Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Mom's Tomato Sauce

Mom's Tomato Sauce

Since we are just putting tomatoes in the ground this week,  I know that this is not the typical time to make tomato sauce from homegrown tomatoes, but I kind of have a trick here. As I have said before, my garden is not huge and to make this sauce you need a 1/2 bushel of tomatoes for Step 1 and then you need 3 dozen Paste or Roma tomatoes for Step 2. That is a lot of tomatoes to produce in a few days just for this sauce (and have enough to eat daily. I don't know about you but when my tomatoes come in, I am tomato obsessed! I eat them at every meal.)

As per my mom's suggestion, I have always frozen whole tomatoes. I just cut out the stem and then freeze them whole in Ziploc bags. Then when a recipe called for canned tomatoes for soup or chili in the winter, I just pull out some of my frozen and run them under really hot tap water. The skin peels right off in your hand (this is a great tip.)  I was freezing tomatoes as they were harvested and I began to wonder if I could use the frozen tomatoes after I had the specified 1/2 a bushel and make this sauce?? So here begins my experiment! 

Before starting, I thought I would ask my resources, my parents both thought it would work and unfortunately Grandma Ethel was no longer with us but I knew that she was cheering for me. I began freezing Ziploc bags of tomatoes as I picked them.  I would weigh the bags and write the weight on the outside of the bag. Then I would put them in the bottom shelf of my deep freeze freezer. I would bag the paste tomatoes separately in 1 dozen bags. When I got the designated amount of tomatoes, I was ready to go. So at this point, I proceeded with the recipe that is below and it was a huge success. I have been making it this way for years. So if this method works for you, Great!  Another alternative would be to visit your local farmer and buy tomatoes from him/her. They will be happy to have your business and you will know exactly where your tomatoes came from.

I need to mention a little bit about where is recipe came from. This was a recipe that my parents used to make when I was a kid. It is one of those recipes I remember seeing them making in the 90 degree kitchen with their old yellow stockpot.  I am not sure who's recipe it was originally. On the original stained index card that I have, it has multiple people's comments or suggestions written in on the side. I just know that my Mom and Dad  made it and it was my Dad's favorite. As a family, when life got busy the production of this sauce halted and we went without this sauce for many years. About 5 years ago, I attempted my first "frozen tomato" batch. My Dad, a man of few words, actually smiled when he ate it again! Mentioning that it was just like he remembered. That was a proud "kitchen day" for me! Since then, my close family has renamed this recipe Mama Rebecca's Sauce. I know, goofy..... but every year they wait for the next batch!


"Mama Rebecca's" Tomato Sauce

I will warn that this recipe is not for the rushed cook or someone who does not LOVE all the processes of canning.

Step 1:
I usually do this step either the night before or early in the morning. You will need some time between this Step 1 and Step 2 to allow the liquid to rest; however you would like to plan is up to you.

Skinned tomatoes getting ready to cook in Step 1

1/2 bushel of tomatoes (26.5 lbs)
These need to be blanched and skinned as per canning procedure. Or in my case I just take out the frozen tomatoes and run them under water to get the skin off.
Place skinned tomatoes in a large stockpot and cook down to a pulp- appox. 30 min.
Process the tomatoes through a food mill. (In this step I usually put half of the mixture through my great grandma's food mill and the other half I process seeds and all with an immersion blender.)
Put the liquid in the fridge and let water come to the surface. Skim water off the surface before Step 2.

Step 2:
3 dozen Paste or Roma tomatoes- blanched and skinned (or frozen tomatoes run under hot water till skin is removed)
4 hot peppers- I use jalapenos or Hungarian Hot Wax Peppers because I grow them- chopped
3 lbs white onions- chopped
2 heads garlic-chopped ( and Yes! it says heads)
Combine all ingredients in Step 2 with 1 pint of olive oil and cook for 30 minutes. Blend with immersion blender until smooth. This will leave you with a bright orange thickened (milkshake like) mixture.

At this point you will spoon the water off the top of the mixture from Step 1 and add the mixture from Step 2. You will need a huge stockpot to do this. I use a 21 qt canner.
To the mixture you will now add:
8 small cans of tomato paste
1/2 cup salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 Tbsp oregano
2 tsp basil
2 Tbsp parsley
(All the herbs in the original recipe are dried but I have added fresh since I have them. If you add fresh, make sure you add at least double all the measurements.)

Cook all together until thick. I like to see the sauce coat the pack of the spoon. Depending on your stove, pan, etc. this should take about an hour. Make sure you are stirring the mixture almost constantly. It is very easy to burn at this step. Make sure you are scrapping the bottom of the pot.

Finished sauce, hot sterilized jars and sterilized lids and rings

Sterilize jars, caps and rings. If you are not sure about the step of sterilization please refer to Ball Canning. Food safety is very important!

I typically fill quart jars so I have enough sauce for spaghetti, lasagna and other pasta dishes.  I also sometimes like to make a few jelly jars or pint jars. I use these smaller jars for pizza or my portabello mushroom caps. The typical yield is 12 quarts or 24 pints but can differ depending on the amount of water spooned off and how long you cook it down.

Ladling the hot sauce into a quart jar with a canning funnel

Now it is time to fill the jars. At this point, I like to have some sort of assembly line going on and it definitely make it easier if you have a helper. One person to fill jars and the other to place lids. This part gets kind of messy as well, so use old towels. Ladle sauce into desired jars, be sure rims of the jars are clean and top edges are wiped clean. Place lid on top of jar and then screw on ring. Place the jars on a towel on the counter. The lids will begin to pop as the sauce cools. You do not have to put the jars in a water bath. DO NOT store any sauce that the lid has not popped on. These are not sealed and therefore bacteria can get in and spoil the product.

All finished- 13 qts. of sauce

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