OK, OK, so I’ve been grumbling a bit about saying good bye to summer, but I am not going to pretend that I am excited about the coming winter. So, I have started a little canning operationto help me hang on to summer a little longer and perhaps even through the winter—if I can track down enough jars!
When I was growing up, my mother canned all sorts of produce, but did I ever pay any attention? No. Usually I was giving the most mundane tasks, like peeling the tomatoes or pitting the apricots, and I would let my mind wander, waiting for the chance when I could slip away and get back to my book.
Now that I am a mother and want to take up these domestic duties, it’s a trial-by-error project. But how hard can it be, right?
I mean, I’ve made a few jams and jelly’s over the years, but that about it.
So, I am excited to get started with preserving summer’s beautiful produce in pretty glass jars and hope to inspire you to do the same. What better way to keep the flavors of summer alive that to preserve them and store them in a pantry for that cold December day when the tomatoes at the grocery store taste like cardboard.
But how hard can it be, right?
Gorgeous Italian tomatoes tomatoes at the market were the first to catch my eye and I was reminded of my own yellowing plants at home. I bought 40 lbs, hurriedly, knowing that if I thought about it too long, I would chicken out at the big task ahead of jarring these beauties.
I was very please with this simple sauce; the herbs and garlic don't overpower the tomatoes, it's thick, has vibrant color, and I was proud to jar it.
Tomato Herb Sauce
Fill a 5-quart pan with water and bring to a boil. Wash tomatoes and make a small “X” with a knife in the bottom. Prepare a large bowl with cold water. Blanch tomatoes, a few at a time, quickly in the boiling water until the skins loosen. Plunge immediately into cold water. Peel tomatoes and using your hands, squeeze the juices and seeds out. Discard seeds and skin.
In a large, heavy bottomed stock pot, heat the olive oil. Sauté garlic and onion until soft. Add tomatoes and herbs and stir well.
Cook on medium heat until heated through, and then reduce to low for a gentle simmer. If you prefer your sauce smooth rather than chunky, puree it now with an immersion blender.
Cook for about 4 hours, until reduced slightly and thick. Season with salt and pepper.
Place eight, one-quart clean mason jars on a rack in a boiling water canner; cover jars with water and heat water to a simmer (180°F/82°C). Set screw bands aside; in a small pot, heat lids in hot water, NOT boiling (180°F/82°C). Keep jars and lids hot until ready to use.
Have ready: a pair of tongs, a jar lifter, a 2-cup glass measuring cup, a wide-mouth jar funnel, and a few clean dish towels.
You are now ready to can! Make sure any small children are not underfoot at this time.
Working with one jar at a time, remove jar from hot water and place on your workspace. Place the funnel in the top. Ladle hot sauce into a hot jar to within 1/2 inch (1 cm) of top rim . Using nonmetallic utensil, remove air bubbles. Wipe jar rim removing any stickiness. Using your tongs, remove a lid from the hot water standing by and center lid on jar; apply screw band securely & firmly until resistance is met –fingertip tight. Do not over tighten. Place jar back in canner; repeat for remaining jars.
When all jars have been filled (or your canner is full –don’t overcrowd), make sure jars are covered by at least ½ inch of water.
Cover canner; bring water to a boil.
‘Process’ (meaning “boil”) at a gentle boil for 40 minutes. When processing time is complete, turn heat off and remove canner lid. When boil subsides, remove jars without tilting.
Cool jars upright, undisturbed 24 hours. DO NOT RE-TIGHTEN screw bands.
You should hear the musical “Pop, Pop” of the jars sealing. This is a proud moment!
After cooling, check jar seals. Sealed lids curve downward and do not move when pressed. Label and store jars in a cool, dark place.
If you have any leftover sauce, why not enjoy it with some spaghetti for supper? You shouldn’t have to do any more cooking for today.