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There is something about this time of year that always makes me question some of my life choices. Have you ever wished you could go back and talk to your younger self? If I could, I would go back to earlier this year and tell myself, “What kind of crazy are you? No one needs 120 tomato plants! NO ONE!” Seriously. Who plants 120 tomato plants? ON PURPOSE!
I am beginning to feel like an “unnamed victim” from “Attack of the Killer Tomatoes“. (If you’ve never seen it, it’s one of the cheesiest movies of all time. 🙂 ) I guess I thought I needed more tomatoes this year. Cuz last year we ran out of tomato soup about February. And that was sad…
So what does a girl do when she’s surrounded by a bazillion and 43 tomatoes? She cans of course! The nicer ones go into the jars diced or quartered. But the not-so-perfect ones are…well…perfect for saucy kinds of things. Like…uhm…sauce. Like this Italian Herbed Tomato Sauce, and marinara sauce, and cocktail sauce, and enchilada sauce. And the aforementioned tomato soup. Which is kinda saucy. 🙂
First up on the list was this Italian Herbed Tomato Sauce. This is our go-to pizza sauce around here. Have I mentioned before how much we love pizza? Friday night is pizza night so we go through a LOT of this stuff! I make it in large batches, but if you don’t happened to be surrounded by 20 pounds of tomatoes, no worries. You can easily cut this recipe in half. I can this in half pint jars. That gives us enough sauce for 2 large pizzas and 6 to 8 individual ones.
A note about this recipe: Because we are not adding vinegar or lemon juice this sauce must be pressure canned.
If you’re new to pressure canning or just want a refresher, you can learn all about it here.
Now my friends, to the kitchen!
Italian Herbed Tomato Sauce
- 20lbs tomatoes
- 3 cups chopped onions
- 8 lg garlic cloves
- 4 bay leaves
- 2 tsp basil
- 4 tsp oregano
- 4 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp pepper
I usually get 14 to 16 half pint jars with this recipe, depending on how thick I let it get. If I’m just making it plain tomato sauce, I usually get 24 half pints because it doesn’t need to be as thick.
If you don’t grow and dry your own herbs, you can order organic herbs online from Starwest Botanicals.
Here we go!
Prepping the veggies:
Slip the skins from the tomatoes. I show you how to do that step-by-step right here. Remove the cores with your handy dandy corer gadget then quarter them if they are small or roughly chop them if they are large. Then put them into a large non-reactive pot. Use a potato masher (or your hand) to mash the first layer or so. The liquid in the bottom of the pot helps keep things from burning when it’s on the heat. Roughly chop up the onions and garlic cloves. The onions can be pretty big chunks. Then add those to the pot with the tomatoes. Give it all a good stir.
Cooking the veggies:
Put the pot on the heat and bring the tomatoes, onions, and garlic to a boil. After it boils, turn the heat down and let it simmer for 45 minutes to an hour without the lid. What we are doing here is getting everything good and soft and allowing some of the liquid to boil away. Let’s talk about that liquid for a minute. I have seen people on the interwebs say that you should drain your tomatoes and even salt them first to get rid of as much of the juice as possible so that it doesn’t take as long to get thick. And you can absolutely do that if you want to. But here’s the thing. That juice has flavor in it. And if you keep all the juice and boil it down you are going to have a deeper, richer flavor to your sauce than you would if you drained it all away. So I always capture as much of the juice as I can when I’m canning. 🙂
Saucing the veggies:
There are 3 different approaches you can take here. This is where we are going to puree the tomato mixture. If you have a stick blender, now would be a perfect time to pull it out. Or you could use a food mill. And the 3rd option is to use a blender. If you are using a blender, you need to allow the mixture to cool off a little before putting it into the blender. If it’s too hot the blender lid can shoot off and you’re going to have an explosion the likes of which you’ve never imagined. Tomato insides will. be. every. where. So please, let it cool. If you happen to have a high powered blender, it will even puree the seeds. If you don’t and the seeds bother you, putting it through a food mill will take care of the seeds.
Thickening the sauce:
Put the now pureed mixture into a clean pot. Add all the spices and seasonings. Cuz that’s what makes it Italian Herbed Tomato Sauce. If you want just plain tomato sauce, which I also make gallons of, leave out everything except the salt and pepper. Don’t worry to much about the taste right now, we’ll adjust the seasonings later. Now bring the sauce back to a boil. Then reduce the heat to about medium. Stir it occasionally to make sure that it doesn’t stick or burn. It needs to simmer without a lid to get to the proper thickness.
So what exactly is the “proper” thickness? That, my friends, is totally up to you! Since I primarily use this for pizza sauce, I make it pretty thick. No one wants sauce running off of their pizza when they take a bite. I use what’s called the “plate test” to see how thick it is. Put a small plate in the freezer for at least 5 minutes. Put a spoonful of sauce on the plate. It will almost immediately form a ring of water around the sauce. Run your finger through the middle of the sauce. Does the sauce run right back together? Or does it stay separated? Do this a few times at 5 to 10 minute intervals to test the thickness. Wipe off the plate and put it back in the freezer between tests. Once the ring of water is minimal and the sauce doesn’t go back together, it’s getting pretty thick.
This boiling down step can take a while. The bigger your batch, the longer it takes. Usually at least an hour. Which gives you plenty of time to prepare your jars and lids. 🙂 I like to can this sauce in half pint jars. That’s just about the right amount for 2 or 3 large pizzas or 4 or 5 smaller individual ones. Depending on how much sauce you like on your pizza of course. It can also be canned in pints, though, if you want to.
Perfecting the sauce:
When the sauce has reached the desired thickness, give it a taste. Adjust the seasonings if necessary. And now that it’s perfect, it’s time to ladle it into your hot jars. Make sure you wipe the rims before seating the flat lids, and tighten the rings finger tight.
Canning the sauce:
Put the jars in the pressure canner and follow the directions that came with your canner.
Process both half pints and pints for 20 minutes at 6lbs of pressure. Make sure that you adjust the pressure for your altitude.
Storing the sauce:
After the canner pressure has reached zero, and again following the directions for your canner, remove the jars to a towel covered counter or table out of drafts. Let the jars sit 12 to 24 hours, undisturbed. After a minimum of 12 hours check the seals. if any of the jars haven’t sealed refrigerate and use within a week. Wash the jars and label and date them. Then put your beautiful jars of Italian Herbed Tomato Sauce in your pantry to enjoy all winter long!
Canning tomato products can sometimes make for a long day. But I sure am grateful that I took the time when I open one of those puppies up in the middle of the winter!
Now, if you will excuse me, those 120 tomato plants are calling my name. I’m going to go pick another bazillion or so tomatoes and do some more canning. Soup this time I think. 🙂
What is your favorite tomato based product?
More canning recipes you should try: