Tomato-Preserving Recipes: Sauce, Crushed, Marinara, Jam, Salsa, and Sun Dried

It’s the middle of tomato season. We’re bringing in about 7–10 lb of the red buggers each day from our 125 plants. We have a dozen German Johnson, eighteen San Marzano II, and ten Matt’s Wild Cherry tomato plants as well as about ninety volunteers that sprang up in my potting soil: Brandywine, San Marzano, cherry, and salad tomato types. With more than a bushel of tomatoes each week, we are in full-tilt preservation mode. You can see our tomato work in the next Foodmageddon video, but here, I want to share our recipes and processes for preserving the tomato harvest.

I first became aware of tomato canning when . . .

Every Recipe website ever

On a personal note, I detest visiting a website for a recipe and having to read the author’s life story first. So to combat that trend, I’m going to get right on to five recipes on one page — with no backstory.

But to cover our legal liability: always follow USDA or other published instructions if in doubt or feeling litigious. I use these recipes and have had no problems, but use at your own risk!

Tomato Sauce

Pint of tomato sauce.

Tomato sauce, not pasta sauce (see below), is just what it sounds like: tomatoes cooked down to a thick sauce for use in soups or other sauces. The tomatoes are blanched to remove the skins and then boiled down to a concentrated consistency. That’s about it.

Tomato Sauce Recipe

Source: I don’t remember, but the USDA has a version.
Yield: 9 pints

  • 15–20 lb beefsteak-type tomatoes (larger amount makes thicker sauce)
  • 2 T vinegar OR 1 T lemon juice OR 1/4 t citric acid per pint (double for quarts)
  • 1 t salt, per pint (optional)

Blanch the tomatoes and remove the skin (drop about 3 lb of tomatoes in boiling water for 1 min, remove and drop into bowl with icewater to cool, remove the skins and give to chickens). Core tomatoes. Repeat for rest.

Drop the first two batches of blanched tomatoes into a large saucepan (stainless steel, preferably) and crush with a potato masher. Cook over medium-high heat. Once boiling, add more of the blanched and cored tomatoes. No need to cut or crush them, but it doesn’t hurt.

Boil over medium (or so) heat uncovered, stirring often and keeping the bottom of the pan scraped clean. Reduce to about 9 pints.* I’ve used the immersion blender to homogenize the consistency.

As the sauce is reducing, sterilize nine pint jars, lids, and rings (see the USDA guide if you’re new to canning). Fill the jars, with acid (vinegar, lemon juice, or citric acid) and tomatoes, leaving ca. 1/2 inch headspace. Process for 35 min. Remove and let cool. Remove rings, label, and store those that sealed. Reprocess or refrigerate those that didn’t.

*Pro tip: I filled up my cooking pot with various amounts of water and used the handle of a wooden spoon as a gauge, notching it at different amounts (e.g., 9 pints, 7 quarts, etc.) so I can accurately gauge the volume of anything I’m cooking.

Crushed Tomatoes

Pint of crushed tomatoes.

Much like sauce, but quicker. This can be used in soups all winter. I’m already looking forward to it.

Crushed Tomato Recipe

Source: Again, I can’t remember, but the USDA has a version, too.
Yield: 9 pints

  • 15 lb beefsteak or other tomatoes (not paste type)
  • 2 T vinegar OR 1 T lemon juice OR 1/4 t citric acid per pint (double for quarts)
  • 1 t salt, per pint (optional)

Blanch the tomatoes and remove the skin (drop about 3 lb of tomatoes in boiling water for 1 min, remove and drop into bowl with icewater to cool, remove the skins and give to chickens). Core tomatoes. Leave whole, halve, or quarter to create uniform-sized pieces. Repeat for rest.

Drop the first batch of blanched tomatoes into a large saucepan (stainless steel, preferably) and crush with a potato masher. Cook over medium-high heat. Once boiling, add more of the blanched and cored tomatoes. Do not crush.

Boil over medium (or so) heat uncovered, stirring often and keeping the bottom of the pan scraped clean. Boil for 5–10 min.

As tomatoes boil, sterilize nine pint jars, lids, and rings (see the USDA guide if you’re new to canning).

Unlike most recipes, I strain the tomato juice and bits through a tight sieve, reserving the liquid. This makes sure I get even distribution of bits and juice. Leftover liquid can be drunk as tomato juice or used to make tomato risotto.

Fill the jars, with acid (vinegar, lemon juice, or citric acid) and tomato bits, evenly distributed. Then fill the rest of jars with strained liquid, leaving ca. 1/2 inch headspace. Process for 35 min. Remove and let cool. Remove rings, label, and store those that sealed. Reprocess or refrigerate those that didn’t.

Marinara Sauce

Pint of marinara sauce with olive oil separation.

Marinara means “seafaring” in Italian, so for my money, it has to have anchovy paste. It adds salty umami flavor. We tried many recipes, such as from the New York Times, the Joy of Cooking, and others. They’re all fine, but the recipes for canning generally come down to modifying the USDA recipe. Use at your own risk.

Marinara Sauce Recipe

Source: various, but USDA is always a safe, basic recipe to follow.
Yield: 16 pints

  • 30 lb tomatoes (I’m using 50/50 beefsteak and paste this year)
  • 1 C chopped onions
  • 5–8 cloves minced garlic
  • 1 C chopped peppers
  • 3 T anchovy paste
  • 4 1/2 t salt
  • 2 T dry or 4 T fresh oregano
  • 2 T dry or 4 T fresh parsley
  • 2 t black pepper (or to taste)
  • 1/4 C white or brown sugar or honey (optional, depending on tomato sweetness)
  • 1/4 C olive oil

Blanch the tomatoes and remove the skin (drop about 3 lb of tomatoes in boiling water for 1 min, remove and drop into bowl with icewater to cool, remove the skins and give to chickens). Core tomatoes. Leave whole, halve, or quarter to create uniform-sized pieces. Repeat for rest.

Boil gently for 20 min, uncovered in large saucepan. Pass through food mill.

In the same saucepan, saute onions in olive oil for a few minutes, then add garlic for another minute over medium heat, then anchovy paste for another minute, and then the peppers. Cook a few minutes longer and add the salt, spices, and sugar (if using).

Add sieved tomatoes back to the pan and bring to boil and then simmer until thick enough for taste (reducing the volume by maybe half, depending on tomato type. Stir frequently and scrape the bottom often.

Meanwhile, sterilize nine pint jars and keep them warm. When ready, fill the jars, leaving 1-in headspace. Pressure can for 60 min at 11 psi (quarts 70 min). If you don’t use the anchovy paste, you can get away with 20 min for pints (25 for quarts).

Tomato Jam

Half pint of tomato jam.

This is a family favorite. We like it spicy, but vary to your taste. Try it. It’s really good. I can’t stress this enough.

Tomato Jam Recipe

Source: various, but probably started with the New York Times recipe.
Yield: 3 pints

  • 5 lb tomatoes cored and chopped
  • 3 1/2 C sugar
  • 1/2 C bottled lime juice
  • 2 t grated fresh ginger
  • 1 t ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 t ground cloves
  • 1 T sea salt
  • 1 T red pepper flakes

Combine everything in nonreactive saucepan. Bring to boil and then reduce to simmer, stirring regularly until it reduces to a glossy (not runny) consistency, usually around 1 1/2–2 hours.

If desired, sterilize jars, fill with jam, leaving 1/2 in headspace, and process for 20 minutes in a water-bath canner.

Salsa

Pint of red salsa.

We make this in both red and green tomato varieties.

Salsa Recipe

Source: various, but USDA is always a safe, basic recipe to follow.
Yield: 16 pints

  • 10 lb either red paste tomatoes or green tomatoes*
  • 5 C yellow or white onions, chopped
  • 1/2 C spicy peppers or chilies (to taste), minced
  • 3–4 C nonspicy peppers or chilies, seeded, chopped
  • 2 C lime juice
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 2 T salt
  • 1 T pepper
  • 2 T cumin
  • 3 T oregano
  • 2 T fresh cilantro, chopped
    *If using green tomatoes, add 1 C vinegar, 1 T sugar

Blanch the tomatoes and remove the skin (drop about 3 lb of tomatoes in boiling water for 1 min, remove and drop into bowl with icewater to cool, remove the skins and give to chickens). Core tomatoes. Leave whole, halve, or quarter to create uniform-sized pieces. Repeat for rest.

Drop everything (except cumin, oregano, and cilantro) in a large, nonreactive saucepot and bring to boil, stirring often. Reduce heat to simmer for 10 min and continue to stir. Add remaining spices and simmer another 20 min.

Meanwhile, sterilize sixteen pint jars and keep them warm. When ready, fill the jars, leaving 1/2-in headspace. Water-bath can for 15 min (quarts 25 min).

Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Another great way to save tomatoes without refrigeration. Unfortunately, they take a bit of energy to make using a oven or electric dehydrator. Using a solar-powered one is best, if available.

Sun-Dried Tomato Recipe

Source: various, but USDA has a great publication.
Yield: less than you imagine

  • beefsteak or paste tomatoes

Cut the tomatoes in halves, quarters, or sixths (for really large ones), so they are about the size of a half-dollar. You want pieces that are similar size and weight so they dry similarly (surface area and moisture content dictate this). Do no mix tomato types, as they dry differently.

Spread the tomatoes out on drying racks, which can be lightly coated in olive oil.

Dehydrator: Dry according to electric dehydrator directions.

Oven: Place racks in oven on lowest setting, cracking the door open and aiming for around 135°F on the racks. Rotate racks every hour or so (more near the end) and flip the tomatoes as they dry ever few hours. Remove those that are dehydrated. Careful near the end, as less water is available to absorb the heat, they can go from perfect to desiccated in a half hour.

Solar: Same as for oven, but don’t crack the door open and instead regulate airflow as designed (varies by model, but mine is like this).


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