**This post has been entered in Tuesday Twister at GNOWFGLINS!**
Tomato sauce wasn’t even my first project, but it was the one that weighed most heavily on my mind. While friends were gathering up strawberries and other earlier crops to make jellies and jams and all sorts of things, I was just waiting. My family won’t eat jellies and jams so there was no reason to make any. But tomato sauce! We go through that like crazy! It was one of the biggest things I’ve planned to can and no, I am STILL not done! But I actually did this one in a few different stages so I “perfected” my technique a bit. I’ll share with you the way that I did it, and explain why some of the other ways are not my preferred way. Here we go…be prepared to get messy!
First, you need a LOT of tomatoes. Take a look at some of mine:
That’s with the box about half full. I had THREE of these boxes full originally, 75 lbs! And no, it was NOT enough. Ha.
Take your tomatoes and chop them up. I usually quarter mine, then cut each quarter in half the “fat” way. Not into eighths in slices/wedges, if that makes sense. It’s easier to get the seeds out.
To seed or not to seed? My first batch, I didn’t seed. It took a long time to boil down (because of all the extra liquid surrounding the seeds) and there were a ton of seeds in it, and they were very obvious. Seeding only adds an extra few seconds and I haven’t found it to be a big deal. I like it better seeded.
Scrape the seeds out into a bowl (you don’t need them, but you don’t need to be running back and forth to the sink every time) and then toss the pieces into your blender.
Okay, when your blender is full, it’s time to blend it up!
Mine’s full of pretty tomatoes. They’ll squish down as they blend. See?
They’re collapsing into the puree at the bottom. Oh, how I love my Vitamix.
Now, I have puree. See my puree? A full blender (mine is 8-cup capacity) turns in 4 – 5 cups of puree each time.
This pale pink puree gets poured into a big pot to boil down. At first it’s foamy, like this:
But after awhile it starts to cook down and then it looks like this:
Nice and smooth now! But this is tomato juice right now, not sauce. You need to let it cook down for another couple hours if you want sauce.
When mine is cooked down to ALMOST the way I want it (kind of like a thin sauce), I add some chopped onion, garlic, salt, basil, and olive oil and let it simmer a bit longer until it’s as thick as I want it. This usually takes another 30 – 40 minutes.
Then, I have tomato sauce!
At this point my camera dies so you’re going to have to just imagine the rest….
When it’s time to actually can the sauce, I get my jars, lids, and rings out. My rings get set aside. My lids go into a pot of hot (not boiling) water. I just use the hottest tap water I have for this, it’s probably around 180 degrees. Although many people boil them, the instructions actually say not to. I leave these in the water for 5 – 10 minutes, until I have all my jars filled and ready.
I sterilize my jars as well as I can just before I put the sauce in them. They’ll get fully sterilized in the hot water bath and it’s impossible to keep them TRULY sterilized before that because they’re still exposed to the open air. I wash my (basically clean) jars in the hottest water I can stand with a little soap right before I fill them. This makes sure they’re clean, AND it heats them up so they don’t break when I pour hot food in them.
Then I stick my nice wide-mouth funnel in my jars (one at a time) and fill them. Should I forget to use this or somehow spill anyway, I wipe the mouths of the jars so they are clean (otherwise, it could interfere with the seal).
When they are ALL filled, I get my lids out of the hot water and put one on each jar. Then I screw on the rings until they are just tightened, but not TOO tight. You don’t want them super tight or that could interfere with the seal.
Into the water bath they go! The water should be covering the jars by at least 1″. That is, the TOPS of the jars. Nothing should be exposed. Bring the water to a boil. Once it is at a full, rolling boil, set the timer for 30 minutes.
At the end of 30 minutes (the entire time at a boil), the jars are done! Turn the water off and wait a minute for it to stop boiling so hard (otherwise it might splash and burn you). Then use your nifty jar lifter to pull them out of the water bath. Listen for that neat little pop that says they are sealed. MOST jars will pop almost immediately, but it can be up to 12 hours. Wait until the next day and check if you don’t hear them all right away. If they DON’T seal, get a new lid and re-process the jar for the full amount of time again. Or put it in the fridge and use it right away. I have done both.
Now, do you need a lid on the pot?
Most say yes. I don’t use one. BECAUSE, when my stock pot is full enough to cover the jars appropriately (it covers them about 2″ if filled pretty much to the brim), it is so full that a rolling boil will knock the lid right onto the floor and then boil water everywhere. Well, it boils water everywhere anyway. Which is why my children aren’t generally allowed in the kitchen when I’m processing a full load of quarts. As long as the water stays at least 1″ above the jars the entire time, they’ll be fine.
You may have noticed I don’t peel my tomatoes. Why not? Well, my Vitamix does a good enough job getting the skins pureed so that I don’t really care. And having to blanch and skin each tomato would add so much time to my routine (believe me — I did peel the ones for salsa, so I know exactly how long!) that it’s just not worth it. So I don’t peel, but I do remove seeds.
What do you think? Have you canned tomato sauce before, or do you plan to in the future?
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