This recipe for your own homemade organic tomato sauce is for you if you: love the taste of vine-ripened locally grown tomatoes; worry about “store bought” tomatoes containing too much high fructose corn syrup, cane sugar, salt or other additives; want to avoid canned tomatoes or tomato sauce because the can linings might contain BPA; or just like the idea of making your own food.
This recipe is also for you if you don’t want to bother with canning. I’m a fan of freezing tomatoes because it’s just so easy to do.
What you’ll need:
Tomatoes - I prefer to use mostly Roma, with a few beefsteak and heirloom tomatoes thrown in. I buy organic pretty much exclusively, or use tomatoes my neighbors give me when their gardens overflow (I don’t have enough sun to grow my own.).
Cutting board and sharp knife - You’ll need to quarter the tomatoes and remove the pulpy seeds before you throw them into the food processor. Avoid using a wooden board, since all the tomato juice will soak into the wood and make it hard to clean. A serrated knife works well to slice through tomato skin and all the way through the tomato. I try to scrape the juice from the board into a bowl so I can drink it later or mix it into gazpacho or something.
Food processor -The food processor can chop the tomatoes into such small pieces that you won’t need to remove the skins, which saves a lot of time and also ensures that you keep all the vitamins, nutrients and fiber that are in tomato skin.
Colander and bowl - You’ll need a colander to drain the tomatoes after you wash them, and then again to capture the tomato juice when you’re seeding the tomatoes.
Large stock pot - Use the pot to simmer the liquid out of the tomatoes before you freeze them.
Spoons, Ladles - A long, stainless steel slotted spoon is best for stirring the tomatoes when they’re in the pot so they don’t burn. Use the ladle, a large serving spoon, or a stainless steel, long-handled measuring cup to transfer the simmered tomatoes to the freezer jars.
Freezer jars – You can buy glass canning and freezer jars, or use glass jars you’ve saved from other foods and sauces. I prefer glass over plastic because chemicals from the plastic might seep into the food if it’s hot when you put it in the jar. If you do use plastic, make sure your sauce is totally cool before you put it in the container. Leave 1/2 to 3/4 of an inch of space between the food and the jar lid so the food has room to expand when it freezes.
Get Started …
1) Get organic, locally grown tomatoes. Check you local farmer’s market, your own garden, a CSA, or a nearby pick-your-own patch. If you only shop at a grocery store, choose the locally grown, organic tomatoes they should have in stock right now. I picked the huge pile of tomatoes pictured left over three days from my neighbor’s garden when they went on vacation. Lucky me!
2) Gently wash. Once I have my tomatoes, I carefully dump them in the sink to wash them off. Even if they’re organic, they may have a little dirt on them. Little insects may also have come along for the ride, so giving the tomatoes a nice spray is a good idea. I let them drip dry in a colander as I get everything else ready.
3) Prepare pots and jars. I like to have all my pots, jars and utensils ready before I need them, mostly because it saves time. So get out your cutting board, knife, and food processor if you’re using one. Put the stock pot on the stove. Wash your jars in hot soapy water or run them through the dishwasher.
4) Cut tomatoes into quarters and use your thumbs to take out the seedy pulp. I do this over a colander that’s sitting on a wide, deep bowl, so I can capture the juice that drips out from the seeds. Every so often, dump the seeded quarters into the food processor.
5) Pulse at high speed. When the food processor is about half full, pulse at high speed. If you are making sauce, you can almost puree the tomatoes. Pulse less if you are aiming for diced tomatoes.
6) Dump pureed tomatoes into uncovered stock pot. Turn heat to simmer, and let tomatoes cook down about an hour, stirring occasionally so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
7) Let tomatoes cool. I don’t try to simmer all the juice out of tomatoes I’m freezing, since when they thaw later, I will be cooking them some more and want a little juice left in them for that. I also don’t add any herbs or spices to the tomatoes I freeze; I prefer to add fresh seasonings when I’m actually going to eat the sauce.
8) Ladle cooled tomatoes into jars. Leave 1/2 – 3/4 of an inch between the sauce and the jar lid to give the sauce room to expand when it freezes. If you have to use plastic containers, make sure the cooked tomatoes are completely cool before you do.
That’s all there is to it.
If you want to preserve tomatoes but don’t have time to make sauce now, you’ll still need to get the seeds out, but you’ll also need to remove the skin. Take whole tomatoes and carefully drop them into boiling water for about 30 seconds. Then immediately plunge them into a bowl of ice water. The skins should slip off easily. Quarter and seed as in step 4, then put into freezer jars and you’re done.
How Much Does It Make?
Fifteen pounds of tomatoes will make about 5 pints of delicious concentrated sauce.
You’ll also get a good 24 ounces of fresh tomato juice out of the deal. I usually make mine into gazpacho.