Tomatoes! (Canning Tomato Sauce & Tomato Jam)

Food & Drink, Kitchen Gardening, Recipe
San Marzano Tomato

San Marzano Tomato

There is no feeling like that of being overwhelmed with freshly-picked garden-fresh produce. It’s something you want to revel in — that sensation of abundance, the freshness, the deliciousness — but, before long, what sets in is panic. What in the world am I going to do with all this squash, all these cucumbers, 20 pounds of tomatoes, etc.? And whatever I do, I’ve got to do it quickly, before the peak-of-harvest goodness fades.

We haven’t had a garden this year, but I got a taste of this from visiting my father. I also ambitiously placed an order from Johnson’s Backyard Garden (one of the local farms, perhaps the biggest), which was offering huge boxes of tomatoes at the height of their season. I knew we weren’t going to eat 20 lbs of tomatoes immediately, before they rotted away, but I’ve been dabbling in canning, so I figured I could tackle it all one Saturday, if we picked up the harvest that morning.

Then Michael walked in the door that Saturday, having picked up the box of San Marzano sauce tomatoes on his way back from soccer practice. I peered into the box only to find that the tomatoes were still green. There would be no canning done that day.

When could the canning be done? There was no telling. But when those tomatoes ripened, I had to be ready.

To let them ripen, I spread them along the floor in the dining room on sheets of newspaper, out of direct sunlight and covered with another layer of newspaper. Then, I checked on them a couple of times a day, to see how they were coming along.tomatoes-ripening


Meanwhile, I plotted. I wanted to make more than one thing, just to keep things more interesting. But I didn’t want to endure two big canning sessions. So I came up with two recipes and used Thanksgiving Dinner-style timing hocus-pocus to juggle pots, stove space, canner availability, etc. Of course, they ripened in the middle of the week, but I rolled with the punches. The result: Tomato Jam (5 lbs of tomatoes to this) and Seasoned Tomato Sauce (15 lbs of tomatoes to this – 1.5x the recipe below).tomatoes-boiling


What surprised me is how little end product I finished with, given the huge volume of tomatoes with which I started. Still, they were delicious, and I expect they will continue to be.tomatoes-in-cans


Tomato Jam

(based on this recipe on the amazing

makes 4 1/2 to 5 pints


  1. 5 pounds tomatoes, chopped finely (plum/sauce tomatoes preferred)
  2. 3 1/2 cups sugar
  3. 8 tbsp lime juice
  4. 2 tsp freshly grated ginger
  5. 1 tsp cinnamon
  6. 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  7. 1 tbsp salt
  8. 1 tbsp red chili flakes


  1. Put all ingredients in a large, non-reactive pot. This means something like stainless steel or enamel-covered cast iron, which won’t react with the acids in the tomatoes.
  2. Bring to a boil.
  3. Lower temperature to a simmer.
  4. Stir regularly as the jam reduces to something sticky and thick. The original recipe said this would take between 1 and 1.5 hours, but it took me more like 2.5 or more. Be careful here, because it’s easy, toward the end, to overcook and have the jam stick to the bottom of the pot (like I did). It needs to be carefully watched.
  5. When the jam has cooked down, remove from heat and fill jars. You should leave 1/4 inch of head space.
  6. Process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.
  7. When time is up, wait 5 minutes, remove jars from water bath and cool.

Number of servings (yield): 4.5-5


Seasoned Tomato Sauce

From the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving

Makes 6 pints


  1. 10 lbs tomatoes, cored
  2. 2.5 cups finely chopped nions
  3. 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  4. 1.5 tsp dried oregano
  5. 2 bay leaves
  6. 1 tsp salt
  7. 1 tsp black pepper
  8. 1 tsp granulated sugar
  9. 1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
  10. Bottled lemon juice or citric acid


  1. Wash and quarter tomatoes.
  2. Place first six in a large non-reactive saucepan.
  3. Bring to a boil over high heat, mashing them with a potato masher to crush tomatoes.
  4. Keep them boiling and keep stirring, while adding the remainder of the tomato quarters. Continue crushing as you add these.
  5. When all the tomatoes have been added, stir in onions, garlic, oregano, bay leaves, salt, pepper, sugar and hot pepper flakes.
  6. Return to a boil.
  7. Reduce heat to medium and boil, stirring frequently. Continue until sauce is reduced by half and thickens, about 2 hours.
  8. Press tomato mixture through a sieve or food mill to remove skins and seeds. Discard these.
  9. Return sauce to saucepan and bring to full rolling boil. Remove from heat.
  10. Before filling each jar, add 1 tbsp of lemon juice or 1/4 tsp citric acid to the hot jar.
  11. Fill each jar with tomato sauce, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.
  12. Process in a water bath canner for 35 minutes.
  13. Remove from heat.
  14. Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars and cool.

Number of servings (yield): 6 pints

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