Summer is finally here! Even if not officially, the tomatoes sprouting everywhere tell me “It’s a good ol’ summertime”. As promised a few posts back, I am going to show you how I, yours truly, bottles my homemade tomato sauce for the year. No, we don’t have a tomato grove or garden, no I don’t have a large kitchen, and no I don’t have a pressure canner….it’s me, my recipe, and my tomatoes under the Sicilian sun!
Note: I have to say this, so please forgive me: The canning method I use is what I have learned here in Sicily and believe to work best for my family. I am not in anyway against pressure canning nor do I feel my method is any less safe than that of pressure canning. Please use the method you feel safest with as I am not responsible for any mishaps or illnesses.
….whew! Now…… on to the fun stuff!
Do you remember my sweet Sicilian neighbors, Sara and her husband Michele from the prior posts? Well, having the green thumb he has, he knows where to get the best fresh tomatoes for canning. Here in Italy, most of the vegetables come from down here in Sicily due to the vast amount of agricultural land we have. So the growers literally pick the tomatoes of the vine in the morning, let’s say by noon……they are then taken to wholesale warehouses where the trucking companies buy, for example, the tomatoes and then off they go to the north of Italy to be distributed to the supermarkets. The beautiful thing is that this warehouse is also open to the public =D So I bought my tomatoes…….100 POUNDS for €20,00 ( $26.00 ) …..Was that terrific or what?! I know you are thinking how on earth am I going to process 100 pounds of tomatoes? Not to worry! Some will be used for my sun dried tomatoes (a furture post =) and the rest I’ll be canning in phases. So, now that you have a bit of how it works here in Sicily, on with the tomatoes!
Here are my beauties….these kinds of tomatoes are called “datteri” in Italian (because they look like “dates”)…..smaller sized but oh so sweet and juicy! But you can use whatever tomatoes you would like.
First, wash and cut the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in a large stockpot and add the following ingredients…..it’s very similar to the pasta sauce base I usually make (….see my other post “Pasta Sauce with Garlic, Red Wine and Arugula”….)
– 1 cup of olive oil
– 1\2 to 3\4 cup of red wine
– 1\3 cup of dried herbs (whatever you like…..I use a mixture of rosemary, basil, oregano….. and just a bit of sage, if I have it growing on my balcony)
– 6 to 7 large garlics, smashed
– 4 to 6 large bay leaves
– Salt, to taste
Once the ingredients are added, mix with a wooden spoon to incorporate the flavors.
Then, using a potato masher, mash the tomatoes a bit to help break apart the pieces and allow the flavors to develop even further. Bring the stockpot to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, cooking for 2 hours until nice and deep red in color with some of the liquid evaporated.
Once ready, remove the large bay leaves, place a large glass bowl under and begin straining using a tomato strainer (called “passatutto”) like an Italian!.…fitted with the largest disk to strain out the really thick peels….you will still get the yummy pulp if using the largest disk (…..I can’t have tomato sauce without pulp!)
ahhhhhh! If only you could get a whiff!!!!!
Let the sauce cool down for about half an hour, then begin filling your sterilized jars\bottles. I sterilize my jars using the old fashioned plunging each jar and lid in boiling water method. I’ve heard you can also run the dishwasher to sterilize them.
Note: You can reuse the glass jars until you see them compromised (glass cracking, chips, etc….) The lids, I would change every 3-4 uses or when you see them weakening (not closing easily, metal chipping, etc….). If you generally buy the same products over and over (mayonnaise, sauce, etc) you will always have extra jars and lids!
Here they are all sterilized and ready to be filled…….Yes, the towels are clean, that black mark you see on the towel is a burnt mark….it once accidentally touched the flame on the stove =( ……hubby doesn’t know that I nearly burned the house down, and I plan to keep it that way! =D
Here they are with my handy dandy canning funnel! Would you believe I just found this last year!?…Before that, I was using an oil funnel that you use on cars =D It was the only thing I found with somewhat of a wide spout! But now, oh…It’s so much easier filling these jars.
When finished, fill a large stockpot with about two cups of water….place your jars in…..fill with more water until the jars are almost completely submerged and bring to a boil. If you are worried about the jars noisily dancing together, just place clean fingertip or washcloth towels in between the jars. Boil on medium for about 30 minutes.
Then, line a large laundry basket or container with a thick heavy blanket and place the basket in a draft free, undisturbed area of your kitchen or house. Using jar tongs, remove the jars and place them inside the basket, covering them well with more blankets on top so they stay warm initially and cool down gradually….you will hear their lids pop and start to vacuum seal as the day passes. Let them stay in the basket at least two full days. Then check each lid to make sure each is air tight! To check the lid, press down in the center……if it’s airtight, you will see the center sucked in and it won’t click down……if it clicks down, it’s not air tight….so just open the jar and place in the fridge or transfer to a container and freeze for later use.
Store in the pantry and you have the best pizza and pasta sauce ready for you meals…..just add whatever other ingredients you like, e.g. onions, more garlic, etc after opening the jar and prepare your delicious meal =)
Happy tomato canning!
For more delicious recipes, be sure to check out my new eBook “Cucina Siciliana” filled with lots of truly authentic recipes given to me by family and friends here in Sicily….it’s only 99 cents!
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Love the recipe- I would love to try it- how many lbs. of tomatoes did you use for the recipe above?
Hi Heather! I think it was roughly 25-30 pounds. I’m so glad you would like to try the recipe. Let me know how it works out for you! =)
Recipe! Thank you
Hi I do alot of canning and I grow most of it, I’m wondering if you could tell me where I can buy the datteri seeds from, I have grown many different kinds of tomatoes and have never heard of datteris. I’d like to try them always searching for better tasting produce. Thank you, Jackie
Hi Jackie! Hmmmm, I did a search on line for you to see what would be the equivalent of the Italian “datteri” and they say it’s part of what we would call in the States, “grape tomatoes”. I personally, have never seen these kinds growing up in California, however I’m sure if you look into the different species of grape tomatoes you may find more information on line and where to buy the seeds =)
If you had to substitute for a tomato readily available in the states what would you recommend? I’m growing a bunch of romas now. How would that compare?
Hi Amy! Thanks for taking the time to write =) Romas are fine….actually that’s what I use when I visit and can tomatoes for my parents in California since they don’t have datteri tomatoes. The sauce won’t be “dolce” as they say in Italian (meaning not as sweet), but I find them as a good substitute nontheless….just make sure your romas are nice and ripe. When I checked online, they say that datteri are from the “grape” tomato family. So if you can find grape tomatoes, you may have a very close match =)
Thank you!!! Can’t wait to try this and the sundried tomatoes. Will be looking for a new variety of tomato also.
Hi Amy! No problem! I hope you enjoy making both recipes =)
Have I been living in a cave? I thought to can anything, you had to buy the canning jars, the lids and rings. At least that’s what my grandmother did. You just re-use regular jars? OMG, what a money saver that would be.
Hi Judy! LOL….no you are not living in a cave….actually, before I moved to Italy, I thought the same thing! While it’s great to change the jars and lids every time you can food, I personally feel, after living here, that it isn’t necessary. Yes, you can re-use regular jars but remember a couple of things when recycling store bought jars 1) You MUST sterilize the lids and jars before canning 2) The glass jars can be reused many times as long as they are not compromised by cracks or chips….the lids, I would change every 3-4 uses or when you see the lids weakening (not closing easily, etc)….if you buy a lot of products from the stores with jars and always save them, you will always have extra jars and lids! =)
I have heard of reusing jars but never seen the process on a blog. I’m amazed!
Hi Amanda! Yes, you can reuse them…just be sure to sterilize them before and change the lids after every couple of uses….then you are good to go! =)
How many jars would you need for this recipie ? How long is the shelf life?
Hi Marianne! You would need at least 20-30 jars….shelf life is 1 year for sure….mine never last past the year =D….we go through them too quickly!
When you say 25-30 jars, do you mean quart jars, or pint?
I use store Mayonnaise jars =)
Holy moley, reusing jars and lids??!! I also was told to buy new rings. I just last week threw out a bunch of small jars with lids because the “Ball” lids did not quite fit. Dang, what a waste. But now I know I can use the store bought jars. I am heading out to town to by some bay leaves and Italian seasoning and giving it a shot. I love to garden but most of what I produce was given away because I did not want to take the time, have all the equipment to can. I made plum jam last week, with less sugar added (Diabetic) and it was wonderful. I can’t wait to try this recipe. Thank you, thank you, thank you
Hi John! Have fun making the recipe….you won’t be dissapointed! You are very welcome =)
I want to can my own sauce, but it includes fresh garlic, onions and sugar. Is this something I can do with a pressure cooker or do I need to just can the basics and add these ingredients afterwards? I’d like to give these as gifts or possibly sell at my local farmer’s market, but I can’t seem to find the best process. I’ve seen so many things on blogs that say “you can’t can your personal sauce recipe” because of the acid/PH levels. Your recipe contains the most ingredients I’ve seen to date in basic water-bath canning. Any advice or other resources? Thanks!!!
Hi Dawn! I’m not sure about canning with sugar? I genarally add garlic, but not onions only because I prefer garlic to onions when canning. I have come accross articles where people have canned everything from veggies to meat (believe it or not) with a pressure canner. I’ve never used a pressure canner personally, although I’m sure it’s a very trusted and secure method. I feel tomato sauce is safe to can water-bathed because tomatoes have high acid\PH levels. However, in my experience, I can only tomato sauce in water bath canning like most women here, and I do add some garlic, wine and herbs….but that’s as much as I’ll add when canning. I’ve canned my sauce yearly, but never to sell….only for my family. If you are going to sell the sauce, I would personally pressure can, to be on the safe side. Sure you can also just make the basic sauce and add the ingredients you mentioned afterwards….when I use my sauce for pizza, I then top the sauce with more ingredients and it’s delicious beyond words. Do what makes you feel comfortable. And the key is using fresh, ripe tomatoes…..your sauce depends on that! =)
I am looking to can this weekend. Just making sure the acidity levels are good for canning in this recipe. Does the acid come from the addition of the red wine?
Hi Meghan! Most tomatoes have enough acidity to can on their own…..I just add wine because I like the pronounced flavor in gives the sauce with the passing of time. My understanding is that the wine won’t raise the acidity…it’s just a taste preferency =)
I have canned tomatoes and tomato sauces for years without adding anything extra for acidity. Never had any issues. I always use a Roma type tomato that I start from seed and grow. My favorite for Italian type sauces is the San Marzano. This year it has been excellent. In the past I have added a little sugar, but didn’t need to with this batch. I have added onions and peppers to the sauce before canning with no problems either. I like your idea of adding those later. I always use the water bath method of canning. I left out the wine today because I didn’t have any. But the sauce is still so good I could eat it with a spoon all by itself! Just found your blog today and love it! My grandmother is full blooded Italian so I love finding blogs like yours. Thanks!
Hi Natalie! Thanks for sharing your experience! There is nothing like homemade canned tomato sauce =) Gather as many recipes from your “nonna” (grandmother) as possible because that’s as authentic as it gets! My neighbor here in Sicily is always teaching me Italian cooking methods I never knew of…..and the food, oh my goodness! Thanks for your kinds words about the blog…keep visiting =) Buona Giornata!
i made a huge batch of your sauce today with tomatoes from our garden. Most of the tomatoes were Roma’s. My sauce ended up thin almost like a thick juice. Any ideas on what I did wrong?
Hi Deana =) Hmmmm. There are only two reasons that I can think of that caused your sauce to become runny 1) Sometimes the harvested tomatoes have too much water in them. This happens when the crop is over watered. Here’s a Sicilian Tip: Right before harvesting the tomatoes, DO NOT give them any water for about 2-3 days…that will reduce the water in them, thus making them less watery tasting as well. 2) You may need to increase your boil\simmer time….let them cook\simmer longer…the water will evaporate, leaving you with nice thick pulp. Hope this helps! =)
Different tomatoes have different amount of liquid in them regardless of the water in the ground. I use Jet Star tomatoes and they have lots of liquid. The way I eliminate this is to take the skins off the tomatoes by dunking them in boiling water for 1 minute then in ice water. This will slip the skins off. I quarter them and put them in a stock pot and cook them down letting the liquid come to the top. Stir often and don’t turn fire on high or they will stick in the bottom of the pan. After they have simmered and you can tell the liquid is coming out of the tomatoes pour them through a colander with bigger holes and stir them around in the colander letting the juice flow out of the holes. I put the liquid tomato juice into clean jars to can and use for other recipes such as chili. I put the tomatoes back into the pot again and cook down some more. After a couple times I have a very thick tomato paste. I use an electric hand held blender in the pot to mix it all up together after I have cooked them down to the thickness I want. This is much faster than trying to cook down tomato sauce that is full of many quarts of liquid. The last batch I did had 5 quarts of liquid I took off in an hour. It would have taken all day and all night of cooking down to get that thickness of sauce had I left it in there. Add all your spices, etc after that. I pressure can all my canned tomato recipes. It is much faster than hot water bath. I have never tried to grow grape tomatoes, but I certainly may try it next year. To buy them would cost a fortune. One pint in the store in the mid-USA is $3.
Hi Gayle =) Great tip on reducing the liquid quickly, thanks =)
hi there I have made sauce recently using recipe from a canning cookbook and I’m so unhappy with the flavor. I see that yours has a oil and all these really yummy ingredients and no addition of vinegar or balsamic vinegar or lemon juice I really want to try your recipe why do you think all these new recipes are including these vinegars? My mother-in-law is telling me that it’s safest to add the vinegar’s but I absolutely hate the flavor just wanted to get your thoughts
Thanks for writing. Hmmmm, personally I have never heard of anyone adding vinegar to tomato sauce here in Italy. I would agree, the taste would surely alter =( Women have been bottling sauce for ages here in Italy without any problem….some just using tomatoes only! I go a step further and add all my other ingredients (oil, wine, etc) because I enjoy that flavor, not because they are necessary. As far as I’m concerned, if you make sure the jars are air tight, you will be just fine. I’ve been doing this now for several years and I’ve never had any problems =)
After i used the tomato strainer, do i add my juices/pulp back into the other juices from the pot?
Hi Maryann =)
Thanks for writing. It depends….do you want the sauce pulpy? Or more on the runny side? It’s really up to you. You can just eyeball it and see if you need to add some pulp from the strainer back into the other juices. It really depends how pulpy the sauce is. I like mine nice and pulpy, meaning more on the thicker side. So again, it’s really up to you =)
I’ve canned apple butter almost yearly because we use it in so many ways and where we live apples are in abundance. Most recently this year I’ve become completely obsessed with canning, it’s so much fun. I’ve pretty much been canning anything I can get my hands on that is can-able! I’m so glad I came across this recipe because I have the biggest box absolutely filled with grape tomatoes. My mind is a little blown that you can use jars and lids from products that you’ve already used up. I always fully sanitize everything anyway and give my jars and lids a good boil so that will not be a problem when I reuse old jars. Thank you so much for posting this!
Hi Heidi =) Thanks for taking the time to write! I’m laughing about your obsession with canning =) It IS addictive! Have fun canning away!
This is my first year water bath canning. I used Roma tomatoes, red wine, some onion and green peppers ( not a lot) garlic, bay leaf, fresh basil, dried oregano, salt, pepper, a couple tablespoons of sugar and 2 Tablespoons of balsamic vinegar. But when it came to adding the lemon juice to the jars as the newer recipes recommend, I made the mistake of only adding half the amount suggested. Now I am paranoid that there won’t be enough acid to keep them preserved over time. I was thinking that I will be okay because I have a little vinegar and a cup of red wine in there as well. And I don’t think Roma tomatoes are low acid tomatoes, so that should help as well. Any thoughts on if wine adds acid?
Hi Lora =) Thanks for writing! Well, here in Sicily, Generally canning tomatoes is done using ONLY tomatoes, unless you want to add wine, spices, salt, ect to your liking (purely optional). Tomatoes are acidic enough on there own. No worries. No, as far as I’m told, wine will not improve acidity…it’s purely a question of taste. Don’t worry, if you water bath long enough (like my recipes says) and then check the lids to make sure they are sealed, you should be just fine =)
About how many pounds is your recipe? I have garden tomatoes ready to go, I just need an approximate on the weight. I know I’ll have to cut your recipe in half. Im using bigger tomaties, but still looks like you have A LOT more than I! 😊
Ciao Tricia!….good question =) I usually eyeball the tomatoes (basically until they almost reach the top of your stock pot…usually between 10-15 pounds? Hope you enjoy the recipe!
Hi, just found your recipe this morning. Things here in Canada are about to start the ripening rush at the farmers markets, the Roma’s are ready and the bushel baskets are filling up fast. My wonderful wife has stepped out to pick up a bushel basket and we’re going to give this recipe a try. We have bath canned before with great success, and even tryed a quick Basil flavour that was freezer ready. Wish us luck. Our shelves are ready. Oh yea, the reusing of store bought jars, 2 thumbs up to that. Will be starting a new hoard of old pickle/mayonnaise jars.