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An Easy Tomato Sauce is a must if you garden
It’s that time of year with which I have a love/hate relationship. The tomatoes are starting to come in the back door in multiple 5-gallon buckets now. That means that no matter what else is going on, I have to deal with them. Mostly because we only have so many buckets, and there are plenty more tomatoes where those came from.
This easy sauce method helps me get through a lot of tomatoes quickly.
It’s been a challenging year in the garden
We’ve not had a stellar year with our garden, mostly because the weather has been very uncooperative. Very hot early. Then a month-long near drought right at the beginning of the year. Then cool and rainy for weeks. Pretty much the exact opposite of what we would be looking for in an ideal year.
Still, we will get a good enough crop so we’ll make it most of the winter without having to buy canned tomatoes at the store, which is the goal for us.
There are lots of ways to make tomato sauce
You can probably find methods that actually simplify this even more because they don’t remove the seeds and skins. We like a nice silky smooth tomato sauce, so I have to find a fast way to remove them and get on with the rest of the job. I do a lot of “stewed” or whole tomatoes too, but that is a post for another day. In the past, I made my tomato sauce the more traditional way. Cooking the tomatoes down some before removing the skins and seeds. I like this new way much better.
I think it has better flavor, plus because some tiny bits of the skin do end up in the sauce, and that seems to thicken it more quickly, so you don’t have to cook it as long. This is the third year I have done them this way, and just for kicks, I tried the old on one batch last fall, so I could compare the flavor, and this sauce is definitely better.
Sauce or paste tomatoes make everything easier
The tomatoes in the photo are large plum/grape hybrid tomatoes called Juliets. They are one of our favorites. Juliets are great eating tomatoes, and make great sauce. They have some disease resistance and a ton of tomatoes grow on each plant. In addition, this batch of sauce contains a couple of different paste tomatoes, including some San Marzanos. All of these varieties are low moisture and meaty tomatoes that have been bred for the tomatoes’ ability to cook down to a sauce quickly.
Get organized first
I set up an assembly line to get this done quickly. First, the tomatoes are washed, and next to the sink, I have a cutting board, which is sitting on a kitchen towel [this gets a little messy]. Next in line is the food processor, and then the food mill, set over a large bowl followed by a very large pot on the biggest burner on my stove. As soon as I have the first bowl of tomatoes turned to sauce, I turn on the burner under the pot to get things going. Trim the tomatoes of any bad spots, remove the cores, and cut them into chunks. Then whirl them in the processor until they are liquified. The seeds will stay whole, and there will be very small flecks of skin visible. Next, run the liquified tomatoes through the food mill which goes pretty quickly, and using a large, heavy pot, cook them down to the consistency that you are looking for. Keep an eye on the sauce, and stir often. This particular batch is a very plain sauce that is not cooked down a whole lot, because I plan to use it in things like soup, pot roasts, and stew. It simmered for about 90 minutes and it’s slightly less thick than a commercial canned tomato sauce. For a thicker sauce, just cook it a bit longer, stirring often, so that it doesn’t stick and burn.
For some reason, canning has become a bit of a controversial topic the past couple years. My grandmother and mom canned mostly with a water-bath canner, which is just a covered pot large enough to hold the jars, covered by an inch or two with water. It’s how I learned to do and I still water-bath can tomatoes.
On the other hand, if you are going to freeze your sauce, you can go ahead and make it however you like, because nothing will grow at all in frozen blocks of tomato stuff. I often freeze sauce, if I end up with too small a batch to bother with canning, or if I have a lot of peppers, onions and garlic to get used up.
I can to save freezer space though. Here are a couple of links with safe canning techniques, and at the end of this post is a list of books and equipment that I rely upon for canning. Ball Canning Tips and Mother Earth News Safe Canning Practices have good information, and my friend Jenn of Frugal Upstate has this handy article about Getting Prepared for a Canning Session. I do things pretty much the same way she does.
Here is an equipment list – this is stuff that I use. These are Amazon links, so I make a little $ if you purchase through them.
Food Mill This is a fairly inexpensive one – just make sure yours is stainless steel.
Food Proccessor This is good, mid-priced one.
8 quart Stainless Steel Stockpot
20 quart Stainless Steel Stockpot [this is similar to the awesome workhorse stock pot that multi-tasks as my waterbath canner]
Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving
Handy Set of Canning Tools
Here’s the recipe
Easy Tomato Sauce for Canning & Freezing
- Fresh tomatoes preferably paste or sauce type
- Salt [optional]
- Citric acid if you are canning the sauce
- Wash the tomatoes well
- Remove the stem, and trim out the core
- Remove any bad spots, if needed
- Cut into halves or quarters as needed - you want pieces no bigger than 2 inches square or so.
- When the food processor is 3 quarters full, pulse several time to get it going, and then process until the tomatoes are liquified - about 20 to 30 seconds.
- Carefully empty the resulting puree into the food mill, which you have set over a bowl the correct size to hold it securely, and run through the mill to remove the seeds and skin.
- Empty the sauce into a large stock or soup pot, and set the heat on medium to get it going as you process subsequent batches of tomatoes. You will want to scrape the seeds out of the food mill every so often to keep it working efficiently.
- Repeat the above steps until you have gotten all of the tomatoes done.
- Cook the sauce uncovered until it is the thickness you are looking for. I use a spatter guard to keep things neater, because it is pretty likely to spatter some as it gets thicker.
- You can add salt to taste if you like, but it's not necessary at this point, as you can salt the dish you use it in later on.
- If not all of the puree will fit in the pan at first, it can added as the sauce cooks down.
- This sauce can be canned [see post for links to safe canning practices] or frozen in containers.
- An 8 quart stock pot, filled to within an inch of the top will yield about 5 quarts of medium body sauce.