How many of you have room for a garden and plant your own tomatoes? We are lucky that we have some room and I am extremely grateful that my husband loves to garden. He has planted tomatoes in his garden since before we were married and I've been the lucky beneficiary of fresh garden grown tomatoes throughout our whole marriage. There's nothing like a tomato picked right from the vine. It happens to be my favorite fruit. Yes, the tomato is actually a fruit for those of you who don't know that nifty little fact.
My husband is a fabulous gardener and always purchases tomato plants although he has tried starting them from seed. Buying the plants is much easier. He buys only Sun Brights and they are the best, most meaty tomato. In fact this year he took our friend Tom to the place where he gets them and Tom is so excited with this tomato it is all he will ever plant from here on out in his own garden.
Canning tomato sauce is a process but it's not difficult and we've been doing it for simply years and years and our homemade Garden Tomato Sauce is fantastic. Both of us have this down to a science so to speak and this year it seemed like a breeze. We did two batches and ended up with 42 quarts of tomato sauce to use all year long and to give to our kids with a promise of them returning our jars and lids of course!
If you own a house or have a rental where your landlord will allow a garden, I highly recommend planting tomatoes and then canning. We made some initial investment for equipment, but we use it year after year. Here is a list of what we use:
- 2 - 24 quart stainless steel pots (You can use any large pots - but not aluminum.)
- turkey roasting pot with lid (You don't need a fancy canning pot.)
- ball jars, rings and lids (quarts or pints - your choice)
- food mill
- 5 gallon bucket or a large colander and bowl
- jar lifter
- wide mouth funnel
I had the stainless steel pots from my restaurant (lucky me) but you can use any heavy bottomed large pot but stay away from aluminum. Aluminum and acidic tomatoes are not a good match! We have the turkey roaster with lid and it's perfect for the final process of canning the tomatoes; however you can use any large pot for the water process.
Also my husband went to Lowe's or Home Depot a few years back and purchased two heavy duty orange 5 gallon buckets and drilled holes in them. The reason: our colanders were not large enough to drain the tomatoes and these work perfectly.
The jar lifter helps getting the jars out of the water bath and I think a wise investment. Most of us have blenders but if you don't, you can buy an inexpensive blender at a job lot store or a place like Walmart for not a lot of money. Once you have all your equipment you are set for years and years of canning your garden tomatoes and whatever you have spent you get it back in fresh sauce all year long!
Here's the ingredients list:
- large sweet onions
- lemon juice (bottled is perfect for this)
- olive oil
Are you reading to get started? The first thing you want to do is cut up a large sweet onion into a tiny dice or use your food processor for that. Add some olive oil to the bottom of your pot over medium heat and add in the onions. Saute and stir occasionally while you begin to process the tomatoes. If you need to, turn the heat down to medium low so the onions do not burn.
Step 1: Preparing the tomatoes.
- Set your bucket or large colander in your sink.
- Core your tomatoes like in the photograph and then cut them into pieces. Place the pieces in the bucket as you go. (What you want to accomplish here is allowing the tomatoes to loose some of their natural water.)
- When you have all the tomatoes cored and cut just let them sit there for a couple of hours.
Step 2: Blending the tomato pieces.
- You will need some of the tomato water from draining the tomatoes to add to the blender when you first start blending them. About a half inch will do. If you got rid of the tomato water just use regular tap water.
- Use the puree/smoothie button on your blender. You can fill the blender about full with tomato pieces.
- Lid it and puree for about a minute or so each time. From here the pureed tomatoes will go into a food mill. (That's the next step.)
Step 3: Set your food mill over a pot.
- Pour the blended tomatoes in the mill leaving about 1/2 inch of what you have blended in the blender for the next batch of cut tomatoes.
- Turn the mill to further get more seeds and skin out. Add the milled tomatoes to your pot.
- Do this over and over again and clean out the food mill during the process until you have finished all of your tomatoes.
Step 4: Cooking the sauce.
- You will have to have the sauce come up to a good bubble and then turn the heat down slightly and cook without a cover for a few hours so the water evaporates and the flavor concentrates.
- We stir our sauce quite often during this process so it won't burn.
- Cook it down until it's reduced by about 2 1/2 to 3 inches and that takes about 3 hours.
Step 5: Canning Process. You MUST have sterilized jars and rings to can. We run ours through the dishwasher. You need not do that with the lids.
- To each sterilized jar we add 1 teaspoon of lemon juice.
- Next you fill the jars with the hot sauce to the lines around the jars. Then place a lid on and a ring. Turn but do not tighten completely at this point.
- Boil for about 20 minutes.
- Remove the jars with the handy jar lifter and place on a towel. Repeat the process to complete your jars. When the jars are cooling down use a pot holder to secure the lids tightly. When completely cooled you store them in a cool dark place.
Now you can enjoy homemade red sauces with your fresh tomato sauce all year long! When making spaghetti sauce we hardly ever use tomato paste. All we do is saute onion and garlic and add our jar(s) of sauce and the spices we like and let it simmer. It gets some thickness as it cooks.