You need lots of tomatoes
Back in early June, after harvesting the San Marzano tomatoes from my garden (thank you, Whitfill Nursery), I made fresh tomato sauce. However, I did not process it with the hot bath canning method, but froze the fresh sauce in individual zip-loc bags. Recently, when my friend, Rick said his tomato source has 50 lbs. of tomatoes available, I willingly said yes, not knowing what I was getting myself into.
The thought never crossed my mind what 50 lbs. of tomatoes looks like, but it is a lot. But there in nothing better than having a fresh batch of sauce from summer tomatoes in the middle of winter. Because of the volume of tomatoes, I will need to process them using the hot bath method.
The last time I used the hot bath method in making tomato sauce a few years ago, I badly burned my hand (all my own fault). So I am a little wary making it this time.
But, like with most things, your memory dulls and my desire to have fresh tomato sauce overrode my fear of burning myself again. If you have never processed food for long term storage, it is a good thing to know. Especially after the events of this year. When the food supply is challenged, having a pantry filled with your homemade goodies is a comforting thought. And now is the time to do it with the summer’s bounty available.
There are several recipes available for making tomato sauce, but I love using the simple one from my friend, Rick. With only 4 ingredients~tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and salt, you have a great tasting sauce.
Before you start a project like this, you may want to consider inviting your friends over to help. This is not a one-person project, nor do I suggest you do this with your spouse. There is a reason the women from the farm would gather and do this as a collective group. It is repetitive, time-consuming work but made faster with great conversation and friendship.
Get the Right equipment
It is important to have the right tools on hand too. Since you are working with sterilized jars and tops, boiling water and hot sauce, you need equipment to help. You can purchase jars from Walmart or through Amazon. Determine what size jar you will need (all depends on how many servings you want per jar). For 16 oz. jars, click here; 8 oz. jars, click here; and for complete canning kits, click here.
Processing tomatoes the wrong way can have serious side effects. There is much debate about safely canning tomatoes and you want to make sure you take all precautions in doing so. Sterilization of jars, hot bathing them for the proper amount of time, adding acidity for an extra level of protection are few things to know before getting started. Make sure you have a large stockpot. If not, here is a link to one.
Making the Sauce
For a quick summary on making the sauce, you stem, core and cut the tomato into 16 pieces. I add an extra step here, where I wipe away most of the seeds out of the tomato before I cut it into pieces. In the meantime, slightly cook the garlic in olive oil and then add the tomatoes and salt.
Cook the tomatoes for 15-20 minutes, until the skins separate from the tomatoes.
Here is where I deviate from the recipe. Instead of using a food mill, I put the tomatoes into a Cuisinart and reduce them to sauce. I skip the step about refrigerating it overnight (I don’t have the space for this much sauce), but pour the sauce into sterilized jars.
I like this device which sits on the jar, because the mouth is wide and the sauce funnels right in; and it has a measuring device on the side so you don’t overfill. I leave a 1/2 inch space at the top.
Safety guidelines recommend adding an additional acid to the top of the tomato sauce before you process it. Your choices are citric acid or bottled lemon juice. For citric acid powder, click here.
Getting Ready to Hot Bath
Next, wiping down the rim of the jar will ensure your lid seals properly.
Now the jar is ready to go into the hot bath. Again, proceed with caution as you are putting something heavy into boiling water.
I submerge the jars and simmer for 40 minutes.
You know when you have sealed the jars correctly, as the center button in the lid will pop down as the jar cools. It is rather satisfying to hear pop, pop, pop as all the lids complete the seal.
Whether you decide to can tomatoes or not, below is Rick’s recipe using 3 lbs. of tomatoes and it is worth making.
It is also possible to process certain foods with the oven method (jams, especially). To see that process, click here to see how I made fig preserves.
Since we really don’t know what the supply chain will be over the holidays, tomato sauce or other homemade preserved foods will be a wonderful gift. So if you have access to an abundance of fruits or vegetables, think about canning them for yourself or your friends.
I hope you have some fun plans this weekend. Happily I am up at the cabin again appreciating the cooler mountain temps. The plan is to do some painting (on canvas), and get some biking or walking in. Enjoy!
Rick’s Tomato Sauce
- 6 TBSP olive oil extra virgin
- 1 TBSP minced garlic
- 3 lbs Ripe plum (Roma) tomatoes stemmed, cored and cut into pieces (16 pieces)
- 2 tsp Kosher salt
- Heat oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add garlic and cook 20 seconds until fragrant (do not brown). Stir in tomatoes and salt. Raise heat and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer vigorously, stirring frequently, until sauce has thickened slightly and tomato skins are starting to separate from flesh, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Pass sauce through the medium disc of a food mill. Discard skin and seeds. Return the milled sauce to the pot. Bring to a vigorous simmer and reduce by half for a thick sauce.
- Let sauce sit (overnight in refrigerator is best). Bring to room temperature and skim off any floating olive oil (the tomato oil is great for other uses).
- Season with additional salt to taste. The sauce is ready to serve and can bee seasoned with oregano, red pepper flakes or basil.Recipe can easily be multiplied given the amount of tomatoes available and the size of the pot.Sauce freezes well and is suitable for wet bath canning.
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Wow, a lot of work, but so much reward. I have always wanted to do this. I’m trying to talk my husband into a big gardent next year. I bet the sauce is absolutely delicious.
Mary Crozier says
Not only does the garden provide fresh food, but for me, it is really the only place where I can shut off my brain. It is so relaxing to be out there with your hands in the dirt. Very therapeutic for me indeed. The sauce is good. I am a fan of simple ingredients and what’s nice is that you can add more seasoning if you want.
Barbara at Mantel and Table says
This is wonderful Mary and makes me want to get canning again! You’re right it’s so satisfying! Happy Sunday!
Mary Crozier says
Well, in thinking ahead to the holidays (which I try NOT to do), I think homemade gifts will be the trend. With everyone home and uncertainties about if inventories and supplies will be available, I would imagine a homemade, homegrown gift would be ideal. I’m thinking of ways I can put this sauce in a basket, with pasta, perhaps a homemade bread. I’d certainly like to get a gift like that! Happy Canning!
Linda Johnston says
We usually freeze ours. I’m going to try out your sauce recipe this week with ours that are coming in beautifully right now!
Mary Crozier says
Linda, isn’t having fresh tomato sauce in the middle of the winter the best? What kinds of tomatoes are you growing? Mine are all past their prime because of our excessively hot summers. But I will plant more tomatoes in the fall for a January/February harvest. However, I don’t think they are as good as the ones I pick in June. Happy Gardening and canning!
Tanya R Lochridge says
Wow — 50 pounds of tomatoes is a boatload of goodness. Loved your mention of leaving your husband out of the processing mix! A girlfriend of mine on the east coast makes massive amounts of tomato sauce every summer. She, her mom, aunts and her grandma rent a kitchen in a local church for the day and then they all join in…getting the job done and having fun while doing it. She doesn’t remember a summer when the “sauce” went unmade! A nice family tradition. Have you “sampled” it yet…or are you letting the memory of the tedium of the making day fade before jumping in?
Mary Crozier says
Well, my husband was part of the mix…..for a short period of time, hence my comments about having female relatives and friends! What a wonderful tradition for your girlfriend. Yes, I have sampled it~it’s delicious. I also made some roasted tomatoes, but ate too many the other day so I’m taking a tomato break!
Fig Preserves link did not work for me.
Mary Crozier says
Thanks for letting me know. I just went in and fixed it.
Chas Greener says
I’m so envious of all your tomatoes Mary 🙂 I can’t wait to try your tomato sauce! Thanks so much for sharing
Andrea Hundley says
Wow that’s a serious undertaking. You are so Martha. Always going above and beyond.