Tomatoes! Tomato? Tomato sauce. Tomato juice. Spaghetti sauce. You name it, if I can grow my own organic tomatoes and then can them into any form I want them to take and have it taste amazing in the middle of winter…well, I’m one happy 30-something. Btw, I say organic, but I’m not overly-fussy about everything having to be organic, but it does factor into my life in some areas and then other areas, not at all. Skincare will be one of the areas where I care a little bit more about the ingredients that they contain than maybe other things in my life! Coming up!
So anyway, Spaghetti sauce to an Italian is like what flowers are to bees, hot dogs in mac-n-cheese is to a toddler, or carrots are to rabbits…you catch my drift. I don’t want to spend too much time on the basics of canning (sterilizing the jars/lids, listening for the pop when they come out of the water bath, or checking for a tight seal at the end) as sources are endless online regarding those, so here we go!
Basic tools of the trade:
Two topics not easily found online or buried:
1. Almost all jams and fruit jellies will need an additional “tool” of the trade – Fruit Pectin – that you can buy at almost any grocer.
2. Tomatoes walk the fine line of being acidic but possibly, maybe, maybe not acidic enough to sustain a shelf life in your canning jar, so to solve that problem – enter Citric Acid or lemon juice. Citric Acid comes in a small plastic container and can be found in the same area as all the canning supplies. This is not needed if you plan on pressure cooking instead of a boiling water bath. Directions on how much to use for both of these ingredients should be on the container.
Now, what was overly frustrating for canning is that no sources give you the “number-of-vegetable-per-how-many-quart-or-pint-jars-it-will-make ratio.” Sources instead give you recipes by weight, which doesn’t help if you don’t own a food scale, i.e. me. There’s a few reasons for that. One being everyone grows or purchases different-sized vegetables. With tomatoes, it may depend on what type you use (roma being the preferred for sauces) that will make it vary in size, not to mention how much of the tomato you want to keep whole in your sauce or if you want just the juice, which would render even less of an amount, etc.
I have 8 roma tomato plants in my garden, 4 grape tomato, and 4 beef steak. This changes every year until I find what works best. I’ve come to notice that the 8 roma tomato plants will yield red tomatoes maybe only 20-30 at a time. This is about the amount you need for doing small work – ONE quart jar. TIP: If some tomatoes are red but not enough to make an entire batch or recipe, you can pick the red ones and freeze them until you have enough to can the rest! In addition, if you don’t have enough finished sauce at the end for a jar, you can freeze the sauce in freezer bags.
For my first quart, I mixed the romas and some grape tomatoes but no beef steaks, as none were ready yet!
1. Cut a slit into an “x” on the bottom of all of the tomatoes.
2. Drop them into a pot of boiling water for no longer than a minute and then shock them in an ice water bath.
3. Doing this, loosens the skin for removal, so go ahead, and do that.
4. Dice ½ a yellow onion, 1 bell pepper, garlic cloves to your taste, & mushrooms.
5. Sautee everything from step 4 into a pan with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, salt, pepper, fresh oregano, thyme, and fresh basil (added at the end).
a. Some people add a bay leaf, celery, maybe a red wine, maybe tomato paste to thicken
6. Using a food mill, you can either hand-crank the tomatoes making more of a juice with little to no seeds or just mash them by hand with a potato masher.
7. Combine the mashed tomatoes with the goodies from step 4 & 5 into a pan with your citric acid or lemon juice.
8. Slow, gentle boil until you’ve reduced the mixture by half, mostly getting all of the water out.
9. Scoop the mixture into your jars using a canning funnel for less mess.
10. Pop them gently into their canning bath of glory for about 40 minutes for a quart jar.
*Leave a comment if you would like any other info. I can offer you more on the basics of canning if you’d like or the basics of gardening, types of tomatoes, etc.