How to Can Tomato Sauce Tip: Let Your Sauce Settle

With Sharon Peterson

How to Can Tomato Sauce

Learn how to can tomato sauce and get a thicker sauce with less cookdown time.

If you are using a food mill and canning tomato sauce, try this quick tip. It doesn’t really save time…but it saves labor. And saving labor is a good thing.

I discovered this quite by accident. I was in the middle of canning tomatoes when my husband needed me. I put my tomato sauce in the fridge and later discovered, to my delight, that the thick stuff settles!

Another reader of mine shared that she does this too. In fact, it is more common that I realized. I just didn’t know about it! Here I thought I was such a genius and all.

Let the Tomato Sauce Cool

Pouring tomato sauce into a large stainless steel stockpot.

When you are making tomato sauce, you’ll first heat the tomatoes a little, then run them through a food mill to remove seeds and skins. (This is optional.)

After you have run them through the mill, return your tomatoes to a large stock pot. Bring to a simmer, and then let it cool on the counter. You will notice that the tomato pulp will settle to the bottom.

When it is somewhat cool, place in the fridge overnight. You could go ahead and put it in hot…but for the sake of the cold items in the fridge, go ahead and let the tomatoes cool some first.

By morning, you should have a clear, liquid layer on top.

A clear layer of tomato liquid floating on top of the solid layer of tomatoes.

The depth of this clear layer will depend on the type of tomato and how juicy it is. These pictures are from a Roma tomato, which is meatier than many other types.

I’ve heard this called tomato broth, or tomato whey, or tomato juice. Whatever you call it, if you skim or siphon it off (a turkey baster works well), the thicker tomato sauce is at the bottom. This step will shorten your cookdown time.

How to Can Tomato Sauce

You will probably still need to cook the tomato sauce down for a couple of hours but not nearly as long as if you were not able to skim off the liquid first. (For canning tomato sauce instructions, please see this page.)

I also go ahead and process this tomato broth just like tomato sauce. It can then be used for soup bases or other things. Large drink pitchers work really well for a settling container. Then you can pour the tomato broth off the top.

Using a turkey baster to skim off the tomato broth liquid from the pot of tomato sauce.
Tomato whey or broth being poured from the plastic pitcher into another pot.
A jar of the liquid sitting next to the stockpot of tomato sauce.

From My Inbox

How to can tomato sauce tip from Anita in MD. Do it this way if you don’t want to remove the skins and seeds.

“You may want to share this. Don’t waste that precious tomato juice by cooking down the tomatoes to sauce or paste.

Squeeze the tomatoes by hand or as I do it, put them in my blender or Ninja to crush them. I then drain them really well through my strainer, saving the juice and canning the juice separately. I usually get 3 or more quarts juice to 1 quart sauce…adding 2 tbls lemon juice works great per qt. and heat the juice to boiling before canning.

It’s delicious and so good for you. If you like tomato soup, add a bit of salt and finely ground black pepper to the juice and boil it down a bit. I just can it with the same headspace and time as tomatoes in waterbath.”

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Paula D
Paula D
9 months ago

My daughter and I freeze our tomatoes that we intend to can. That way we can accumulate a large volume of tomatoes and spend one day canning. When you thaw the tomatoes the skins often slip right off without blanching. Also, if you put a small slit in the skin you can often squeeze out a lot of the watery almost-clear liquid, resulting in a thicker sauce with less cook time.