Easy Ways to Can Your Own Sauce

Most cooks have a special sauce; their own secret, delicious recipe, often handed down through generations. You don’t have to be a professional chef to have a homemade sauce that makes your loved ones’ mouths water. Ergo, it’s always nice to have your sauce on hand for when someone stops by for dinner.

Canning your homemade sauces makes it easier to preserve the flavors, brightness, and deliciousness of fresh garden produce while giving you a go-to option for impromptu dinner visits. For many, a scrumptious jar of homemade sauce is a taste of summer, making standout dishes even better year-round.

Interested in learning how to can your own sauce? Read on for info on the basics of canning, how to make a flavorful sauce for canning, and how to troubleshoot common canning issues.

The Basics of Canning: What You Need to Know

Canning is a preservation method to keep foods fresher for longer, so you can enjoy them throughout the year.

There are two popular canning methods:

Water bath canning is best suited for high-acid foods, like pickles or tomatoes, and it involves submerging jars of food in boiling water to kill microorganisms that cause spoilage.

Pressure canning involves soaking jarred goods in a few inches of water and securing the cans in a pot (with a lid) to create steam that eliminates inactive enzymes that lead to food spoilage.

Both canning processes are effective and safe, but it’s a learning curve of trial and error. The more time and effort you invest into canning, the more you’ll grow your skills and become successful.

Selecting the Right Ingredients for Your Sauce (Check Out Our Recipe!)

When most people think of homemade sauce, they think of tomato sauce because it’s the most common kind of sauce to use in pasta, stews, and soups. However, the beauty of crafting a homemade sauce is getting to use fresh ingredients from your garden in a tantalizing combination of your choosing. You can go with classic sauces or come up with your own—the possibilities are endless.

Here are a few tips on making the best sauce before canning:

  • Pick the produce at the peak of ripeness.
  • Use garlic, onion, ginger, and fresh herbs, like basil or thyme, to add depth and complexity to your sauce.
  • Butter, olive oil, and coconut oil will enhance your sauce’s richness and texture, making it more luxurious.
  • Sugar is an ideal component for fruit-based sauces, adding a syrupy consistency.
  • Milk or cream adds creaminess but beware of using it with acidic ingredients, like tomatoes, because too much can break your sauce and encourage early spoilage.
  • Butter enhances flavor and lends a thicker, velvety texture to your sauce.
  • Flour and xanthan gum are good thickeners, especially if you’ve over-liquified or overworked your vegetable or fruit base.

Perfected your homemade sauce? Sometimes your sauce is amazing as is, so simply make it as you would before canning it. You could also make several versions of the same sauce, alternating between them as you make new and interesting comfort dishes.

The perfect sauce is whatever you deem perfect. If a sauce is flavorful and delicious to you, then it’s ready to be canned. Also, the canning process is the ideal time to experiment with different sweet, savory, salty, and acidic elements to make your sauce even better or to come up with yummier flavor combinations. Canning is additionally an awesome way to preserve your produce, saving time and money on grocery shopping.

Here is our favorite tomato sauce recipe, perfect for canning.

Homemade Tomato Sauce

What you need:

2 lbs ripe tomatoes

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium, finely chopped onion

3 minced garlic cloves

1 teaspoon dried basil

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon ground black pepper

What you do:

Blanch the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for one minute, until the skins split. Transfer to an ice bath, then peel off the skin and cut the tomatoes into quarters. Heat olive oil, chopped onion, garlic, basil, and red pepper flakes in a skillet over medium heat for around 5 minutes, then add tomatoes, salt, sugar, and black pepper. Simmer for 25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Use an immersion blender or regular blender to puree the ingredients into a saucy consistency, then pour into a pot to simmer for 20 minutes. Allow your sauce to cool and use one of two canning methods to prepare, preserve, and store your sauce.

Basic Steps for Safe, Effective Canning

  1. Prepare your sauce as you normally would or follow a sauce recipe.
  2. Sterilize your mason jars in a bath of boiling water to prevent harmful bacteria.
  3. Allow jars to cool, then fill each jar with sauce, leaving an inch of space at the top between the sauce and the lid.
  4. Seal the jars tightly, then process jars in either a water bath or through pressure canning.
  5. Allow jars to cool to create a vacuum seal, then store them in a cool, dry place for up to one year. Don’t forget to label your jars with the name of the sauce and the date it was canned.

Troubleshooting Common Canning Issues

Here are some common canning issues and what may be causing them:

  • Jars won’t seal properly. This is caused by scratches or food particles in the jar rim, or an overflowing jar that prevents sealing. To fix this, use brand-new lids each time you reuse a jar for canning.
  • Separation between food chunks and the sauce itself. This is typically due to overmixing or undermixing. Start over, mixing your sauce consistently, then re-can it in a new, clean jar.
  • Jars are too low or too overfilled. Leave an inch of headspace between the lid and the sauce. Tighten the rim to where it gives a little resistance when trying to unscrew the lid, but not so much resistance that you can’t reopen the jar.

How Long Will Canned Sauce Last?

Typically, canned sauces can last up to one year when stored in a cool, dark place, like a pantry, fruit cellar, or basement shelf. Label and date each jar, and always check for signs of spoilage, like mold or strange smells, before consumption. If your jar seals are broken, throw away the sauce, even if it shows no signs of spoilage. You don’t want to risk food poisoning.

For more information about canning, making your own sauces, and various other sustainable living ideas, join our Facebook Dirt Rich Community or subscribe to the Stony Creek Farm YouTube channel.  If you want to learn more about canning, check out our in-person class and our online class.