To finish our 2016 off with a bang, Jonathan Atwood provided us with an installment of Recipes on the Blog. 

With the end of summer near, those of us with tomato plants are often found scrambling for ideas of what to do with our bounty. One classic idea is to make a basic tomato sauce, but then what? How do you store quarts upon quarts of tomato sauce? Who has the freezer room? Who can eat that much sauce before it spoils in the fridge?

Do what our grandparents used to and can it. Canning is a great way to hold on to those fresh summer flavors in the cold of winter. It is also a lot easier than you might think.

For canning recipes, we rely upon the Ball Blue Book of Preserving, which is a wonderful resource for the seasoned and novice canner. This recipe is for “Seasoned Tomato Sauce,” and is exactly the one used in the Book, just cut in half. You can adjust the ratios of this recipe based on how many pounds of tomatoes you have.

The two most important rules in canning are that your mason jars (or whatever contained you’re preserving your food in) must be sterile (more on that in a bit), and you must add an acid to prevent the bacteria that causes botulism.

As for equipment, I would head out to your neighborhood hardware or home store and purchase the kit, which will include a jar lifter, canning funning and magnetic lid lifter. You will also want to purchase a container of citric acid, which we will add before pouring our sauce into the jars. For a water bath canner, a large pot big enough for water to cover your jars is fine. If you don’t have a huge pot that can fit a lot of jars at once, that’s fine, you will just do fewer jars at a time. I also recommend getting a rack for the jars to stand on in the pot, but it is not necessary.

I should also note that I do not use a food strainer or food mill to get rid of the tomato skins (as they instruct you to do in the recipe). Instead, I score the tomatoes and blanch them for 30-60s seconds, just enough to be able to peel the skins off, then put them in an ice bath to cool them back down. You can also just leave the skins on if you like a chunkier sauce.

SEASONED TOMATO SAUCE RECIPE FOR HOME CANNING

Ingredients:

22.5 pounds of paste tomatoes

3 cups chopped onions (about 3 large onions)

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 Tablespoon oregano

3 dried bay leaves

1/2 Tablespoon ground black pepper

4 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoons crushed red pepper (optional)

Citric acid or bottled lemon juice

Salt to taste

Equipment:

Water bath canner

Large saucepans

Small pot of water over low heat

8 pint jars or 5 quart jars

Lids and bands

Large pots

Magnetic lid lifter

Jar lifter

Canning ladle

Canning funnel

Kitchen towels

Knife

Large spoons

Cutting board

Directions:
1. Your tomatoes should be peeled by this point. Cut them in half or quarters and add to your sauce pots.
2. In a large frying pan over medium heat, sauté the onions and garlic in the olive oil until soft. Add to the saucepan(s) with the prepared tomatoes. Simmer on low heat, stirring occasionally so to prevent sticking.
3. As the tomatoes simmer, they will release their juices. After the tomatoes and the vegetables are soft, turn off the heat and allow the sauce to cool.

4. Return the strained tomato sauce to the saucepan(s) to cook down further to thicken the sauce. Add oregano, bay leaves, pepper, sugar, and crushed red pepper. If you are using multiple pots, roughly divide the ingredients for each pot. All the ingredients will be combined into one pot as the sauce cooks down. Simmer over low heat with the cover vented so the excess moisture evaporates. As the sauce reduces, combine it into one pot. Use your ladle to avoid splashing.
5. Once the volume is reduced by half, your tomato sauce should be nice and thick. Use a clean spoon and taste the sauce. Add salt and stir in. Taste again. Add more salt if needed. Keep the sauce warm over low heat.
6. Prepare your jars and lids by washing in warm, soapy water and rinsing thoroughly. Place jar rack into water bath canner, set jars in the canner, add water, and boil jars for 10 minutes to sterilize. Warm your lids in a small pot over low heat. Keep jars and lids warm until ready to use.
7. Spread a kitchen towel on the counter. Use your jar lifter (or a strong pair of tongs) to remove warm jars from canner, drain, and line up on the towel. Add citric acid or bottled lemon juice to each jar. For pints, add 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid or 1 Tablespoon of bottled lemon juice to each jar. For quarts, add 1/2 teaspoon citric acid or 2 Tablespoons of bottled lemon juice to each jar.
8. Use your canning ladle and funnel and add tomato sauce to warm jars leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe the rims. Use your magnetic lid lifter to lift lids out of the warm water, center lid on the jar, and screw on band until it is fingertip tight.
9. Using a jar lifter, place jars carefully into canner leaving space in between them. Once jars are all in canner, adjust the water level so it is at least one inch above the jar tops. Add more boiling water if needed so the water level is at least one inch above the jar tops. When adding water, use the hot water from the small pot your lids were in. Pour the water around the jars and not directly onto them.
10. Cover the canner and bring to boil over high heat. Once water boils vigorously, process pints for 35 minutes and quarts for 40 minutes at altitudes of less than 1,000 ft. (You could try 15-20 minutes, then check your cans, and if you hear the cans pop, it means the air is gone. If not, return them to the water).
11. When processing time is complete, turn off heat and allow the canner to cool down and settle for about 10 minutes. Spread a kitchen towel on the counter; remove the cover by tilting lid away from you so that steam does not burn your face. Use a jar lifter to lift jars carefully from canner and place on the towel. Allow the jars to cool for 12 to 24-hours. You should hear the satisfactory “ping” of the jar lids sealing.
12. After 12 to 24-hours, check to be sure jar lids have sealed by pushing on the center of the lid. The lid should not pop up. If the lid flexes up and down, it did not seal. Refrigerate jar and use up within a few days.
13. Remove the screw on bands and wash the jars. Label and date the jars. Store your jars in a cool, dark place and use within 12 months. Yields about 6-7 pint jars or 3-4 quarts depending on how much the sauce reduces.