As I type this, it’s a bit rainy, perfect for catching up on some things indoors like canning. Last week I mentioned I was going to make some tomato sauce and I did, but unlike my original intentions to make the same recipe as this one, I mixed it up a bit. Tomatoes are at their peak right about now, and I fully intend on taking advantage of the great prices that are available but once a year.
Based on some conversations I’ve had in the past, I’m convinced that most people think canning is a lot more complicated than it actually is and are intimidated by the process, but once you get the hang of it, it’s quite easy and downright therapeutic. There’s something about seeing those sparkling jars all lined up in my pantry that gets my heart to flutter.
Before I get to the recipe, I’m going to share some tips which will hopefully save you some time and money should you decide to give canning a try. These are just a few of the books/magazines I have on canning. You see that one in the front by BHG?? It’s on the newsstands right now, and has tons of beautiful, easy to do recipes as well as a handy ‘how to’ guide on canning basics.
1. Can what you like to eat and know when it’s available:
This may sound quite simple, but I’ve been known to can many foods that were not my favorites, only to have them sit on the shelves and go to waste. I’ve also missed the boat on a few things I’ve wanted to can because the prime season was over. Since every area is different, I can’t tell what’s in season where you are, but a quick search for farms in your area will give you some ideas.
2. Make sure you set aside a full day for the process:
I know. This is a huge time commitment, but it includes picking your fruit because it’s best to gather your fruit or veggies and can the same day. Plus, if you’re a beginner, you’ll want to make sure you’re not rushed the first time around.
Right now in the northeast, tons of produce are in season such as blueberries and picking them makes for a nice family activity.
3. Before you begin, make sure you have all the necessary supplies:
Few things are more frustrating than getting stopped in your tracks because you didn’t have the proper amount of rings and lids, pectin, jars, or whatever else you may need. This Amazon link has pretty much everything you might need and more for starters, but keep in mind you probably already have some items on hand. For one, you do NOT have to buy a canning pot. All you really need is a large pot, tall enough to hold whatever sized jars you’re using. In lieu of a rack that typically comes with ‘canning pots’, line the bottom of your pot with a clean kitchen towel to prevent the jars from direct contact with the heat and rattling around.
4. Start out with the easy stuff:
Jams are some of the easiest items to can, but if you like apricots I found this recipe to be just about the easiest I’ve ever done.
5. Remember…safety first!
While canning is not complicated, you need to follow correct procedures to avoid spoilage. Only follow trusted sources and don’t cut corners. I recommend the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving for beginners. It’s reasonably priced at less than $13 and you’ll use it again and again.
This recipe, like many others, can be adapted to suit your tastes. If you don’t like onions, don’t use them! Prefer more or less spice? No problem. Adjust the red pepper and/or jalapeños accordingly.
Now on to the recipe!
- 12 pounds of ripe, Roma tomatoes (these are best for sauces since they provide the best flavor and thickness). Before starting, peel tomatoes by cutting an 'x' in the stem end and place in boiling water until you see the skin split. Remove and set aside.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 large onions, roughly chopped
- 6 large cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 3 tablespoons brown sugar
- 3 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1/4 cup red wine or balsamic vinegar
- 1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 cups fresh basil snipped into small pieces
- 1 1/2 cup assorted herbs such as oregano, thyme, flat leaf parsley
- 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 2 jalapeños, chopped finely (optional)
- 4 tablespoons lemon juice (to place in quart jars just prior to filling)
- 1. In a large 8 quart pot over medium heat, place the onions and jalapeños and sauté lightly. Add garlic, being careful not to let it turn brown. If you have a hand held blender, place tomatoes into the pot and puree. If you don't have one, working in batches use a food processor then place in large pot with onions.
- 2. Add brown sugar, salt, wine, and black pepper. Bring to boiling, stirring frequently and reduce heat to low-medium. Simmer, uncovered for approximately 80 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chopped herbs and crushed red pepper.
- 3. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the lemon juice into each of 4 quart jars that have been sterilized. Ladle the hot sauce into the jars, leaving 1/4 headspace. Wipe jar lids and screw on bands lightly.
- 4. Process filled jars in a boiling water canner for 35 minutes. Remove jars and let cool on wire racks.
- Tip: If you are able to press the center of the lid in, you do not have a proper seal. Turn over the jar and let cool. This usually does the trick. If not, refrigerate and use within one week or freeze in freezer proof containers.
- Before beginning, sterilize your jars in a water bath for approximately 10 minutes. Toward the end of the cooking process, I place my jars and lids in a 200 degree oven to keep them warm. This step is optional.
In other news…the storage area under the deck is coming along. The lattice has been delivered to the store, and Fisherman will be picking it up today. We’re headed to Rhode Island this week so that project is on hold a bit, but the good news is I should have some pretty pictures to share next week of the gorgeous mansions in Newport!