Surprise! It’s Harvest Month and we are busy canning. Admitted, my filled jars do not have pretty little checkered cloth covers and prettily handwritten tags decoratively dangling from their sides. I will make sure to adorn them thus when the girls do the canning and I am sitting on the kitchen bench, responsible for the decorative parts only, in about 20 years or so. Until then, I will pay more attention to what goes into the jars than to their pretty appearance on the pantry shelves.
But enough rambling. I wanted to share one of my favorite canning recipes with you, for what it’s worth. I won’t give you exact amounts because you have to eat it, so you figure out how much pepper you like in your tomato sauce, if any, and whether you like it to be more or less garlic-y. The ratios are pretty much arbitrary. The vinegar helps keep the sauce fresh. I use apple-cider vinegar because it simply tastes better than the white stuff.
Oh, and one last thing: You need no pressure canner for this one. The jars are processed in a hot water bath, so this can be done without special equipment, apart from the actual jars you put the sauce in. You can buy them at just about every grocery store at this time of year, usually in 12-packs, for about a buck per jar.
- tomatoes, as many as you have. For thicker sauce remove seeds/ the watery inner part (which I never do; I rather add tomato paste to the sauce when I actually use it). If you grew the (heirloom, not hybrid) tomatoes yourself, save some seeds for next spring!
- peppers, as many as you like. Save seeds from them as well.
- onions, two or so, more if they are small
- garlic, about two cloves per 5 quarts, or more if you like
- oregano, a good bit, either dried or fresh
- basil, also a good bit, either dried or fresh
- apple cider vinegar, about half a cup for 5 quarts worth of sauce
Cut all the vegetables into chunks and bring to a boil in a big pot. When it’s boiling, turn down the heat and let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes. Fill into hot, sterilized jars, leaving about 1/4 inch headspace. Put lids on, but don’t screw them on real tight. Just enough for them to be well in place is enough. Process in a hot water bath for 15 minutes. Remove from water bath and let cool for about 12 hours before labeling and storing away.
If you have a jar or so left over because you don’t want to process a lonely jar in the big canner, just use it fresh or freeze it. Incidentally, I freeze all liquids in wide-mouth mason jars; just make sure to leave a lot more headspace than when you can because liquids expand when they freeze.
Since our girls love tomato sauce, but prefer it smooth rather than chunky, I pour the sauce into a mixer and puree it before heating, but it’s not necessary to do that if you like chunky sauce. For us, this recipe takes care of all our surplus tomatoes, all the ones we do not turn into fresh salsa or eat straight off the plant.