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Canning your own Crushed Tomato Sauce

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Every fall something primal comes over me and I feel the need to can or ‘put up’ produce for the coming winter.  This likely goes back to visions of my paternal grandmother, a country girl from Ontario, who despite having strayed a long way from the country, nevertheless took it upon herself to can up a storm every September.   She made all kinds of pickles, but the one fresh vegetable that remains in my memory were her pints of Tomato Sauce.  To be honest, I never quite figured out how she used the Tomato Sauce.  We were as Anglo as you could get: even Spaghetti sauce was a novelty in our household and in hers, un-heard-of.  Perhaps Nana made tomato soup.  But she certainly never attempted a gumbo or anything remotely foreign.  Fast forward to my kitchen last weekend.  I was back in Nana country for a few hours and in my head danced visions of winter curries and pasta sauces and cioppinos.  And all it took was a little time and some glorious tomatoes from the farm stand down the road.


Do these look Bruised and Battered?

Country Garden is loaded with sun-ripened tomatoes gloriously arrayed row after row.  But around the corner from the flawless display of tomato perfection, is an almost forlorn area where the seconds reside in big quart baskets.  They’re not universally red.  They have blemishes that have banished them from their $3.99 a lb flawless sisters.  But under their bruises is the same sunny tomato flavor.  And if I need any further encouragement at all, their price, $5 for about 5 lbs of tomatoes, puts me right over the edge.  Last weekend I scooped up 3 of these baskets and went off home to can.       

Photo Courtesy The New York Times

Just the week before, the New York Times had printed an article and recipe for Canning your own Tomato Sauce.  I went to this for the methodology and got everything together in preparation for canning. I use Mason Jars for making and keeping Salad Dressing all year round.  And once last year’s tomato recipe has been used, the Mason jar gets washed out and put away in the pantry for the next year.  Then it’s a quick trip to buy the bands and jar lids, which are not re-usable, for this year’s crop.  I was surprised to see that after years of being a golden color, the lids are now a surprising silver, perhaps to match the stainless steel rage in kitchen equipment. 

         Out came the giant lobster pot I use for canning.  While you can fire up a pot full of water and sterilize last year’s jars, I followed the Times recipe putting them all into the dishwasher and leaving them there until it was time to fill them.  Then it was on to the tomatoes themselves.  I set up a system with a large pot of boiling water on the stove and beside that a giant ice water bath.  Scoring the

tomatoes on the bottom, the skin slips off, the bruises often disappear and when they don’t a paring knife makes quick work of both bruised flesh and the tough core.  Prepping the tomatoes for the next step involves halving the peeled tomato and then releasing the seeds and the jelly around them.  This the fun kind of messy work—crushing the tomatoes with your hands, ripping off any tough or un-ripened bits until you have a very soupy tomato puree.  From there it’s into a big stock pot where the tomatoes are heated and a potato masher is used, according to the Times, so that the tomatoes and their juice will not separate in the jar. Once the tomatoes have cooked, you put them in jars with just a teaspoon of salt per quart and most essentially, bottled lemon juice is added.  The lemon juice assures that the pH level of the sauce is low enough to avoid botulism, something I am quite scares the dickens out of all home canners.  You can also use citric acid but I had Real Lemon Juice on hand and was delighted to find a use for it. Without further ado, here is the recipe:

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