adding a bit of salt and pepper to it. I’ve got tomatoes going in the garden and can’t wait to make it myself this year!

    Of course, it’s a miracle we survived if you go by today’s standards… I never paid much attention while she was doing it, but my uncle told me she just hot packed the jars and slapped the lid/seal on and put in the pantry when cool :)

    [Reply]

    Marla Starling Reply:

    Thats the way my granny use to do it to. Hot pack the jars, slap on the seals and rings, line them up on the table and cover with a towel. For the next 24 hours you could be anywhere in the house and hear ping………ping. lol. We never got sick

    [Reply]

    Michelle R Reply:

    I made salsa already this summer and for my bath I ran by jars in the empty dishwasher. I sure hope they sealed. The have seemed to. Didn’t know if you knew the reason we bath them in hot water for the time we do?

    [Reply]

    Edith Reply:

    thats the way I did it today no waterbath no pressure cooking just open kettle they always turn out great

    [Reply]

  11. larry smith says

    i simmer my salsa for about fifteen minutes and then hot bath for about one hour and fifteen minutes and have never had any problems. does anyone else use this technique? my mom taught me and ive been doing it for about five years now with no problems. Except that time a lid came off in the hot bath, what a mess…

    [Reply]

  12. says

    I’m wondering… if I wanted to make a tomato sauce with other whole veggies in it (not blended), like mushrooms or onions or bell peppers or even greens like spinach, would that still be safe to can the same way? I’ve been getting spooked out on safety by reading all these other sites that warn about ph levels and such. I’ve also been wondering about batch cooking slow roasted tomatoes and canning them. Would really love your advice on that. :-D

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    If you add other non-acidic veggies like that, you would need to use a pressure canner instead of just a water bath to process it.

    [Reply]

  13. Cathi says

    I noticed that there are times that the lids will seal themselves before they are put into the hot bath. One year I reasoned, NOT KNOWING ANY BETTER, that since the sauce was hot and the jars sealed that I could skip the hot bath altogether. Wrong move!!! My husband went to have some juice and had two jars explode on him!! To give him credit, all he did was calmly say, “Honey, I think this jar was no good.” Since the Year of the Exploding Jars I have always hot packed A)Tomato Juice-20min B)Sauce-35min C)Salsa-40(all are at or near boiling when they are packed into the jars. I got my times from Betty Crocker circa 1960s and from MRS WAGES MIX circa 2011.

    [Reply]

  14. vj says

    How long will canned tomatoes last in the pantry?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’d say up to three years.

    [Reply]

    OldWizard Reply:

    I have had tomatoes, spaghetti sauce, cherries, apples, etc for 15 years. Storage was good – dry, cool and dark. I just feel better if those are used sooner though.

    [Reply]

  15. vj says

    Will canned tomatoes with good seals last two years in the pantry? If so, what is a good time frame for them to be used? thank you.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, I’ve had some that have lasted me up to three years before!

    [Reply]

  16. betsy hammond says

    can you can tomatoes, corn and orka together…like succatash for soup later in the winter…

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    You can, but since corn and okra are less acidic, you will need to can them with a pressure cooker instead of just the water bath method.

    [Reply]

  17. Carissa says

    Hi! I have a question. This is the first yr I have ever canned tomatoe juice and I am using your method…I love it! So very easy. I myself do add 2tbs of lemon juice to each of my quarts. I pureed a few zuccinni and about three carrots I knew weren’t going to get eaten to my tomatoes and boiled like you said then water bathed for 40min. Now after all said and done and 16qts later I have read on other canning websites not to water bath zucchini and tomatoes but to pressure cook them. Oh no!! Do I throw all of it out or wait until I go to use the juice and determine then? What would you do? I was wondering also if you have thrown in zucchini or squash before and how it turned out? Thanks.

    [Reply]

    Melissa Reply:

    Carissa, I know it’s a bit after your post, but wanted to put in my $.02. I canned tomato sauce for the first time yesterday so I understand your anxiety. I am still staring at the jars waiting for them to explode although they are perfectly cooled and content on my counter. I too made my sauce the same way I always do; veggies (onion, garlic, zucchini, bell pepper, herbs, etc.) pureed together with the peeled tomatoes & NO lemon juice. I put them in the jars, sealed them, water bathed them for 45 mins then found all these websites saying NO other veggies (even though the sites I used as resources never said this) & now I am panicked. However, I have friends/family who have canned for years & I put my anxiety to them on FB. All have responded that A.) No lemon juice is fine. Some say they have never added lemons to tomatoes & they are still alive. B.) Some also have made sauce with veggies such as yours & mine & they too are fine. They use a water bath all the time and have not had problems. I’m sure a pressure cooker is desirable, but I am going to go with the majority consensus and keep my jars. Good luck to you!

    [Reply]

    Melissa Reply:

    Carissa, I know it’s a bit after your post, but wanted to put in my $.02. I canned tomato sauce for the first time yesterday so I understand your anxiety. I am still staring at the jars waiting for them to explode although they are perfectly cooled and content on my counter. I too made my sauce the same way I always do; veggies (onion, garlic, zucchini, bell pepper, herbs, etc.) pureed together with the peeled tomatoes & NO lemon juice. I put them in the jars, sealed them, water bathed them for 45 mins then found all these websites saying NO other veggies (even though the sites I used as resources never said this) & now I am panicked. However, I have friends/family who have canned for years & I put my anxiety to them on FB. All have responded that A.) No lemon juice is fine. Some say they have never added lemons to tomatoes & they are still alive. B.) Some also have made sauce with veggies such as yours & mine & they too are fine. They use a water bath all the time and have not had problems. I’m sure a pressure cooker is desirable, but I am going to go with the majority consensus and keep my jars. Good luck to you!

    [Reply]

  18. Amara says

    I’m sure this is a duh question, but if I just have a small amount of tomatoes, can I follow these directions to make the sauce and eat it that week (rather than canning for future)?

    [Reply]

    Melissa Reply:

    Yes,you can. Feel free to freeze it as will if you like.

    [Reply]

    Amara Reply:

    Thanks! Made a pizza that night and it was very good!

    [Reply]

  19. Mike says

    Interesting, I have been making tomatoe sauce for years that has garlic, onion and peppers in it + the years fresh dehydrated spices. (On the edge of spaghetti sauce but useable in like Pepper steak, sausage pastas and such spaghetti or goulas I add additional italian) I also blend with the snins on and cook the sauce at least 4 hours. I water bath at a rolling boil for 35 min pints and 40 min quarts. I have ket my sauce for 2 to 3 years and its always been fine. I also do not use lemon. I did not know when you added onions and peppers it should be pressure canned. I have been a chef most of my life and put up at least 30 Qts and 24 Pts every year. We gift the pints and hord the quarts.
    Who knew?????

    [Reply]

  20. Barbara says

    I have canned tomato sauce for about 3 or 4 years now and have successfully eaten close to 100 pint and quart jars without getting sick and have never used lemon juice or anything else. I canned last night and didn’t know to put in them lemon juice but will do so from now on. If you have jars of sauce or tomatoes already canned I think you are safe to eat it since tomatoes are acidic already.

    [Reply]

  21. JanaLee says

    I just have a quick question… We bought the wrong tomato plants by mistake this year and have grape (Roma/grape hybrid) tomatoes coming out of our ears! Can we use those for making sauce? Will they taste alright?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yep, they’ll work just fine!

    [Reply]

  22. Jasmine says

    Hi! I canned my batch of spaghetti sauce with a few mistakes. my ingredients for the sauce consists of : 40# of romas, onion, garlic, green pepper basil, and oregano. I didn’t add lemon juice and I only processed my quarts for 15-20 minutes in a water bath canner . is that batch going to be ok? Has anybody done this and lived to tell about it? I’m feeding this to my kids, so I’m a little nervous after reading the “real” recipes.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    You’re probably okay since you didn’t add very many non-acidic items to your sauce. :)

    [Reply]

  23. Susan says

    HI! I started over 55 years ago so guess I have put up several thousand jars of Tomatoes in my life. I still love canning but I have changed the way I do it. If I add any low acid veggie to my sauce or juice I pressure can at the time needed for the low acid veggies. In the past I did a simple water bath and no one was ever taken ill, BUT better safe than sorry. It is so easy to say no one has gotten sick YET.Acid is added now due to the new types of tomatoes that tend to have a lower acid content than the older varieties

    [Reply]

  24. Jennifer Murphy says

    I have a question. I just canned tomatoe sauce in quart jars. I did not cook the sauce on the stove prior to putting the sauce in the jars. I water bathed the quart jars for 20 to 25 min. The jars sealed. Is this long enough? If not can I water bath them again?
    Thank You!
    Jen

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    That is long enough for the water bath. :)

    [Reply]

  25. Karin Ryan says

    I am learning so much reading others’ comments. My question is, I canned tomato juice after blanching them, removing the skins, then simmering the pureed juice for a few hours. It looks wierd to see the juice separate in the jars almost immediately after the lids sealed. Is that OK?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, it should be just fine!

    [Reply]

  26. LuAnna says

    I didn’t see where you state how long the water bath processing is for the tomoato juice, sauce and soup and in what size of jars. What size is best for each of these (thinking for sure pints with the sauce). This is my second year canning and I want to try to add new things to my canning experience each year, so that I can figure out what we like the best and how much of it to can each year. Thanks for your help and recipes.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    20-25 minutes of process time works well.

    [Reply]

  27. Joni says

    I have lots and lots of cherry tomatoes and want to make sauce. Can I process them with my large tomatoes or will there too many skins and seeds?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I’ve done this with cherry tomatoes before with no problem!

    [Reply]

  28. renee says

    I have been reading and was going to can my homemade marinara sauce til i read that you cant put oil in it, already did. so i guess i will have to freeze this batch. for the future, when i make the sauce, i will put just my spices in and no oil. my question is how much lemon juice and will it change the way my sauce tastes? i have only canned green beans this year with my husband in a pressure cooker and we havent yet tried the beans. when you read all about canning, it starts to scare you. I know it is easy because soooo many people do it, my mom was one of them. thanks for your advice.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    You can just add about a teaspoon of lemon juice for every quart of sauce and the flavor will not be effected.

    [Reply]

  29. Sylvie says

    Thank you so much for all that you do Laura. I just recently found your blog & I just can’t get enough, very impressed.
    I do have one question on your tomatoe sauce; I still have lots of tomatoes in the freezer from last year that I need to do something with. Do you think it would be ok to thaw them to make your sauce then canne them?
    CHEERS & thanks again ?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    Yes, you sure can!

    [Reply]

  30. says

    I followed this today and didn’t peel the tomatoes and was so excited that you said yours was fine without doing that… but my sauce turned out extremely bitter just as Mom said it would if I left the skins on. So disappointed, does yours really never turn out bitter? Any idea why mine didn’t turn out?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I do prefer the taste with skins taken off, although we eat it just fine with skins on. Here’s something you might be interested in that I discovered just this year. I love it! http://heavenlyhomemakers.com/victorio-food-strainer-and-sauce-maker-best-investment-ever-for-homemade-applesauce-and-tomato-sauce

    [Reply]

  31. thummel1 says

    I love this post. It’s got my sense of humor. So how does your sauce taste? I, too, planted 20 tomato plants this year (doesn’t count though, I thought 8 died when I planted them, so I replaced them, and they are actually flourishing). I’ve NEVER canned. I have a blendtec blender, so I thought hey, I’ll just make a bunch of sauce for pasta with the Blendtec! Pop it in the blender, that thing turns everything to a fine liquid. Nonetheless, I’m kind of scared to start. I’d like to make salsa and bruschetta too. Do you (or anyone) have any recipes or tips to make some yummy stuff? We like spicy, zingy, garlicky stuff. I’ve got most everything I need in my garden now. I seriously have no idea where to start. I will take all tips! Thank you!

    [Reply]

  32. Kathy says

    Question on water bath canned tomatoes. I only canned for 15 minutes, maybe 18. They were Cherokee purples with a few cherry and pear thrown in. I added lemon juice from a bottle. Packed in hot jars and lids, although the tomatoes were room temp, or warm, liquid was hot, however, there was not much of it to add since the jars were pretty full. Pint jars, btw. What do ya’ll think? safe or not?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I think they should be just fine!

    [Reply]

    Kathy Reply:

    Thank you! I did leave out one part, yet another mistake on my part, I did not run an utensil around the jar releasing air bubbles before I canned them. I can see air bubbles in some of the jars. Is that okay?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    You should be fine. Air bubbles are only a concern if they are moving around, as if “fizzy.” That means your food is likely fermented and possibly contaminated. As long as the bubbles are not moving, you’re fine. :)

  33. Barbara says

    I have been canning tomatoe juice for 40 years. I just put in blender with skins & seeds & a jalapeno (I add a dash of tabasco & 1/2 tsp salt to each jar when filling). I have never boiled, before putting in the jars, for as long as everyone is saying. I bring to a boil that can’t be stirred down & boil stirring constantly for 10 min. Fill jars & water bath for 35 min.
    Have never had a problem, am I just playing with fire all these years? No lemon juice either.

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I think you’re fine since you are processing them in a water bath.

    [Reply]

  34. says

    This may be a silly question, but do you then add seasoning to this tomato sauce in the future when you open a jar to use for pizza, spaghetti etc? Or do you just use the tomato sauce straight from the jar as is? Thanks!! I really enjoy your blog!

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I leave the sauce as is, then I add herbs and spices when I’m ready to make spaghetti and such with it. :)

    [Reply]

  35. says

    Silly question….we are making salsa, and I took all the juice from the tomatoes and ran it thru the foley mill. It’s about 6 cups. Can I cook that with some garlic salt or regular salt (~1 tsp) and then can it? I know it’s not a lot, but thought since we were canning, why throw it out (my mom likes tomato juice for bloody Mary’s). Any other suggestions for it?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    You can use it as tomato juice, but it is pretty watery, and not like “actual” tomato juice. I’ve cooked rice in it before just to give the rice a little flavor and to avoid throwing it out. :)

    [Reply]

  36. Eileen B says

    So I was canning tomatoes last night and was tired…I forgot to heat them in a pot for 5 minutes before canning after peeling…I added 2 tablespoon lemon juice and 1 teaspoon salt and poured boiling water to fill…quarts…then processed for 45 minutes am I okay? Man I can’t believe I missed a step!

    Thanks

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    You should be fine. :)

    [Reply]

  37. Madelaine says

    I wash my jars in the dishwasher and leave them in the hot dishwasher until I fill them. Then do a hot water bath. We have never been sick. Hope I’m not tempting fate!

    [Reply]

  38. Saydi says

    Don’t waste energy cooking down for hours when making tomato, spaghetti sauce… Drain the water off easily with cheese cloth, you will have a rich thick sauce and save hours of cooking, gas, or electric. Get ready the day before, cook down some, put in fridge overnite, then use the cheese cloth the next day to drain water off.

    [Reply]

  39. JWight says

    I couldn’t see that this question is answered, but I just finished putting up about 18 quarts of spaghetti sauce that called for oil (2 cups) and lemon juice. I forgot the lemon juice! The sauce is so good – but is the oil without lemon juice ok?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    It’s probably okay, but with the oil, I would hesitate. If your jars aren’t too full, you might consider freezing the sauce just to be sure.

    [Reply]

  40. Terry says

    I just canned my homemade tomato sauce which has onions, basil, garlic, and a little carrot and celery. I added the lemon juice and processed for 35-40 min in a water bath. Will that be ok?

    [Reply]

    Laura Reply:

    I think since you added lemon juice, you should be fine. If you have any concerns though since you added other veggies, you can freeze the sauce just to be safe. :)

    [Reply]

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