In the Kitchen With John- Tomato Sauce

As I mentioned last night, today was sauce day. As always, this is more for me than you all, as I will look this up next year to refresh my memory before doing it again- you all are just along for the ride. Started last night with a ton of tomatoes I had frozen over the last couple OF months (love you eemom):

They mostly thawed over night and I threw them into big pots to start the cookdown:

Now everybody will tell you different amounts of time to cook them down, I just did it for about 2 hours, constantly stirring because you simply can not let it scorch or you have ruined the entire batch. STIR, STIR, STIR. Once the pulp and everything has cooked down into a bubbly brew, run it through your food mill:

If you are like me, you probably don’t have a dozen 24 qt stock pots, I have just the one and the pot for canning, so I strained them into several smaller pots, washed the big 24 qt stock pot I originally used, then transferred everything back into that. Then I did the canning pot full of tomatoes, and after cooking down and removing all the seeds and peels, everything transferred to the 24 qt stock pot and filled it all the way to the top.

At this point, Tammy and I just took 30 minute shifts stirring as we cooked it down. I cooked it down a solid6-8 inches to let it thicken, because I didn’t want to can tomato juice. This took the bulk of the afternoon, and both of us got our workout in.

QUICK SIDEBAR- Are there any carpenters who want to make me a 24″ wooden spoon. I hate the flimsy ass wooden spoons on amazon, I need something longer than the traditional ones, and I need something small than a 4 foot cajun paddle.

While cooking down the sauce, we prepped the mason jars:

I cut some basil from the garden, washed it, and placed it in each jar. Also, in three of them, Tammy wanted to try a clove of garlic, so three of them got that and the basil.

When the sauce is finally cooked down to where you want it, grab your funnel and ladle it into each jar stopping below the neck:

Wipe off the tops of the jars with a damp cloth, and place a lid and a ring on each one (you should have the lids heated in a hot water bath so you get a good seal), and hand tighten the ring. Then place them in the canner and wait for it to get to a rolling boil, and then process it for 40 minutes. Here is your finished product:

In total, we got 17 quarts of sauce. I thought about running the sauce through the chinois after it went through the food mill, but decided I didn’t care if there were a few seeds- YMMV. I’m not trying to win the damned state fair. And remember, NONE of this is seasoned (other than the basil). That way you can just pull it out and use it and tailor the sauce to your tastes.

As always, the dogs were a giant help:

And because Tammy is a Rosie Whisperer, here is a closeup of Rosie ACTUALLY LOOKING AT THE DAMNED CAMERA:

60 replies
  1. 1
    zhena gogolia says:

    I love you, Rosie!

  2. 2
    NotMax says:

    So, in a nutshell, you made a hogshead of ketchup.

    (I kid, I kid.) :)

    re: that last photo

    Someone appears in need of a nail trimming.

  3. 3
    mrmoshpotato says:

    I’m not trying to win the damned state fair.

    Glad that was cleared up. :)

  4. 4
    MagdaInBlack says:

    To make an entire Sunday dinner, in January, of the food we put up in late summer, was always deeply satisfying to me.
    I’m sure you will find it to be the same 💖

  5. 5
    John Cole says:

    @NotMax: She gets them done every couple of weeks and the vets joke about her being wolverine they grow so fast.

  6. 6
    Peter says:

    Nice! It’s such a noble accomplishment. And I feel your pain about the wooden spoon length. I find that if I food mill the puree before cooking it down, it’s less likely to scorch and also it tastes less bitter because the skins and seeds aren’t part of the equation. (I use the skins and seeds to make tomato vinegar.)

    Do you test the pH before canning? I only ask because raw garlic can be an issue if it’s not acidic enough unless you’re pressure canning.

  7. 7
    Mary G says:

    Still love the grumpy Rosie! She’s getting up there, but she seems a lot more streamlined than the plump chunk that jumped into your car and adopted you.

  8. 8
    jl says:

    Best Rosie pic ever! Thank you Tammy!

    Cole’s pix OK, I guess, except he had to show the nasty looking bags of frozen tomatoes again.
    But thanks, Cole.

    Edit: on second look, all the pix look better than usual. Tammy take all of them?

  9. 9

    @jl: They do look like the frozen bloody innards of God alone knows what.

  10. 10
    Peej01 says:

    The dogs helped by staying out of the way!

  11. 11
    NotMax says:

    @John Cole

    One thing have noticed as age has overtaken beauty is that lots of things slow down but nail growth has tremendously sped up.

    As for some hefty stirring, go stainless steel.

    Next time you’re in Pittsburgh, check out a restaurant supply store; there will be several options of both spoons and paddles.

  12. 12
    jl says:

    @schrodingers_cat: For a sec I thought Cole was going back into roadkill haute cuisine.

  13. 13
    Patricia Kayden says:

    Rosie looks wise beyond her years. I didn’t know making tomato sauce was so easy. Looks good

  14. 14
    NotMax says:

    OT TV question.

    Seem to recall some here making good comment about Billions. Worth checking out? Noticed that season one is now free on Prime until the end of this month.

  15. 15
    ruemara says:

    I just want to add 2 jalapenos.

  16. 16
    Cowgirl in the Sandi says:

    I love these ‘In the kitchen with John’ posts. I live in Brentwood CA (East bay – not the OJ Brentwood) and there is a farm stand here that specializes in heirloom tomatoes. When they get a bit edgy, the put them in a box and sell them for 75 cents a pound. I take them home, wash them, cut them in half, strew them with sliced garlic, salt and pepper and olive oil and roast them at 200 degrees for about 3 hours. MMMMMM!! Then, just pop them into a quart freezer bag and freeze. I grind them up with a stick blender for instant sauce in the winter. MMMMM!!

  17. 17
    different-church-lady says:

    Wait, you’re saying you can freeze the tomatoes before you make the sauce?


  18. 18
    Virginia says:

    @NotMax: We have very much enjoyed Billions. Give it a try.

  19. 19
    A Ghost To Most says:

    Are there any carpenters who want to make me a 24″ wooden spoon?

    Right up my alley. Is alder ok?

  20. 20
    CarolPW says:

    @different-church-lady: You can also freeze fresh peppers you are going to be cooking, like poblanos, and have chili rellenos in the middle of winter (with homemade tomato sauce from your frozen tomatoes).

  21. 21
    Jude says:

    John, if you see this and find any issues with your jars in the future (mold or un-popped lids) it will be because you need to fill the jars up a little higher. Sauces are treated more like pure liquids, which should only have 1/4 headspace as opposed to the 1/2 you give veggies in a water bath. Hope I’m just seeing things a little wonky and they are perfect. Great job!

  22. 22
    Dan B says:

    Are you dating the jars? It won’t be an issue unless you have some left this time next year.
    I also wonder about the fill level being too low.

  23. 23
    NotMax says:


    Danke. Shall do.

  24. 24
    John Cole says:

    @A Ghost To Most: whatever you think is best

  25. 25
    CaseyL says:

    That is… a lot of sauce. How much of it do you keep, and how much give away?

    Love seeing the photos of the dogs! Rosie looks like she passed out after a hard night, head lolling over the side.

  26. 26
    mkd says:

    @Cowgirl in the Sandi: I do a similar roasted version at 400 degrees with at least 5 pounds of tomatoes and a whole green pepper, 12 cloves of garlic, one onion and some jalapenos and herbs from the garden, but only 90 minutes with a stir every thirty. excellent and no milling, no blanching. freeze in 32 oz containers. Blitz it with an immersion blender and it is good to go. Got 3.5 gallons in the freezer so far this summer from four tomato plants

  27. 27
    Sab says:

    @CarolPW: I agree with DLC: why didn’t people tell me that?!

  28. 28
    Gravenstone says:

    @NotMax: You want the wood so it doesn’t transmit the heat up the handle. Especially if you’re going to be constantly stirring for an hour.

  29. 29
    ArchPundit says:

    Rosie’s look is priceless. Our dog, Bernie (yes, and I’m not backing him this year–it’s a good dog name dammit!) is a rescue and if you pull out the phone for pics, he’s just gone.

  30. 30
    CarolPW says:

    @Sab: I was 60 when I read it on some food blog, so it wasn’t something my Mama taught me. I don’t think it’s been known all that long,

  31. 31
    Mary G says:

    When I brought home my two semi-feral cats, they jid under my mom”s bed and when they finally came out, it was only at night. So all the initial pictures were with a flash. Ever since they either shut their eyes or turn their heads when a camera appears.

  32. 32
    NotMax says:


    Have a favorite 11″ stainless steel spoon with holes in it which have been using for decades and have never once had a problem with it getting too hot. As the top where one holds it is much wider than the neck, it dissipates heat quite well. If it ever did become too hot to comfortably hold on to, would just grab a dish towel or pot holder. YMMV.

    I like wooden spoons and often use a bamboo one but find they do have a tendency to chip. Also have a nice long four-tined bamboo spork with which I can not only stir but also spear meat to turn it over (or remove it in order to keep cooking down a sauce) or use it to test for doneness of potatoes and suchlike.

  33. 33
    maeve says:

    OMG – there should be garlic in every pot! Why is that a question???

    Garlic is as good as 10 mothers. Allegedly an old Italian saying.

    [edited, originally wrote 10,000 mothers which is what I remembered then I googled]

  34. 34
    rikyrah says:

    They say that the Paul Giamatti character is sort of based on Preet Bahara. Thanks for the tip, I might try it out myself.

  35. 35
    rikyrah says:

    Looks like a beautiful sauce😋😋😋
    And Rosie😍😍😍
    Those nails…really, every couple of weeks?😲😲
    I have enjoyed your canning tutorials😊😊

  36. 36
    Kattails says:

    Love the idea of freezing the whole tomatoes!!
    Hint: after you’ve put them through the food mill, run them through a strainer, the fine wire kind, or even some cheesecloth. This gives you watery stuff which you can put up separately as a base for soup/ stock, and an immediately thicker sauce which doesn’t take as !#**@ long to cook down. I do the same when making applesauce, since I like my sauce fairly thick. Cut apples into pieces, cook long enough to put through the mill, then strain. The apple juice is then available for jelly, apple marmalade, or (YUM) ginger marmalade.

  37. 37
    Yutsano says:

    Sounds like you just made a whole mess of passata Cole. It’s very useful stuff.

  38. 38
    SWMBO says:

    @John Cole: We took in my sister’s dogs when she lost her husband, her job and her mind. Not necessarily in that order. Zoe was fat and slow and didn’t want to move much. We finally (after a couple of weeks) picked her up to trim her nails. They had grown into the pads. Took us an hour to pry them out of the pads, clip a little, then clip a little more (with her screaming and moaning the entire time). Thought we could go a couple of months like the other dogs. Nope. She grew them back into her pads in that amount of time. We clipped her nails every week or every other week the two years we had her. She did stop walking on her knuckles and used the bottom of her feet though. But, yeah, there are some dogs that are just amazing at how fast their nails grow.

  39. 39
    Mnemosyne says:

    I had a busy day and missed out on all of the Epstein threads. Probably for the best. 🤷‍♀️

  40. 40
    Mohagan says:

    That’s a wonderful picture of Rosie! Well done. Thank Tammy for me.

  41. 41
    smike says:


    They do look like the frozen bloody innards of God alone knows what.

    That bag on the upper right is, I’m pretty sure, an alien embryo.

  42. 42
    Ian R says:

    John, I know that you have a blog name to live up to, but those aren’t balloons.

  43. 43
    Anne Laurie says:

    @John Cole:

    She gets them done every couple of weeks and the vets joke about her being wolverine they grow so fast.

    Friends who had dachshunds used to swear that was a dirt-dog adaptation — their nails grow fast because, like a rodent’s teeth, they wear them down.

    In that pic, Rosie is my spirit animal. (My joints hurt & it makes *me* cranky, too.)

  44. 44
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Cowgirl in the Sandi:

    I take them home, wash them, cut them in half, strew them with sliced garlic, salt and pepper and olive oil and roast them at 200 degrees for about 3 hours. MMMMMM!! Then, just pop them into a quart freezer bag and freeze. I grind them up with a stick blender for instant sauce in the winter. MMMMM!!

    That’s essentially what I do with any excess homegrown tomatoes, or the ones that end up with ugly bits that have to be cut away. Except mostly I don’t even bother with the salt & pepper, because one never knows which Penzeys blend is gonna get used for the final product come winter…

  45. 45
    tcs says:

    If you do not know Gina here she is .

  46. 46
    Mike in NC says:

    Hanging out at a Starbucks at the airport in Amsterdam, with a few hours to kill before our flight to Atlanta and then back to reality…

  47. 47
    SectionH says:

    @Mike in NC: Safe travel the rest of your way home. I used to transit Schipol a lot. I think it’s a Great airport. Hope it’s working for you.

  48. 48
    laura says:

    Wither Thurston?

  49. 49
    A Ghost To Most says:

    Alder is light, strong, and unlikely to transmit bad taste. I also happen to have an alder branch that will likely be big enough.

  50. 50
    Ramalama says:

    @Peter: how does one remove the seeds? I don’t know that I’ve ever done that, but I’ve never canned a thing.

  51. 51
    debit says:

    @laura: That’s what I want to know.

  52. 52
    debbie says:

    @A Ghost To Most:

    After cooking garlic or onions or other stinky stuff, I make a paste of baking soda and Dawn and rub it into the spoon. Let it sit about 15 minutes, rinse, and the spoon is as good as new!

  53. 53
    Ol'Froth says:

    Even though tomatoes are acidic, I always add a tablespoon of lemon juice to my quart jars just to stay on the safe side.

  54. 54
    Peter says:

    @Ramalama: The food mill strains them out along with the skins.

  55. 55
    Mo MacArbie says:

    Another source of long-ass spoons is homebrew shops. Heck, I got a 50 liter stainless steel pot with a spigot there too.

  56. 56
    TomatoQueen says:

    @NotMax: Or, if it’s not urgent, try Fante’s in Philadelphia, store and online

  57. 57
    wmd says:

    They had good giant wooden spoons at a number of stalls at the San Jose flea market. I suspect there’s something similar in Pittsburg.

  58. 58
    karen marie says:

    @Cowgirl in the Sandi: That is the best.

  59. 59
    Ramalama says:

    @Peter: OK another dumb Q. Food mill rather than food processor? The food mill pulls out the seeds?

  60. 60
    Steeplejack says:


    Food mill vs. food processor:

    A food mill will extract seeds and skins, whereas a food processor will mince/​destroy them, keeping them in the final product. Seeds and skins can affect the taste and texture of whatever it is you’re preparing. Food mills are good for this reason.

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