Today’s guest post comes from Laura of A Pug in the Kitchen. I’ve known Laura for the longest of all my bloggy friends and she graciously agreed to do this tutorial after “canning tomato sauce” won my poll and I realized I probably wouldn’t be able to do it!
I come from a long line of tomato sauce makers. As far back as when I was still standing on a kitchen chair to help my mom, I remember stories of her grandmother’s sauce and how she always carried a sprig of basil in the front pocket of her apron. If you ask my grandmother’s neighbors what they remember most about her, they will typically answer that the whole street smelled like home when she made her pasta sauce. My own mother planted 2 dozen tomato plants every year and made vat after vat of sauce. After she died, I got her tomato sauce vat and I proudly use it yearly. However, when it came time to make my own sauce, I wanted to can mine, and not use up valuable freezer space. For this, I took lessons from my husband’s sister’s mother-in-law. It was a long day, full of tomatoes, but the skills I learned then I use often and hope you will find helpful throughout this brief lesson on canning tomato sauce.
Before you begin, you must first make sure you have canning jars, lids, rings and something to use as a water bath canner. I have a home canning kit that was given to me as a wedding present, but I have also found that as long as you are able to cover your jars completely with water, you can use any pan you’d like. When I make sauce, I prefer to use the Roma tomato variety because they are meatier tomatoes and the sauce thickens up better. Any tomato will do, it’s simply my preference.
My mother washed, cored and quartered the tomatoes before taking them for a spin in her blender. While this method is a piece of cake and requires no blanching and peeling, I am rather partial to the Kitchen Aid attachment for straining fruits and vegetables. It is literally the same 3 steps as with a blender, but the Kitchen Aid attachment is designed to reject the seeds and skin, so all you have a pure tomato pulp. (Also effective and a much cheaper option is a simple food grinder. It’s great for quick jobs, homemade baby foods and if you don’t have a Kitchen Aid!) Once your tomatoes are mashed, put them into a stockpot and begin to heat them. The point of heating the tomatoes is to sanitize them and then cook them to the thickness you desire. I like mine as thick as I can get it, so I often add in an 8 oz can of tomato paste per 6-7 pounds of tomatoes while the sauce is cooking to ensure it gets to the consistency I want. You can add in your choice of spices while the sauce is cooking or leave it plain and add them in before you serve.
While your sauce is cooking, this is the time to get your jars, lids and rings in order. I try to do the bulk of my sauce in quart-sized jars, but after I have at least 20, I am willing to do pints of sauce. You will need to sanitize your jars and one of the quickest ways of doing this is to put them in your dishwasher on the sanitize cycle. If you don’t have this option, fill your canner with water and boil the jars for 2 minutes. The lids and the rings should go in a separate pan to simmer until you are ready to use them.
Once the jars have been sanitized, the water in your canner is boiling and your sauce is the thickness you desire, you are ready! Carefully ladle the sauce into your jars, leaving 1/4th inch headspace. Then add in 2 Tbsp. lemon juice for quart jars (1 Tbsp for pints), so keep the tomatoes fresh tasting and to reduce any odds of spoilage. Then wipe the rims with a towel, retrieve your lids and fasten them tightly. Set your jars down in the boiling water bath and make sure the tops are covered with at least an inch of water. Process them for 40 minutes for quarts and 35 minutes for pints. Once the jars are done, remove them from the water using tongs and set them aside to cool. When they are cool, you can check to make sure they have all sealed by pushing down on the tops of the lids and making sure they don’t spring back. Don’t do this while the jars are still hot because you can seriously burn yourself and you really shouldn’t mess with the jars until they are cool as it can hinder them from sealing completely. As the jars do seal, you should hear them “ping” shut. If you’ve never heard it before, you’ll love it and if you’re a pro, I think you’ll agree with me that that sound is even more rewarding than the sauce itself after a long day of tomato canning!
*For thin sauce – An average of 35 pounds of tomatoes is needed per 7 quarts of sauce; an average of 21 pounds of tomatoes is needed per 9 pints of sauce. A bushel weighs 53 pounds and yields 10 to 12 quarts of sauce-an average of 5 pounds per quart.
*For thick sauce – An average of 46 pounds of tomatoes is needed per 7 quarts of sauce; an average of 28 pounds of tomatoes is needed per 9 pints of sauce. A bushel weighs 53 pounds and yields 7 to 9 quarts of sauce-an average of 6½ pounds per quart.
*I don’t recommend putting fresh garlic into your sauce before you can it. For some reason, the flavor always seems a little off to me. I like to simmer my sauce for a little before actually using it, so I add the garlic in then.
Laura is an advocate of things green, natural and even a little crunchy after leaving her career as a Toxicology researcher when it became evident to her what was really going on behind all the pretty labels. Today, she can be found in the garden, in the kitchen, playing with her 1 year old son, crafting or stealing a few moments to read. Feeding people real, local and simple food that isn’t deceptively healthy is her passion. Check out Laura’s blog A Pug in the Kitchen or follow her on twitter @Beansprouthair.