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Small Batch Garden Fresh Tomato Sauce

Small Batch Garden Fresh Tomato Sauce
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Who doesn’t love a fresh-grown garden tomato?  We grow 9-10 plants of different varieties every year.  I like to include cherry tomatoes for snacking, big slicing tomatoes, and of course paste tomatoes for making fresh sauce.  

The problem with a lot of canning recipes is the HUGE amount of tomatoes you need to make them; 20, 25, even 30 pounds of tomatoes.  That’s great if you have a massive garden or can score a great deal at your local farmer’s market.  

Here is a great recipe for canning up some tomato sauce when you have a good harvest from a few plants. Click here for my tips on growing great tomatoes from seed!  I made up 3 pints of sauce with 4 pounds of tomatoes I harvested from the garden.  

You can use any type of tomato, but the thick-walled paste tomatoes will give a greater yield and make a thicker sauce.  I grow San Marzano paste tomatoes, but I also had some big Mortgage Lifter slicing tomatoes that were nice and ripe so I added them in too.  Processing a small harvest won’t take up your whole day.  When you process 30 pounds of tomatoes it takes all afternoon. This recipe takes 2 hours from start to finish. This breaks down to 45 minutes of cooking time and 35 minutes of canning time.

Small batch tomato sauce

Small Batch Canned Tomato Sauce


  • 4 pounds tomatoes
  • 7 teaspoons bottled lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • salt, pepper, Italian spices to taste

Equipment (if canning)

General Equipment

  • large sauce pot
  • bowl of ice water
  • strainer
  • slotted spoon
  • food processor or blender
  • sharp knife & cutting board
  • freezer bags or freezer rated containers (if freezing)


If canning the sauce, sterilize the jars in either 5 minutes of boiling water or in your dishwasher’s sterilized setting.  Put the lids in the small pot, bring to a low boil, remove from heat, and let them sit in the warm water until you are ready to use them.

Removing the tomato skin

Fill the saucepan with water and bring to a boil

While you are waiting for the water to boil, rinse your tomatoes, cut the stem off each tomato, and make an X cut on the bottom

Small Batch Tomato Sauce
Get your bowl of ice water ready

Once the water is boiling, put several tomatoes in the boiling water for about a minute.  Use your slotted spoon to remove the tomatoes and immediately put them in the ice water.  After a minute or two, pick up each tomato and pull the skin off.  It should slide right off, if it doesn’t, use a knife to cut the skin away.  Put your skinless tomatoes in the strainer to drain while you work on all the other tomatoes.

Small Batch Tomato Sauce

Making the sauce

Put the skinless tomatoes in the blender or food processor briefly.  Don’t blend them too long or your sauce will be too liquidy, just a couple of pulses will do.

Dump the water out of the saucepan.  Chop the onion & crush the garlic, put them in the pan and brown slightly.

Add the crushed tomatoes, bottled lemon juice (bottled is better than fresh in canning so the acidity levels are evenly dispersed), sugar, salt, pepper and spices.   Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Storing your sauce

You have two options for preservation.  The first is to freeze the sauce.  To freeze, let it cool and then divide into two freezer bags or freezer containers.  Squeeze the air out and freeze for up to 3 months.  

To can the sauce, bring your water bath canner to a full boil.  Pour the hot tomato sauce into your sterilized jars, top with sterilized, warm lids, and finger-tighten the ring.  Place the jars in the canner, covered by at least 1 inch of water and process for 35 minutes  (at sea level, consult your local extension office for timing at your elevation).  Let the jars cool on a towel, then test the seal.  If they sealed properly they will be good for a year.  If the jar did not seal, refrigerate the jar and use within a week, or freeze for up to 3 months.

If you want to add other ingredients like meat or other vegetables to your canned sauce, you will need a pressure canner to safely process. Water bath canning can only safely be done with high-acidity fruits & vegetables.

You don't have to wait until you have 20 pounds of tomatoes to make some garden fresh sauce! Check out this recipe for canning or freezing your harvest!

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Monday 27th of May 2024

I am new to canning, I have 2 questions. Is it necessary to remove the skins and is it necessary to brown the garlic and onion? Is it safe to brown in oil? Or just lightly toast in the pan? Ok, 4 questions lol Thank you so much!


Wednesday 29th of May 2024

Hi! Yes you definitely want to remove the skin. It's a pain but the skins don't can well, they end up bitter and chewy so it's worth the time to remove them. You don't have to brown the garlic & onions if you don't want to. When I brown them I use a very small amount of oil (about 1 tsp) and just get them lightly toasty. Good luck!


Sunday 23rd of October 2022

Hi Liz, I am canning this and wonder if I can use commercial tomato paste to help thicken? Would that be a problem? Thanks and love the receipt !


Wednesday 26th of October 2022

I have never tried doing that, but I can't see why that would be an issue!


Tuesday 16th of August 2022

Can this recipe use chunkier tomatoes in it?


Tuesday 16th of August 2022

Yes if you wanted a chunkier sauce you could do that


Saturday 21st of November 2020

If I wanted to use the sauce right away do I still need to add as much, or any at all, lemon juice?


Sunday 22nd of November 2020

If you are just using the sauce without canning it, you would not need the lemon juice. Just refrigerate any unused sauce and use within a week

Renee Dawalga

Saturday 15th of August 2020

Is this a safe tested recipe?


Sunday 16th of August 2020

Hi Renee, it's a recipe I have used several times myself and is based on a much larger recipe from my Ball Canning book. But I have not had this particular recipe certified by an extension office

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