Labor Day Weekend of Canning Tomatoes

Here the ingredients take up a rather large portion of the table.  I can’t believe that I bought all of the fresh veggies for a little under $30!

Brad’s and my Labor Day weekend has been full of activities. Saturday morning began with rain and cooler weather (especially since there was a 93 degree heat wave for the past couple days!). After waiting out the rain for a while with a breakfast at Marigolds, Brad and I put on our rain jackets and headed to the farmer’s market around the Capital Square. On the shopping list was ingredients for some homemade tomato sauce. Brad bought 25 pounds of tomatoes, at 75 cents a pound! He also found sweet onions, green bell peppers, and basil. We then headed to the grocery for some more small ingredients needed and our regular shopping. Then to the Willy St. Co-Op for some spices, which is always a lot cheaper bought by bulk. We were already tired after shopping at three places for our grocery list. Once we got home, we started setting up the kitchen for making the sauce and eventually, canning it all!

I had been interested in undertaking a tomato sauce operation for some time, but never had the gumption to do it.  A week prior to this, a friend of mine was preparing some bloody mary mix and had bought about the same amount of tomatoes from the Dane Co. Farmer’s Market relatively cheap.  I followed suit this weekend and negotiated with a guy for bulk tomatoes at the market and did quite well.  The over all goal was to prepare a large pot or two of my great grandmother’s secret sauce – or at least my inspired version of it.  I have made smaller batches and tested the ingredient proportions over quite a few combinations, but this was my first time doing it completely from scratch, tomatoes and all, and also canning the stuff afterward.  I was amazed at the simplicity of peeling the tomatoes and processing the sauce and will probably make this a staple of my fall canning routine!

The first job was to skin the tomatoes. Brad cut slits on the bottom of the tomato, I dipped them in really hot water for a while, then put them in a bowl of ice water. This made the skins pretty much fall off. Brad then peeled and cored them.

This is a somewhat messier part of the process and caused the entire stovetop to bet covered in tomato drippings.  It literally looked like a tomato bomb had gone off in the kitchen after we were through!

 The next job was to cut them up and chop them up in a processor. In the end, it made 1 and a half stainless steel cookpots full.

The sauce was brought to a simmer, then sauteed green pepper, onion, and garlic was added. Spices were added and the sauce left to simmer for and hour and a half to two hours.

After the sauce was done, it was time to can. I left Brad to this and stayed in another room in case of explosion!

It is not always required to can tomatoes using a pressure canner because tomatoes are a high acid food.  However, the ingredients added to the tomatoes means that it lowers the mixture’s total acid content.  This requires the sauce to be processed at 10lbs of pressure for about 25 – 30 min.  I always air on the safe side here and follow all of the instructions and guidelines in Ball’s Canning Guide.  The last thing I want to do is pass on a case of food sickness onto myself or someone who may be eating this stuff… and, oh yeah, be sure to monitor the pressure so it doesn’t fall below the required pressure or get high enough to explode!

I set up a little canning station on my stove top here for sterilizing lids and jars and then filling them with a funnel and ladel. 

This is my grandmother’s canner from the 1970s.  American made right here in WI.  It still does a wonderful job!

The 25 pounds of tomatoes, 6 onions, and 6 bell peppers, made 16 pint jars of sauce.

All in all this was a wonderful learning experience. Katrina and I figured everything out and made enough sauce for a few meals this winter.  I may also gift some of the sauce to some relatives if I don’t eat it all first.  I finally have figured this sauce thing out and the proportions for the sauce to turn out just like she used to make.  The first batch wasn’t quite as good as the second, but it is a constant learning process here.  As my culinary skils continue to increase this recipe will continue to be modified for convenient and taste.  And, the ingredients and proportions have not been included for a reason – it’s a family secret!


On Sunday morning, Brad had to go to work for a while. When he got back, we headed to the mall to look for some summer sales. After a little shopping, we then went to Taste of Madison, an event happening around the Capital Square. Restaurants all over Madison came and set up booths with samples of their food. Everything was priced from $1-$4 (at least the food), but most everything was $3 & $4. We went ahead and ate a small dinner elsewhere since we knew there wasn’t going to be much vegetarian, so we started with sweet items for dessert. We tried some chocolate gelato, apple pie ice cream, a cupcake, eggplant fries, fish and chips, and crab rangoon. The event was pretty packed, so once we finished around the square, we headed home.

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One thought on “Labor Day Weekend of Canning Tomatoes

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