Home Canned Tomato Sauce
This was the first year that I really tried my hand at canning. The canning party at the farm got me excited and gave me the basic knowledge to get started. I gathered everything I needed at a farm store on Sauvie Island (except canning tongs--they were all out and those things really are mandatory for a smooth canning experience--next year). I grabbed jars (a few sizes), extra lids (for the jars I already had at home), two canning pots (racks included), a large funnel, labels and a very large canning ladle, plus extra fruit to subsidize what I already had from the garden.
I canned a couple of fruit sauces. They were meant to be jams, but did not have enough natural pectin, so ended up sauces. At first I was frustrated that they didn't set better, however, the result was the same fruity deliciousness as jam. The tri-berry sauce (strawberry, blackberry, blueberry) has been great on pancakes, waffles, toast, muffins and ice cream. Same with the peach sauce. I love having enough to give away too. People seem to really like it. I sent some to Joey at college.
But I think the best advice I was given was to can all the extra tomatoes we had on hand. We had tomatoes from our own garden, lots of them. Then we were getting additional tomatoes from the farm each week, lots of them. We ended up with tomatoes taking over the kitchen... on the counters, the table, the window sill. At the farm, they can something like 75 large jars of tomatoes each year.
It is so easy to can tomatoes. At the farm, they just take cookie sheets and cover them with the fresh tomatoes. Top with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast them in the oven on 375 degrees until cooked through... I never really kept track, but I probably roasted them for 45-60 minutes. After roasting all you have to do is blend them. I just poured the tomatoes into a large pot and used the immersion blender. I did all this in batches as we had tons of tomatoes. You could also just plop them into a regular blender and blend away. I did not skin or seed them, just blended them. How easy is that?
At the farm, they actually do the water bath version of canning (which I had done for the jams/sauces), but I was just too burnt out to go to that trouble, so I decided to freeze the tomato sauce. I carefully poured the tomato sauce into the wide mouth jars. They must be wide mouth jars for the freezer. Do not fill all the way to the top because in the freezing process the sauce will expand (I know, kind of seems counter intuitive, but the solid form turns out to be a little more volume than the liquid form.) Let the sauce completely cool before putting lids on (either in or out of the jar). Once completely cool, put the lids and labels on. I ended up with 25 jars of tomato sauce in varying sizes.
The best part: whenever you need tomato sauce for anything, you just go to your freezer. Homemade tomato sauce is like no other. When you use it in recipes you can add whatever spices you want. I have used our frozen canned tomato sauce for: lasagna, pasta sauces, indian sauces, spicy homemade tomato ketchup and most recently in chili for Super Bowl.
It's a good thing.