Make your own pizza sauce: canning 101

I’ve posted a canning recipe or two on here in the past, but usually skip over a lot of the basics, assuming that it’s, well, basic. And I promise, once you’ve done it a time or two, you won’t even have to think about it.

But today, we’re going to walk through each step involved in making a simple pizza sauce. The best part is, once you get the process down, the only thing that will change for other recipes are the ingredients and boiling time.

To make your homemade pizza sauce, you’ll obviously need a bunch of fresh tomatoes. I grow Opalka and San Marzano (both paste-type) specifically for making sauces, but you can use whatever you’ve got – you just might need to simmer them down a bit longer, because a general eating tomato will usually have more water. Toss in some garlic, oregano (very easy to grow, but you can use dried if that’s all you have), and a little salt, and that’ll do it. The even better best part is that the recipe does not at all have to be specific (I certainly don’t measure anything, but I’ll include rough measurements) – throw in as many tomatoes as you want, and then season by trial and error until you get the taste you want.


Homemade Pizza Sauce

8-10 pounds fresh tomatoes

5-6 cloves garlic, crushed

1 large handful fresh oregano, chopped (about 1/2 cup)

Salt, to taste

You can start this one of two ways: easy, or not easy. The easy way is just washing the tomatoes off, then tossing them all into a large saucepan or stockpot. I don’t mind seeds in my tomato sauce, and it’s going to get blended anyway, so you won’t notice the skin.

If skin and seed bother you, you’ll have to set up a pot of boiling water, prick each tomato with a knife, and place them into the boiling water for a minute or so (the skins should start to peel back). Plop them into a bowl of cold water to stop them from cooking, then remove. The skins should slide off, but you’ll probably need to mess with them a bit. Cut each tomato in half latitudinally (across the equator), then scoop the seeds out. Repeat, again, and again. (Full disclosure: I used to do it this way. Then I realized what a waste of time it was. But to each his own.)

With all the tomatoes in the saucepan, place over medium to medium-low heat. We’re not trying to boil them to death, just simmer to release the flavors and get them to break down.

After 30-45 minutes, check back to see how they’re doing. By now, they should be kind of a gloppy mess, with the water separating from the “meat.” You can either add the garlic, oregano, and salt now, or wait until after the tomatoes are blended. I like to see chunks of garlic and oregano, so I wait. Whatever you decide to do, now’s the time to get out your immersion blender (one of the most convenient kitchen tools we have) and blend away. Or, you can process in a regular blender, in batches, until smooth.

If you haven’t added the seasonings yet, do it now. Simmer some more, stirring occasionally, until it’s reduced to your liking. Mine usually goes for 3-4 hours from start to finish; if you like it extra-thick, you’ll need to simmer longer.

Get out your pint jars, along with lids and bands. The above recipe made about six pints, but will vary depending on how many tomatoes you use, what kind, how thick your sauce is, etc. Just plan for a couple extra jars – it’s easier to have extra sitting there than to realize you need more halfway and have to run back down to the basement to get them… To process, you’ll also need a canning pot, or a stock pot deep enough that it will cover the tops of the jars by at least an inch.

Fill your pot with water, maybe 2/3 full (remember to consider water displacement – if you fill your pot to the top, when you put your full jars in, you’ll end up with water all over the stove!). Bring to a boil.

Add the jars and lids to the boiling water to sterilize, just a couple minutes. Remove from the water and place on a dish towel (just to prevent potential breakage – it’s possible, but not likely, that you could put a very hot jar onto a cold counter, causing the glass to shatter, so the towel insulates a bit). Ladle the hot sauce into the jars, filling to within about 1/2″ from the top (headspace). Some tools that are handy, but not necessary, for these steps are a jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter, and canning funnel.

Before you put the lids on, wipe the rim of each jar with a damp towel – if you have anything on the lid, it can prevent a good seal from forming. Place the lids on, then the bands, and hand tighten – no need to get out the pliers for this.

Lower each jar into your pot (with the water still boiling). Add water if needed to cover the tops by one inch. Bring the water back to a boil, then leave the jars for 35 minutes (for pints; if you’re doing quarts, wait 40).

Remove the pot from heat, then let it sit for a couple minutes to let the jars settle down. Remove the jars, again setting them on a dish towel or cutting board. In 10-15 minutes, you should start to hear the melodious pinging sounds of the jars sealing. Wait until they’re cool enough to handle and move them to their long-term storage area (or leave them out, because freshly canned tomato sauce is nice to look at, with all those specks of white and green). They’ll keep for at least a year, but they probably won’t last that long, because now you’ll be making homemade pizza at least once a week.