Although the days are getting shorter (have you noticed? I have. I don’t like it), signaling that Fall is right around the corner, my garden continues to turn out tomatoes in large quantities.
I think I mentioned, in an earlier post from this past Spring, that one thing I wanted to learn this summer was how to make pasta sauce for canning. Well Folks, mission accomplished!
A couple weeks ago I spent the better part of the day simmering a large pot of veggies down to an amazing sauce for pasta. Prior to this, I spent time researching how this recipe should come together. I didn’t settle on any one recipe, rather I pulled together elements from several that suited me and came up with this:
-16 lbs Tomatoes
-2 Large Green Bell Peppers*
-1 Large Red Bell Pepper*
-3 Large Onions
– 3 Cans Tomato Paste (6 oz each)**
-Heaping 1/3 cup of Sugar***
-Heaping 1/8 cup of Salt***
-6 Garlic Cloves, Minced
-3 teaspoons Dried Oregano
-1 Heaping teaspoon Dried Parsley Flakes***
-1 Heaping teaspoon Dried Basil***
-1 Heaping teaspoon Cayenne Pepper***
-1 teaspoon (plus a couple more dashes) Worchestershire sauce***
-2 small Bay Leaves
*If I could have gotten 2 red bell peppers out of my garden on this day, that’s what I would have used. But, the garden produces what it produces so I went with 2 green and 1 red.
**Yes, I bought tomato paste from the store. I didn’t have the time to cook down my own paste (I think it takes something like a week to accomplish this…haha). It is essential for helping the sauce thicken so…I did what I had to do. I can’t be 100% self sufficient all the time (or, ever), thank goodness for the grocery store!
***I like to cook by sight/taste so these measurements are approximate. It’s the joy of cooking vs. baking, you can do it this way!
****Lemon juice is used only for canning. It’s part of the preservation process. Has to do with the acidity of the tomatoes and helping to ensure you don’t get sick off the sauce when you eat it months down the road. There’s a whole science to it, I’ll leave it at that.
-Start by blanching the tomatoes. I’ve talked about blanching veggies in this post, but for a reminder: bring a large pot of water to a boil. While this is heating up, put together an ice bath (large bowl, or sink, full of cold water with ice). Tomatoes go into the boiling water for a couple minutes, then straight into the ice bath. The goal isn’t to cook the tomatoes, but rather to loosen their skins to make for easier peeling.
-Peel, core, quarter, and de-seed the tomatoes. Throw them into a large stockpot. Seeding tomatoes takes more time and not every recipe calls for this, but from what I read, it’s the best way to ensure your sauce thickens (which mine did, beautifully).
-In a food processor, process the bell peppers and onion until they are finely chopped. I also threw my garlic cloves into the processor for a quick chop instead of mincing them by hand or with another kitchen tool (this is a messy enough job without creating additional dishes).
-Bell peppers, onion, garlic, and everything else on the list except for the lemon juice go into the stock pot with the tomatoes.
-Place the pot on the stove and bring to a boil. This takes awhile given all the ingredients in the pot, so be patient. Once you’ve got a good boil, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 5’ish hours. Stir occasionally. You will slowly see the tomatoes break down into saucy deliciousness.
Once your sauce has reached the consistency you would like (and you have removed the bay leaves), it’s time to make a decision…freeze or can?? I chose to can, because I like the final product of canned items better both in taste and presentation but I understand the benefits of freezing: takes less time, less risk of illness (anything homemade and canned runs a risk of mold spores growing inside cans not prepared properly – people have even died, though I believe this to be rare).
If you decide to freeze, simply allow the sauce to cool down a bit, and divvy your it up into containers that fit your lifestyle (I would go with plastic containers vs. freezer bags, but this is your call). One of the things I love about homemade ‘stuff’ is that you can portion however works for you…large family? Larger batches frozen together. 1 person? Smaller batches frozen together. You get the point. Oh wait! I got off track here! Anyway…divvy up your sauce and pop it into the freezer. Done!
If you decide to can, you’ve got a bit of work ahead of you yet. BUT – in my opinion – it is Oh So Worth It!
I mean, how can you pass this up? You can see the beautiful colors inside the jars. This doesn’t happen with freezing. Beautiful AND Tasty, I’m sold on this idea!
Canning (I’ll follow nearly the same procedure as in this post):
-Wash up your canning jars and rings.
-Sterilize the jars in boiling water.
-Add 2 Tablespoons of Lemon Juice to each hot jar, then ladle in the sauce, leaving about 1-1 1/2 inches head room.
-Place jar lids into hot water to soften the seal.
-Wipe the rims of the jars to ensure a good seal.
-Place lids on each jar and secure tightly with the rings.
-Process in a hot bath for 45 minutes (remember, the water in the hot bath must cover the tops of the jars by at least an inch AND the water should be boiling the entire 45 minutes. If it takes a minute or two to bring the water back up to boiling after you add the jars, start the timer when you see those bubbles again)
-When the 45 minutes are up, remove the jars from the hot bath and allow them to cool on the counter (not touching each other). You will hear the lids pop (aka: seal) as the jars cool down. Also, when you push on the lids there shouldn’t be any give. This is how you know they have sealed. In the event they don’t seal, no worries, pop the sauce into the fridge and eat right away! The jars that do seal can go into the pantry for good eats this winter! Mmmm.
My journey making pasta sauce took nearly a full day, but I am so pleased with how it turned out that I will definitely make more! Remember that you can taste test the sauce and adjust the flavor by adding more of the spices (or different spices if you prefer something else in your sauce).
It’s all about not being afraid to experiment. I encourage you to step out of your comfort zone and try this one, even if you reduce the recipe way down and make a batch for immediate use. I got 4 quarts and 1 pint with a little left over for immediate eats with the recipe in this post.
Anyone have any favorite recipes using pasta sauce they’d like to share? I feel a pasta dish coming on soon…probably made in my recently purchased vintage pyrex dishes!