The Art of Canning Tomato Sauce & Salsa


Kendra Musser, wife of our farm market manager, Dwayne, shared her wisdom from years of canning tomato sauce and salsa with a group of interested class-goers last Wednesday. She began her demo with a salsa recipe and explained a few shortcuts to get the process started. “With this recipe, you don’t have to peel the tomatoes prior to making the salsa,” she explained. “Simply chop them to your desired size along with the other peppers and onions.” This salsa recipe achieves its full-bodied flavor through a combination of spices and fresh cilantro coupled with fresh vegetables. When asked which type of tomato to use, she answered: “I prefer to use plum tomatoes for canning. It makes for a much thicker sauce or salsa.” She followed the steps for this article and then let all the ingredients simmer for 20 minutes.



Classic Berks County Salsa

  • Author: Kendra Musser
  • Category: Sauce
  • Cuisine: Mexican (and PA Dutch)


  • 14 cups of chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cups chopped onion
  • ½ cup Jalapeño peppers (hot peppers)
  • 1 green pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 3 tablespoons salt
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons cumin
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 5 tablespoons cornstarch (optional)
  • ½ cup vinegar
  • 1 small handful of cilantro
  • 2 tsp. chipotle powder (optional – it’s very spicy so use according to your tastes!)


  1. If desired, peel tomatoes by covering them with boiling hot water and letting them stand for three minutes. Drain, then peel skins.
  2. Dice tomatoes into a colander to allow excess juice to drain.
  3. Cook all ingredients except the last three for about 15 minutes (until mostly soft).
  4. Blend the cornstarch, vinegar and cilantro in the blender and add them to the cooked ingredients and cook for a few minutes (until a bit thickened)
  5. Put into canning jars and process in the canner for 15-20 minutes.
  6. Tip: for a thicker sauce, allow the tomato juice to cool completely and skim off the excess water.

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Next she moved on to the tomato sauce recipe. Another time-saving step she recommended was working in batches to place ingredients in the food processor. Not only did this cut down on time spent chopping the produce, it also helped achieve a smoother sauce.


Pizza Sauce

  • Author: Kendra Musser
  • Yield: 12 1x


  • ½ bushel tomatoes
  • 4 large onions
  • 2 green peppers
  • 2 garlic cloves (optional)
    Add these remaining ingredients and boil for another hour (be sure to stir regularly):
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup salt
  • ½ cup sugar (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons oregano
  • 2 tablespoons basil
  • 2 tablespoons parsley
  • 6 bay leaves
  • 8 6-ounce cans of tomato paste


  1. Process these ingredients in a food processor or blender and boil for 1 hour.
  2. Put into canning jars and process in the canner for 10-15 minutes: 10 minutes for pints and 15 minutes for quarts.

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Once both the sauces and salsas had finished cooking, she demonstrated part of the canning process and then gave a handout on the complete canning process, shared below.


Intro to Canning

Canning interrupts the natural ripening process through heat.  It also destroys enzymes, spoilers (molds, yeasts), and bacteria.  By creating a partial vacuum in the sealed jars it also prevents other microorganisms from entering the jars and re-spoiling the food.

2 kinds of foods:

  • Acids (fruits, tomatoes, pickles, relishes)- process at 212 degrees in a boiling water bath
  • Low Acids (most vegetables, meats, mushrooms)- process at 240 degrees in a pressure canner

 Supplies needed for Canning


Canning jars

Rings / lids

Jar funnel and jar lifter

Regular kitchen items- knives, sauce pans, etc.

Canning Salsa

  • Prepare the jars- wash thoroughly
  • Dice all of the veggies (tomatoes, peppers, onions, hot peppers)
  • Cook until slightly soft (about 15 min.) and add vinegar and spices- cook until thickened (a few minutes)
  • Fill the jars and remove air bubbles
  • Clean the rim of the jar and put lid on (heat the jar lids in water before putting on the jars)
  • Put ring on tightly and place the jar into the canner filled with water (the water needs to cover the jars by about ½  – 1 inch)
  • Bring canner water to a boil & process the jars in a light boil as follows:

×      Salsa: Pints – 15 -20 minutes

After turning off the canner, allow the jars to set in the canner for 5 minutes before removing them from the canner to cool.

Give the jars several hours to cool and seal- if a jar does not seal, put into the refrigerator and use within a week or 2.

Remove the jar rings before storing for the winter in a cool, dry place.

Canning Pizza Sauce:

  • Quarts – 15 minutes
  • Pints – 10 minutes