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March13

Straight from the Garden: How to Make Your Very Own Pasta Sauce

My name is Laura T. and I work in the Special Events department at Stampin’ Up! I’ve been here for almost four years now and I love it! Some of you may remember my blog post about spring chicks last year, and will be surprised to learn that in addition to chicken-keeping, I am an avid gardener and canner! Canning is by far one of my favorite hobbies because it lets you (literally) eat the fruits of your labor.

Each year, my partner, Matt, and I head to the local community garden plant sale and purchase 20– 30 interesting heirloom tomato starts to plant in our backyard garden. My favorites include Pink and Red Brandywines, Pink Oxhearts, 1884s, and Pineapple tomatoes. Each of these tomato varieties grow to be 1–2 pounds and are very fleshy—meaning that they are mostly meat and not a lot of water. I prefer this type of tomato for canning pasta sauce because you don’t have to cook it down for quite as long . . . and you get more sauce in the end.

Most canners prefer to gather tomatoes and process them on a weekly basis; however, I find that life is simply too busy to keep up with a regimented canning schedule in the summer—which is why I freeze my tomatoes! That’s right, folks, I gather my tomatoes when they are at their very ripest, throw them in a plastic bag (I don’t even blanch them first!), toss them in the freezer, and wait until I have more time later in the year to deal with them (usually after the holiday season).

I finally found time to can pasta sauce a couple of weekends ago. I hope you enjoy reading about my adventure and add canning your own pasta sauce to your “must-do” list for 2014. 

Method

  1. Begin by gathering your tomatoes! This is the easy part. Just throw your tomatoes in a freezer bag and store them in your deep freezer until you are ready to use them. (Note: if you prefer the traditional method of collecting and canning the same day, you can still use my recipe; however, you’ll need to blanch and seed your tomatoes before moving on to step 3.)
  2. Once you have a free day scheduled for canning pasta sauce, be sure to pull all of your tomatoes out of the deep freezer one day beforehand. I recommend placing the bags in a tub, shower, or several large Tupperware bins to thaw; otherwise, you’ll have lots of water to mop up!
  3. Now that your tomatoes are thawed and ready to go, you can now work on pulling the skins off.  Simply hold the tomato in one hand and peel the skin off with the other. (Note: skinning tomatoes this way is much easier this way than if you try to skin them when they are fresh and blanched.)
  4. Once you peel the skins off, squeeze the extra juice out of the tomato and toss it into your waiting blender.  Blender Note: be sure to have a good blender! After two hours of skinning and blending tomatoes, my blender shorted out and filled my kitchen with smoke. Not wanting to get behind schedule, I had to rush to Target to buy a new blender (and a new 20 qt. stock pot). The latter was definitely an impulse buy!
  5. Blend the tomatoes until there are no more chunks, then place the puree in a bowl and repeat until you are out of tomatoes (this step took me almost 4 hours—not including my field trip to Target)!
  6. The next step is dicing onions and garlic. I diced seven onions and split them between the two pots. I added some olive oil and sautéed until the onions were translucent. Then I added a good amount of minced garlic to each pot (about one-half cup of garlic for each pot) and sautéed for 8-10 minutes.  (Note: I grow my own garlic each year and it is infinitely better than the garlic you buy at the store. It has so much flavor— and the skins peel off much more easily. Garlic is also one of the easiest things to grow. Here is a bunch of garlic I dried myself.
  7. Add the tomato purée to the onions and garlic to start cooking it down. Don’t use a metal or glass lid to contain the cooking sauce—they trap the moisture in the pots and your sauce won’t cook down. I prefer to use a wire splash guard on top of my pots to keep my kitchen from being covered in splatter marks.
  8. Seasoning varies depending upon your personal tastes. I like to use basil, oregano, parsley, black pepper, and red pepper.  We also grow and dry our own hot peppers—which are perfect for pasta sauce! Simply pick out a few good ones (I used around 10 this time) and blend it in a Magic Bullet or regular blender. I wouldn’t recommend chopping them because your fingers and eyes will never be the same!
  9. Cook the mixture down for 3–4 hours until you get a good pasta sauce consistency (the sauce will reduce several inches during the cooking process), making sure you stir every ten minutes or so. You’ll also want to make sure you have a spoon large enough for your stock pot—or else you’ll have to send your significant other on yet another emergency trip to Target (as I did)!
  10. Once you feel that your sauce has reduced enough and is flavored to your liking, you’ll need to prepare your jars and lids. Sanitize your jars and screw tops while your sauce is cooking down. You’ll also need to prepare a bowl of very hot (not boiling) water for your new lids. Soak the lids for about 10 minutes before you’re ready for the next step.
  11. Ladle your boiling pasta sauce into the sanitized jars using a canning funnel to help keep the rims clean. Be sure to cover the top with your free hand or else you’ll find splatters all over your cupboards for weeks!
  12. Wipe the rim clean, place a hot lid on top, and screw on the ring.
  13. Once all of your jars are filled and closed, you will need to process them in a hot water bath for 35 minutes.
  14. Done!

It took me hundreds of tomatoes and 10 hours of labor to can 19 jars of pasta sauce, but it was worth it! We make pasta at least once a week at our house, and having fresh, homemade sauce really makes a difference!



Laura T.

Special Events

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  • Polly

    Dec 19

    Wow, that's great you grow all those things yourselves and can them. I have frozen tomatoes like you do, too, but didn't realize you could still can them or make pasta sauce like that! I might have to give that a try. I do can my tomatoes when they are fresh, but after a while you get tired of that and relent to tossing them in a freezer bag and into the freezer! You can also skin them easily when frozen by running warm water over the tomatoes!

  • Pam L.

    Dec 19

    I'm going to try this with tomoatoes from the Farmer's Market this year. We're trying to eat foods that are less processed and at least if I process it myself, I 'll know exactly what's in it!! Thanks, Laura!!

  • Jen T

    Dec 19

    I have never thought to freeze the tomatoes whole. What a great idea! Now to carve out enough room in my deep freeze for this summer's tomatoes.

  • Diana Gibbs

    Dec 19

    You are making me hungry! Thanks for the tips and how are the chicks? We are finally getting eggs from our 22 weeks olds. See you soon! Hugs, Di