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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Canning Spaghetti Sauce (part 2)

If you are not planning on canning this, but are instead freezing it, just follow all of the instructions except after the sauce is done, let it cool completely then put into quart size freezer bags and lay flat in your freezer (remember to leave some space for it to expand).

(remember, these are not exact. cooking is not a science, it's a passion)

20 lbs of tomatoes
1 c olive oil
2-3 onions, minced (you may like more, I just hate onion)
8 cloves of garlic, minced
1-2 green bell peppers, chopped
1/4 C dried basil (or if you use fresh, which I love, you'll need twice as much)
1/4 C dried oregano
1/4 C dried parsley (1/2 C for fresh)
1/2 C white sugar (I would start with less and add if you think you need it)
1/4 salt
2 tsp ground black pepper
3-4 sm cans tomato paste

1. Prepping the tomatoes will be the most time-consuming and labor-intensive part of the whole thing. (Surpassed only by planting the actual garden). You will need to blanch, peel, seed and chop all of the tomatoes. (Make sure you have TONS of large bowls and lots of ice for the blanching). Now set them aside for a few minutes...
2. Heat the oil in a LARGE pot. Add the onion, garlic and pepper and saute until the onion is translucent.
3. If you like a chunky sauce, add the chopped tomatoes now. However, if you are like me and the texture of tomato skeeves you out, this is where you would need to process all of the chopped tomatoes. This will take awhile and it will be messy. Be very sure to hold the blade onto your food processor very tightly when removing it from the base to dump in the pot. Otherwise, it will be EVERYWHERE and you will swear like you've never sworn before. I promise.
4. Once all of your tomato is added, add the remaining ingredients. Your sauce will be pink to start out with. It needs to simmer for a few hours, but you'll need to stir it very frequently. (plus it's really nice to open the pot and smell it)
5. When your sauce is done (leave it on the burner at all times. it needs to stay simmering for canning) start to heat up the water in your canner (remember you'll need the jars to be covered with at least 1 inch of water). Then, sterilize your jars in the oven or with hot water and heat up your lids and rings in a small pot on the stove.
6. Once the water in your canner is boiling and everything is sterilized, you can fill up the jars leaving an inch of head space. Obviously, a canning funnel/jar filler is absolutely necessary with spaghetti sauce, otherwise you'd have one hell of a mess. Be sure to clean off the top of the jar with a wet rag after it's filled. Place the lid and ring on tightly. Once they are all done, put them in the canner (add more water if you need to. if I need more, I use the water from the lid and ring pot b/c it's already heated up). A tip here is that if you don't want your canner to get all discolored on the inside, add some vinegar to the water before you add the jars. They will need processed for 25 minutes in a pressure canner or 40 in a water bath canner (I would recommend just using the pressure canner. better safe than sorry). Once they are done and the pressure is out of the canner, you can remove them with the jar lifter. Now you just have to listen to make sure they all "pop". If one doesn't seal, however, you can stick it in the fridge and use it within 24-48 hrs. But don't get too anxious, it could take an hour or two for them all to seal.
Like I said yesterday, you will need to check out the instructions on your pressure canner to make sure you are doing it right and to see how many psi you need (I believe it's 1000, but I can't remember for sure).

Making homemade spaghetti sauce is clearly not easy, but once you taste it, you can never go back to store-bought sauce, there is just no comparison. Not to mention the sense of accomplishment you feel from growing your own vegetables (and I do basil too) and creating something delicious with it to enjoy all year long.

Makes about 7 quarts

Once I make my first batch (probably in the next couple days) I'll add some pictures for you.

Monday, July 26, 2010

How to can spaghetti sauce (part 1)

OK, so it's been awhile since I've posted over here. I am so sorry for that, but I am ready to get back to it. We have a pretty huge garden again this year. And by we, of course, I mean Josh...and the girls because Lord knows they love their worms (I know this because they bring some to show me almost every day...in the house). So anyway, my part in the whole deal is to cook and/or can what we get from the garden. My most famously delicious recipe being my canned spaghetti sauce, so I thought it would be a good place to start (also, because I'll be doing it in the next couple days).

I want to prompt this recipe with the fact that I don't use recipes for things like this. It is all a matter of taste and you either know how to cook or you don't. It takes time to develop a feel for it. I will give generalizations and a basic list of ingredients and the instructions I use for canning tomato products, but you may not like what I like, so please feel free to adjust at will. Just taste as you go and you will eventually end up with something you like. My advice on the subject is to write down what you start with and then whenever you make changes, make note of it. So next year you will have a better place to start. Also remember that certain tomatoes make the sauce taste differently. The best tomatoes for sauce are roma. They are meatier and have the best flavor. Cherry tomatoes are (in my opinion) not to be used. First of all, they are way too sweet. I used some last year (we got the plants for free so we squeezed them in later in the season) and I can taste which batch of sauce has them and which doesn't. Also, they take forever to peel and you end up squirting juice EVERYWHERE.

I also, want to make note that it's best to start small and work your way up. I mean this in every way possible. If this is your first time, it might be better to make a smaller amount for dinner one night just to gauge what you like. And the second way I mean this, is that you can't take away but you can always add. I mean, this is a general rule in cooking anyway, but it's especially important when you are taking all day to make 7 quarts of sauce. If it gets ruined, it's really hard to correct (unless you have an endless supply of time and ingredients and you are using a gigantic pot).

As with anything canned, you need to check the instructions on your canner to make sure you are doing it correctly. The last thing you want is to go through all the trouble and end up having to pitch it because of botulism.

I hope you've found this helpful. I'll follow up tomorrow with the actual "recipe".