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Monday, September 16, 2013

Canning tomatoes the Italian way

I remember canning tomatoes as a kid and loved the fresh taste of the home grown tomato sauce all winter long.  There was a sweetness that I loved but I remembered the taste being so simple and fresh. Just a few ingredients and it was the best sauce ever. So I asked my mother how to do it since I couldn't remember. Canning always freaks me out because I think I am going to contaminate something and kill my whole family with one meal. I made sure I did it right and I still have some small air bubbles in my sauce, but I don't think it will be a problem. As a test, I used one tonight and it was perfect. Maybe a little thin. I could have cooked it down some more, but the flavor was there. I used a 35lb box of tomatoes SAN MARZANO.  These are a type of Roma tomato that create a superior sauce.  They don't taste like much raw, but when cooked, the sweetness and flavor of these tomatoes are the best for sauce. I paid $16 for the box and in retrospect, should have gotten at least one more box. I made a small batch, very small. 35 lbs yielded 7 quarts of sauce. So I'll be back next weekend to get more and do this again.

What you will need:

Canning jars and lids
Fresh basil leaves
A food mill or electric tomato press
Several LARGE pots, one or two for cooking tomatoes and one for canning.
A canning rack and tongs
Kosher coarse salt
Canning funnel

First, wash the tomatoes. Lay them somewhere to dry.

 Get every little bit of surface dirt off. After they dry get a very sharp knife ready for a lengthy cutting session.

Quarter each tomato and remove any parts that are not ripened. I should mention that you want to use tomatoes that are ripe but NOT over ripened, spoiled or mushy.  This can contaminate your yield. Remove yellow or hard parts that are not ripe and any blemishes. They should look like this when you are done.

 Aren't those beautiful??

Next, heat a very large pot or two pots if you don't have one pot that is large enough and put in the tomatoes.  No water or oil. Just hot pot and tomatoes.  Add salt. About 6 tbspn
 for every 35 lbs. Once boiling, reduce to simmer and let them cook down until they are soft and the skins are peeling off.  About 30 minutes.
Here is what they look like while cooking. 
When they are done, remove the pot and while still hot, ladle the tomatoes into your food mill.  I used an old school hand crank because I realized that my Kitchen Aid food mill attachment had holes that were way to small and literally made juice out of the tomatoes.  You need holes that allow for some pulp to pass through but separate the skins and most of the seeds. Here is my food mill.
Here is what I am ladling into my food mill
In the meanwhile, I have washed my canning jars in the dishwasher on the pot cycle and now have them in a large pot of boiling water sitting in a canning rack.  They are being sterilized. I also have my lids in another pot of boiling water.

After I have milled all the tomatoes I put them back on the stove to cook down a little. Not much or you will lose your fresh tomato taste. You only need to do this if it's too thin. Remember to NEVER add water.
When it's ready, remove the sterilized jars with canning tongs and place on a towel. Place a basil leaf in each jar. Fill each jar with the sauce using a canning funnel and leave about 1 inch of space at the top. use a plastic knife around the inside edges of the jar to release any small air bubbles. ( I forgot this step).
Place your sterilized lids on and screw ( not tight). Place those jars into your canning pot on the rack and boil for 45 minutes. This will remove the air and can them. If you don't have a rack, put your jars inside old tube socks to keep them from hitting each other while boiling to avoid breakage.
Remove once canned and let sit for 24 hours. You can remove the rings only, not the lids. The lids should be depressed in the center now. Date your sauce and store in a dark, non-drafty room. 
You will be so happy you did it!

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