Am I crazy for canning two days in a row? I started out the day thinking it was a great idea and ended it quite exhausted. Maybe I should have started a little sooner than 3:00 in the afternoon. Live and learn.
On the menu for today- tomato sauce. This is something we go through a lot. My son will eat anything with sauce on it, which comes in handy since he's in that "I'm too busy playing to eat" phase. Since I'm still a newbie to this whole canning thing I haven't had a chance to really find the sources/farms with good product- cheap. This means that I just spent A LOT on tomatoes. Sure, they were organic with a few pounds of heirlooms in the mix but still it was a bit pricey. In terms of time and money this is probably the most expensive sauce I'll ever eat.
Since this is my first attempt at canning tomato sauce I decided to go with the recipe out of the "Art of Preserving" cookbook (hey I have to get my monies worth out of it) because I didn't have to remove the tomato skins prior to dicing them. At this point the easier the better. Roughly dicing ten pounds of tomatoes isn't really that bad. It helps to have Maggie around (our three year old cockapoo) when doing any sort of cooking. She happily licked up all the tomato juice that spilled off the cutting board and counter and dribbled down the cabinets to the floor. Any project with tomatoes is messy business, especially canning sauce.
|A rough dice|
After the ten pounds of tomatoes were cut and overflowing out of my largest bowl, I diced four onions and 6 cloves of garlic. The kitchen was already smelling good and I hadn't even started cooking yet.
|Ingredients all prepped|
The onions and garlic were sauteed until translucent and then the stars of the show were finally added to the pot. Everything just barely fit (I may need some bigger pots). I also added in a 1/2 cup of wine. This was easier said than done since the cork decided it wanted to stay in the bottle instead of coming out like it should. This meant a lot of wine splattered everywhere (much to Maggie's delight). Luckily it was a synthetic cork so I didn't end up with corky wine.
|The saying on the cork is "Whatever you do pour yourself into it" which I thought was very fitting|
|Very full stockpot|
Then it was simmer time. Now I love Williams-Sonoma but whoever wrote these recipes must have been using some magical ingredients. The recipe says to simmer for about an hour or until it is reduced by half. I suppose they technically saved themselves by adding that "or" in there because I had to simmer for about three hours until it reduced that much. Maybe my tomatoes were just too juicy to begin with.
So three hours later I was finally ready to pass the reduced sauce through a food mill or mesh colander to get rid of those lovely skins I'd left on. Well I don't have either of those (though I'd really like this one from Williams-Sonoma), so I had to improvise by using my colander and the back of my waffle ladle. Not the easiest method but it got the job done.
|My MacGyver strainer|
Then back in the pot to simmer some more. I let it go another 30 minutes before it looked sufficiently thick. I put in a few teaspoons of sugar, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, some lemon juice and about a half cup of finely minced basil and marjoram. At this point Jeff's brother had come over to watch the Patriots preseason game. Not exactly what I wanted after a long day of cooking in the kitchen, but when he walked in and said "Wow, it smells good in here" I granted him a reprieve from any smart ass comments I could have thrown his way.
|Ready for the jars- loving the rings the sauce left as it reduced|
So into the jars my tasty sauce went. Once again I must like things thicker than those recipe writers because it only made 4 pints instead of the 6 they said the recipe yielded. Then it was into the water bath for 30 minutes which gave me enough time to clean up my tomato spattered kitchen and finally sit down and watch Project Runway before the timer went off and my canning for the day was done.
The sauce is rich and bursting with tomatoey goodness. Well, of course it's bursting with tomatoey goodness isn't it made mainly out of tomatoes (I know that's what you're thinking). Well yes, but it has that tomato flavor you just can't get from the stuff you buy in the store. It's a little more tart too since it's not packed with sugar or corn syrup. One of those stick to your bone sauces that will be absolutely perfect in the doldrums of a New England winter.