This right here is a staple in our house! This is our third year making our own sauce, and we go through at least 70 quarts a year. In previous years, and once already in the spring, I have bought a couple of boxes of canning tomatoes from the farmer’s market at about $8-$10 a box. That is good for at least 20 quarts of sauce. For this prep, I am using tomatoes from our garden! Here is a link to the basic recipe I followed, which is new to me and I think I will stick to it (with some tweaks of course).
Frozen Tomatoes and Fresh Peppers
I discovered last year from another homesteader that if you are getting overwhelmed with tomatoes, you can freeze them until you have the time to preserve them. That has changed my mindset – I can now aggressively grow a lot more tomatoes for sauce, not worrying about what to do when overwhelmed! And of course, we eat ’em straight out of the garden….cuz there is nothing like fresh tomatoes out of the garden! Below are two varieties I grew for sauce – Dr. Wyche’s Yellow and Black Krim.
These we simple scrubbed and washed, then filled the freezer! I wish I would have taken a picture of our upright freezer before I pulled out the bags, because it was filled completely! Well, not completely with tomatoes, but mostly. Here are some bags in the sink, after I had started processing. The whole sink was filled with bags, which came to about 60 pounds.
I originally thought it would be best to defrost them completely, and left them in the sink over night. Luckily, most were still frozen. Why, you ask? Because some were thawed and were basically like a little water balloon. I discovered that it was best to have them frozen so that I could core them easily. After they defrosted a bit more, the skins came right off and into the pot they went!
Here are some of the fresh peppers I used from the garden. I had to buy onions, celery, and parsley.
Simmering and Sauteing
What I liked about this recipe was simmering and reducing the tomatoes alone. This may seem obvious, but for the past two years, I blended the vegetables in our Vitamix and reduced after. With this recipe, I reduced the tomatoes to about half their original volume, then pureed in the Vitamix. One thing about using frozen tomatoes – their structure broke down right away. It was so much faster and easier than fresh tomatoes. Below you can see the two pots simmering, already reducing.
I simmered for probably about 5 hours, give or take. Below is the final mix of pureed tomatoes.
After I had finished the tomatoes, I chopped up the onion, peppers, celery and garlic, and sautéed with salt, pepper, and the dried oregano. I like to saute the dried herbs to open up their flavor more.
After the vegetables were softened, the tomatoes and brown sugar were added and seasoned to taste. And here is the final sauce, ready to be pressure canned!
A Little Surprise For Each Quart
I started doing this last year and it adds so much flavor to the sauce. For this batch, I roasted three heads of garlic with olive oil, salt and pepper at 300 deg F for an hour.
I add 3-4 cloves to each quart jar with two tablespoons of good balsamic vinegar. We buy it from Costco and it is good quality and not too expensive. The vinegar deepens the flavor of the tomatoes. (We actually use balsamic vinegar when canning strawberry preserves – try it, you will love it!)
So, once in the quart jars, the pressure canning is pretty straight forward. I was a little nervous the first time I used a pressure canner, but I have a system down. I processed the sauce for 25 minutes per the recipe, and that is a typical time, from what I have seen in other articles. With the addition of the vinegar, the sauce may be acidic enough for water canning, but I would rather not take chances.
All together I was able to can 19 quarts of sauce. It is thick and delicious and, although it was a long day, I can’t wait make another batch. We probably have enough tomatoes for two more batches. I will be very interested in knowing the final number of quarts and adjust the number of tomato plants for next year. Overall it has been a fantastic year for tomatoes, even though they are all dead of blight. I read yesterday how another blogger used Roma tomatoes to make paste, and I think I will add that to my garden next year.