Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Canning Tomato Sauce

Canning tomatoes are like summer saved all that deep sun kissed flavor ready to enjoy.

Better Homes and Gardens

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes.  Everywhere I turn, tomatoes.  They are ripening on the vine as I type, beckoning me to go harvest, prepare, and savor their taste.  And, thus, I can, capturing the moment in a little canning jar.

(Canning tomatoes, revisited from blog)
After years of trying, revising, and cooking tomato sauce, and then not being satisfied with the results, I think I finally figured out the trick of making delicious tomato sauce. The recipes always say to cook until thick. Well, my husband and I would strain the tomatoes with a tomato strainer, put it in a big pot, stir, and stir, and stir a million times more, and after around 8 hours of cooking and stirring, the sauce may be at the consistency that we like (or almost there). Our sauce always turned out tasting acid-y and burnt.

When I started to make tomato sauce this year, I looked at that big pot, and I started to think that maybe the surface wasn't big enough to evaporate the liquid in a shorter period of time. So, I tried a good pan - my Pampered Chef 12" Covered Skillet.  After around 2-1/2 hours (compared to more than 8), my sauce was done and tasted oh so good. 

I discovered that the secret of making good sauce was the pan you used! Even though I am partial to Pampered Chef products, any good skillet will do, you just want to make sure it has a big surface and a thicker bottom. This may be a small investment, but it's well worth it. We use our skillet at least 3 times a week for regular meals. If you are interested in the pots and pans I sell, email me and I will send you a link to my website.   So, here's what I did, step-by-step:

Italian Tomato Sauce
makes about 5-6 quarts, depending on desired thickness

30 lbs. or 24 cups tomatoes, skinned, deseeded, and chopped
3 cups onions, chopped
2 cups green peppers, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, minced, OR 2 tsp. garlic powder
1 Tbs. salt
1 Tbs. and 1 tsp. of each - basil, oregano, Italian seasoning
1-2 Tbs. brown sugar (to taste)

** If you have never canned before, refer to canning books or sites for instructions.  One such website is Ball Jar's website.

1.  Wash all the tomatoes.

2. Chop and deseed the tomatoes.  I just quartered them.

 3.  Place the chopped tomatoes in large skillet, and put the temperature up high, stirring ever minute or so. 

 4.  When the liquid came to a boil, turn down the burner to a medium heat, and continue letting it boil (still stirring). The liquid will evaporate, and, in about an hour, you should have about half the liquid.

5.  While it's thickening, sauté onions, green peppers, and garlic until onions are transparent. 
6.  Pour as much of the tomatoes and liquid as you can in canning food mill or tomato press.

7.  Let the liquid drain, and return it to the skillet to let it thicken some more.
8.  As it thickens, and keep stirring, and put the tomatoes through the mill or press. 
9.  When the liquid reduces to a thick sauce, and add remaining ingredients except sugar to the skillet.

10.  Let simmer for about an hour so that the flavors would blend into the sauce.

11.  Add sugar, and simmer additional 5-10 minutes.

12.  For canning - As sauce thickens, arrange canning equipment (see canning books or canning websites to determine what equipment you will need).  Remember to sterilize jars, lids, and caps.  I sterilize mine by putting it through the dish washer right before I am going to can.  I try to time it so that the jars are still hot.

13.  Can or freeze according to instructions found in canning books. If canned, don't forget to add the lemon juice - 2 Tbs. per quart.

14.  And let the bubbles out.

Happy canning!
Aunt Janet

Monday, July 22, 2013

Guaranteed Laugh

Tonight, while watching TV, Uncle Todd asked me where I got these cookies.  Cookies?  I looked over and saw our four-legged girls, Maggie and Abbie, sitting next to him with their tails going 240. Uncle Todd was happily munching away at a cookie, paper bag on his lap, muttering “These are good.”  I started to hysterically laugh, tears running down my face, and I told him.

I had bought the cookies the day before at the annual Braidwood Days … for the dogs.  They were snickerdoodles for dogs!  It took a minute, and another bite, for Uncle Todd to realize that the girls were trying to tell him something.  UT was eating their cookies!

He threw the bag at me, and my girls attacked me with kisses and paws.  And I couldn’t stop laughing!

I’m still laughing.  And you wonder why I love him so much!
Aunt Janet
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