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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Canning Tomatoes - Tomato Sauce!

I am lucky this year in my heirloom tomatoes.  I am getting about 20 a day, in every color and size.  I have been dehydrating them, canning them in various ways, and using them to make things like hot sauce. I have been using most of them, however, to make tomato sauces for lasagna, spaghetti, and my husband's famous Hunter's Chicken.

One Day Haul from the Garden

Everyone who makes a tomato sauce has their own recipe, and mine is probably not quite the same as anyone else.  The best part of canning tomato sauce is that you can season it anyway you like and then can it for later use.  This canning session will fit almost any tomato sauce as long as it is just tomatoes and spices.  If you plan on canning your sauces with veggies, depending on the veggies, you may want to use a pressure canner.  If you plan on canning your sauces with meat, then you must use a pressure canner and time it for meat, not sauce.  I do give times for these variations at the end.

The first thing you want to do is get your sauce made.  I like to use heirloom tomatoes, because the taste is unbeatable.  I also like to use several different varieties.  My Cuoro-de-Toro tomatoes a a large paste that adds a nice sweet taste, along with my Wampinsican Peach tomato, while my Jersey Devils and my Casa-de-Cellis add a tangy flavor.  By adding a variety of tomatoes with different tastes, I can get a light, sweet yet tangy sauce, without adding any sugar or lemon juice.

I also use fresh spices from the garden.  I like to add oregano, basil and thyme, along with fresh garlic.  The fresh herbs add a lightness, which tastes like summer, to the sauce.  After removing the skins and the seeds, and saving the best of the seeds for next year, I cut up the tomatoes and puree half of them, and stew the other half.  I put the garlic in the puree and cook that over med-low heat for several hours until the puree is halved.  The stewed tomatoes will also lose a lot of water.  After a few hours I take the stewed tomatoes off, let them cool, and then put them in the food processor with the fresh herbs.  I then combine the whole together, and add salt to taste, being careful to not over-salt it in case I am serving guests.  If you are going to can right away, keep the sauce hot as you get your jars and canner ready.  If you are realizing that it is 10pm and you need sleep, put the sauce in a glass bowl, cover it and put in the fridge.  I do not leave the tomatoes in a metal pan.  I know that modern pots are coated and whatnot, but working at Firestone Farm, I learned that leaving anything acidic in a pot overnight can ruin the taste, and my hard work is not worth testing any pot on its special coating.  Make sure that you do process your sauce the next day, and do not let it sit in the fridge for days before using it.

Stewing the Tomatoes

 I will be giving instructions for both the hot-water bath canning and pressure canning methods, because tomato sauces without meat can be processed using both methods, as they are an acidic product.  Both canning methods use the same preparations, so choose the one you prefer.

The first thing I do is set up my area, and make sure that I wash all my canning jars, new lids, rings, and equipment in hot soapy water. I also make sure that my rings are not dented or damaged in any way from previous cannings.  Once everything is washed, I get everything laid out in a way that will be quickest for me to get everything done.  When dealing with canning, working quickly and efficiently is helpful and necessary.

Funnel, lid spacer, jar lifter, magnetic lid lifter, cooling rack

If you are canning the same day as making the sauce, and your sauce is still hot, you are ready to go!  If you are starting with your sauce from the fridge, you need to bring it to a soft boil, and them simmer it while getting everything prepared.

Sauce all happy and simmering.

Before you can begin filling the jars, you need to heat up the jars, the new lids, and the rings.  Place the rings and lids in a small sauce pan, cover them with water and heat them over medium, but do not bring this to a boil.  If you are using a pressure canner, put the recommended amount of water in the bottom, with a splash of vinegar to keep the water clear, and set the jars in.  Put the lid on, but do not lock it, and bring water to a boil.  For hot-water canning, fill the jars with water, put them on the rack inside the canner, and fill the canner until the jars are covered, and bring to a boil.

Hot-Water Bath Canner

Pressure Canner

Once the canner water is boiling, it is time to start canning!  With either method, use the jar lifter to remove the jars from the canner, and dump the water out, back into the canner.  Place the jars on the cooling rack, and using the funnel and a soup ladle, fill the jars up, leaving 1/2 inch head space for hot-water bath, or 1 inch head space for pressure canning.  I use my nifty little head spacer tool, which comes in Ball's canning kit.  The head-space if very important, you do not want liquid forced out of the jars, compromising the seals, or worse, having the jars break in the canner.

Sauce in the jars

Once the jars are filled, and the head-space measured, I use my magnetic lid lifter to lift the new, never used, lids out of the hot water, and place one on each of the jars.  I still use the fork to lift out the rings, which come next.  Twist those on, and tighten the lids finger-tight, but do not wrench them down, this could damage the seals.  Use a hot pad to place the rings on, but you will have to use your fingers to tighten the lids.  Place the jars back in the canner as soon as you have the lids on.

Inside the Pressure Canner

 If you are doing hot-water bath, make sure the water comes over the top of the jars, put the lid on the canner, and bring back to a boil.  Making sure the canner is at a boil through the whole processing time, process for 35 minutes.  Once the 35 minutes is over, turn the heat off, take off the lid and wait about 5 minutes before removing the jars.  Place them on the rack to cool.

If you are pressure canning, put the lid on and lock it down.  Wait for the steam to come out of the vent and start the count for 10 minutes.  After 10 minutes, put the pressure control weight on, wait for the pressure to register, and process both pint and quart jars  for 15 minutes.  Once the 15 minutes are done, turn off the heat and let the pressure return to normal.  Unlock and remove the lid, and wait about 5 minutes before removing the jars.  Place them on the rack to cool.  If you are adding veggies, process pint jars under-pressure for 15 minutes, and quart jars for 20 minutes.  If you are doing a tomato sauce with ground meat or sausage, process under-pressure at 60 minutes for pint jars, and 70 minutes for quart jars.

Ready for the Pantry.

The best part of canning comes next.  As the jars cool, you will hear that delightful little pop, as each jar lid is sucked down, confirming that you have a sealed jar.  It is one of my most favorite sounds, and I cheer every time I hear it.  I usually let the jars cool for a few hours without being disturbed, write the contents and date canned, and then transfer them to the pantry in the basement.  Just remember, to keep a longer shelf life, store in a cool area, away from sunlight.

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