Monday, July 14, 2008

Feeling saucy

With tomato season nearing an end here in Texas, I'm officially in a panic. What? No more 'maters? But... but... Slowly over the weeks, I've watched the surge of tomatoes at the farmers market wane. "One more week," Tanya (from the market) told us this week. "Just one more week." Well, fiddlesticks.

So I bought 'em all. Well, not really, but as you can tell from my farmers market report yesterday, I bought quite a few. Saving some back for tomato sandwiches, I got to washing and chopping and sauteing. Let's see. How did it all come together...

First I chopped a large onion and about a dozen large mushrooms, sauteing them in olive oil. Next, I chopped up some fresh basil, oregano, and rosemary, dropping them in the pot along with the softened veggies. Next were the tomatoes - chopped and in they went, skins and all. Part of my theory behind adding the skins is that I like chunky sauce. The other is that I can't bear to toss the skins and since I'm terminally lazy in the kitchen, it all goes in together. Hey, it's not prego. It's mine and it's better if I do say so myself. But I digress...

Once the tomatoes started to break down and release their juice, I added salt and allowed the sauce to simmer maybe 20 minutes on medium heat.  At that point, I had a lot of juice, so I skimmed some of it out into a bowl and added some flour, whisked it all together, and added it back to the pot in order to thicken things up just a bit. It was at this point that I added the good stuff - sugar. Mmmm, sugar!  Simmering... simmering... simmering... Maybe another half hour or so. A little taste test? Flavor - excellent. Tenderness - perfect. Let's rock and roll!

Leaving the heat on the pot so the sauce could continue to simmer, I separated my canning lids from my jars, put the lids in a saucepan with a little water on to boil, washed up my 1 pt canning jars, filled my water bath canner with enough water to cover the pint jars, and put it on the stove, turning the burner on high.

Once the lids were boiling in their saucepan, I moved them to the side and the process began. A little sauce in the jar, leaving a little bit of head room... on goes the lid and the band... set it to the side and do it again...

Six 1-pint jars later, I was ready to head for the water bath canner. The water was still heating up (no where near boiling point yet). That's good. I placed the jars in the canning rack and into the water they went. It was another half hour before the water started boiling and we could start timing the process. Once at boiling though, we were only 40 minutes from a finished product. Keep in mind, I'm sitting on my tush in the living room while most of this is taking place - all the simmering, and water boiling. This is my kind of work!

After 40 minutes in the boiling water, I extracted the jars with my special canning tongs and set them on a clean towel to cool. The sweet sound of the jars sealing was music to my ears. Every few minutes signaled the "pop" of success. I allowed them to rest overnight, then labeled them and removed the bands the next morning. They're ready to store and drool over until winter time. Sweet!

I'm sure if I was prepping food for a large family for the entire winter, this might be more of a daunting task. But really, on the small scale I'm working, this is so incredibly easy, it's a ton of fun, and, well, I'm going to be eating homemade, local pasta sauce this winter. Doesn't that just say it all!

26 comments:

Rapunzel said...

That sauce looks amazing! I have never tried canning but you do make it look easy!

Cookiemouse said...

Found your blog via Jennifer, and I've linked to you, if that's OK.

Burbanmom said...

You've almost, almost got me jazzed up to do my sauce. Unfortunately, hubby is a red sauce zealot and I'm gonna have to put up +/- 100 jars to get him through the year. Egads!

ib mommy said...

We're still waiting for our tomatoes to ripen here in Virginia. The closest thing I've been able to get so far is a Carolina mater. But, I will be heading out to the U-pick farm when they ripen to load up.

I'm with burbanmom, my kids request spaghetti at least once a week all winter so I imagine I will be in the kitchen quite a while canning quarts of it. Someone's gonna be sleeping with the sauce here soon when I run out of space.

Green Bean said...

Oh delicious! I made just enough jam last year but nowhere near enough sauce.

It's interesting to read how far ahead your season is from mine. I'd always assumed California and Texas were pretty close. Anyway, our season is just starting you and you can bet your bippy that I'll be saucing it up for the next few months.

Wendy said...

All I can say is ... yum!

I also add my tomatoes, skin and all. I HATE peeling tomatoes ... and who decided it was better not to have the skins anyway?

We're at the beginning of tomato season here. Canning sauce (and salsa!) won't begin in earnest until late August/early September. I can hardly wait ;).

Simply Authentic said...

there's just something great about homemade pasta sauce, yum! you made it all sound so easy!

Heather @ SGF said...

Rapunzel - I used to think I would NEVER do anything like this. Too hard. But it really is easy! I'm looking forward to trying again this weekend. I think we may have a pasta sauce canning party this weekend (me, a friend of mine, and the ladies who taught us to make jam). It's always more fun to do it together!

cookiemouse - Absolutely. Link away and thanks for coming to visit!

burbanmom - come on. You can so totally do it. I'm serious when I say that if I can do it, ANYONE can do it. I'm a total dunce in the kitchen but it's really not hard at all. Although 100 jars does sound like a lot. Maybe do just a dozen or two this year to get your feet wet and more in coming years.

ib mommy - you can always store your sauce at my place. Although I can't promise it will still be here when you come to pick it up :)

green bean - yeah, I'm wondering too how much is enough. I've been listing all the canning I've been doing. How many jars and how big. This will be the trial year. I'm sure I don't have enough, but how do you know until you try? And on top of things, I'm just learning how to do this. I see LOTS of canning in my future for next summer!

wendy - I agree. Skin is in! I've not tried salsa, but I would think it's easy once you get your recipe just so. I think tomato season is the best time of year. Sounds like everyone agrees.

Heather @ SGF said...

Simply authentic - we must have been writing at the same time :) It really is so easy. I mean, it all started with jam, then canning fruit, and now I'm feeling confident enough to branch out. Not only does it taste good, it's really fun.

Jennifer (of Veg*n Cooking) said...

That sounds like a simple and wonderful sauce. Who cares that it's not prego, I bet it's much better.

I have to admit, I'm a little jealous of your Southern abundance, but it's coming for the Midwesterners too, and hopefully I will be canning up some nice looking sauce and salsas myself.

Do you know if it is alright to can salsa in a boiling water bath canner?

Heather @ SGF said...

Jennifer - from what I understand, any kind of tomato products (as long as there is absolutely no meat) are fine in a water bath canner IF you add a little lemon juice to the mix. The lemon juice helps to up the acidicy so that it does a better job of preventing bacterial growth. I added about 1/4 c. of lemon juice to the tomato sauce. I can just barely taste a hint of it, but it didn't hurt the sauce at all. If you use a pressure canner, you just leave out the lemon.

Kelsie said...

Yeah...our tomato season is just gearing up here in Kentucky soon, and the first thing I'm going to do (after eating my fill straight off the vine, of course) is perfect my sauce recipe AND the use of my new (ancient) Burpee "Aristocrat" pressure canner. I love that the name "aristocrat" was stuck on something as humble as a canner. :)

Melissa said...

I'm with green bean, it is surprising how far ahead of us your growing season is! we got our first tomatoes in the csa this week...3 little ones, but when there are more at the market I think I'll try salsa (I wonder if lime juice would work too for acidity?) We don't eat too much pasta here, believe it or not!

Heather @ SGF said...

Kelsie - Wow! It's amazing how your season it just starting. We've been eating tomatoes since March - though the were from a local hot house. Enjoy the season. I just LOVE tomatoes. Any favorite tomato recipes?

Melissa - I don't really eat pasta either, although Dave does on occasion. That's why I didn't go too crazy on making tons of sauce. I do have local rice though and it sounded good as a sauce for rice. And maybe one of these days I'll make a from-scratch pizza. Hmm. Now THAT sounds good...

jennconspiracy said...

I'll be doing a lot of that in a month or so when my 50+ tomato plants come in...

Heather @ SGF said...

jennconspiracy - 50+ plants! You ARE going to be busy! Wow! I'm impressed!

kim said...

OK, now I will buy a BUNCH of those 'maters at our farmers market next week. What an easy and yummy sounding recipe!

Heather @ SGF said...

Kim - definitely give it a shot. When you start out on a small scale, it's not so overwhelming. Get your feet wet with some practice. It really is easy. Before you know it, you'll be a pro!

Tara said...

I do have to say that your recipe scares me a little. Do you follow an actual recipe? I am just concerned because a "little" lemon juice is not necessarily enough acid to balance out all the veggies for a waterbath canning.

I used to be rather unconcerened about this, then I learned more about botulism. I would say this recipe should be pressure canned.

Canning is easy and lots of fun, but you do have to be careful. Most libraries have a "ball home canning" book or something of that nature that you can use to get safe and tested recipes from.

Heather @ SGF said...

Tara - my next move is to buy a pressure canner, but I've been told by my canning experts (the woman who taught me to do jam) that tomatoes (both salsas and sauces) can be done in a water bath if you add lemon juice. I followed the recipe here:

http://www.pickyourown.org/spaghettisauce.htm

which tells you to use 1/4 cup for 20# of tomatoes. I used the juice from an entire large lemon which was definitely more than 1/4 c. and I only had about 10# of tomatoes. Should be ok. I'll know for sure this winter if the seals have popped.

Theresa said...

Now I'm drooling too! I so have to try this whole canning thing!

Heather @ SGF said...

Theresa - It's so easy that you'll feel silly afterwards for being nervous about it. I did. And I'm going to be loving those local tomatoes come December :)

Theresa said...

I have acquired two sizes of canning jars and lids, now I just need the canner itself!

Heather @ SGF said...

Theresa - we got our water bath canner from a friend of Dave's. He just gave it to us which was really nice! But I was looking and you should be able to pick one up at Target for pretty cheap. If you want a pressure canner, we found the the one we wanted for the cheapest at Amazon.

Theresa said...

Thanks for the tips - we don't have Target here but we do have similar stores like Zellers. I'm kicking my self for not buying the one I saw at our town-wide garage sale last year!

Heather @ SGF said...

Theresa - you'll find another one. I don't get to go to garage sales because I'm always at our farmers market on Saturday morning, but I have my "scouts" out for cool stuff - looking for canning jars and a food dehydrator :) Good luck!