Last week was tomato project week: making fresh tomato sauce with the 20lb box of local tomatoes I bought, then preserving the sauce by canning it in mason jars. That's right folks, I went totally old-school on this one. It seems like everyone in the foodie/blogging world has taken to this Canvolution and I thought I'd give it a try too.
The first thing I learned was that tomato sauce for that night's dinner versus tomato sauce for canning are two different species. Most recipes for tomato sauce that's intended to be eaten right away usually include carrots and celery. Tomato sauce that's intended for canning is really just tomatoes, onions and dried herbs, nothing more. I mistakenly made tomato sauce with carrots and celery on my first try which, sadly, tasted more like carrots than tomatoes. So I went searching for a different recipe and found one from Bon Appetit (ah, BA, you never fail me) specially formulated for canning.
A word of warning: this project is not for those short on time or patience. Although I'd say even the beginning home cook could successfully complete this project (I did!), the difficulty is that it requires a lot of time and involves multiple steps. Steps, which if you don't follow precisely, could lead to incorrectly canned sauce and the real risk of food poisoning via Botulism. To make it easier on myself, I divided the project up into two days; Day 1: peel, seed and chop tomatoes and prepare all the tools & ingredients you'll need to sterilize the jars and cook the sauce; Day 2: sterilize canning jars, make sauce, can, then process.
1. Mason jars & lids for canning, which you can purchase here.
2. Very large stock pot in which to sterilize empty jars and process filled jars. Should be large enough so that the jar, sitting up, can be covered with at least 1 inch of water from its lid.
3. This utensil set. The most useful things are the jar lifter and wide-mouth funnel.
For a first time "canner", I found these tips on sterilizing, canning & processing to be very helpful. I had a print out next to me while I made the tomato sauce.
Now, we're almost ready to start cooking. Before we make the sauce though, the tomatoes need to be peeled and seeded (unless you have a food mill). It's a fairly simple process:
How to Peel & Seed Tomatoes
- Bring pot of water to rolling boil.
- Meanwhile, make an "X" on bottom of tomatoes.
- Throw into boiling water, 30 seconds - 1 minute (no more!)
- Fish out with slotted spoon, dunk into bowl of ice water, 5 seconds, fish out.
- Peel back skin with fingers. Chop in half, scoop out seeds with small spoon. Chop up remaining flesh for sauce.
I let my peeled, seeded, and chopped tomatoes sit in the refrigerator over night until the next day when I was ready to make the sauce.
It's the next morning and I pull my tomatoes out of the refrigerator. I begin by boiling water to sterilize the mason jars. Remember to follow these tips. While I wait for the water to boil, I start making my sauce.
The recipe below has been adapted from Bon Appetit. I cut everything in half to make a smaller, more manageable batch. It is important to use bottled lemon juice, not fresh squeezed, because the bottled version has a consistant acidity level that is crucial in keeping away the botulism.
Fresh Tomato Sauce
Bon Appetit, October 2008
Makes about three 1-pint jars
6.5 lbs tomatoes, peeled, seeded, coarsely chopped (about 10 cups), divided*
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 tbsp salt
3/4 tsp dried basil
3/4 tsp dried marjoram
1/2 tsp dried rosemary, crushed slightly
1/4 tsp black pepper
3 tbsp bottled lemon juice
- Combine 2 cups tomatoes and next 6 ingredients in large stockpot or skillet. Stir over medium-high heat until tomatoes begin to release juice, 5 minutes. Bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture is thickened, stirring frequently, 20 minutes. Add remaining tomatoes. Increase heat to high and bring to rolling boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium. Simmer until mixture is reduced to about 6 cups, stirring frequently, 30 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper, and with sugar to taste, if desired.
- Pour 1 tbsp lemon juice into each of 3 hot clean 1-pint glass canning jars. Spoon sauce into jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles. Wipe jar threads and rims with clean damp cloth. Cover with hot lids, apply screw bands. Process jars in pot of boiling water 35 minutes. Cool jars completely. Store in cool dark place up to 1 year.
Sterilize jars and lids