Summer is finally here! Even if not officially, the tomatoes sprouting everywhere tell me “It’s a good ol’ summertime”. As promised a few posts back, I am going to show you how I, yours truly, bottles my homemade tomato sauce for the year. No, we don’t have a tomato grove or garden, no I don’t have a large kitchen, and no I don’t have a pressure canner….it’s me, my recipe, and my tomatoes under the Sicilian sun!
Note: I have to say this, so please forgive me: The canning method I use is what I have learned here in Sicily and believe to work best for my family. I am not in anyway against pressure canning nor do I feel my method is any less safe than that of pressure canning. Please use the method you feel safest with as I am not responsible for any mishaps or illnesses.
….whew! Now…… on to the fun stuff!
Do you remember my sweet Sicilian neighbors, Sara and her husband Michele from the prior posts? Well, having the green thumb he has, he knows where to get the best fresh tomatoes for canning. Here in Italy, most of the vegetables come from down here in Sicily due to the vast amount of agricultural land we have. So the growers literally pick the tomatoes of the vine in the morning, let’s say by noon……they are then taken to wholesale warehouses where the trucking companies buy, for example, the tomatoes and then off they go to the north of Italy to be distributed to the supermarkets. The beautiful thing is that this warehouse is also open to the public =D So I bought my tomatoes…….100 POUNDS for €20,00 ( $26.00 ) …..Was that terrific or what?! I know you are thinking how on earth am I going to process 100 pounds of tomatoes? Not to worry! Some will be used for my sun dried tomatoes (a furture post =) and the rest I’ll be canning in phases. So, now that you have a bit of how it works here in Sicily, on with the tomatoes!
Here are my beauties….these kinds of tomatoes are called “datteri” in Italian (because they look like “dates”)…..smaller sized but oh so sweet and juicy! But you can use whatever tomatoes you would like.
First, wash and cut the tomatoes. Place the tomatoes in a large stockpot and add the following ingredients…..it’s very similar to the pasta sauce base I usually make (….see my other post “Pasta Sauce with Garlic, Red Wine and Arugula”….)
- 1 cup of olive oil
- 1\2 to 3\4 cup of red wine
- 1\3 cup of dried herbs (whatever you like…..I use a mixture of rosemary, basil, oregano….. and just a bit of sage, if I have it growing on my balcony)
- 6 to 7 large garlics, smashed
- 4 to 6 large bay leaves
- Salt, to taste
Once the ingredients are added, mix with a wooden spoon to incorporate the flavors.
Then, using a potato masher, mash the tomatoes a bit to help break apart the pieces and allow the flavors to develop even further. Bring the stockpot to a boil and then reduce to a simmer, cooking for 2 hours until nice and deep red in color with some of the liquid evaporated.
Once ready, remove the large bay leaves, place a large glass bowl under and begin straining using a tomato strainer (called “passatutto”) like an Italian!.…fitted with the largest disk to strain out the really thick peels….you will still get the yummy pulp if using the largest disk (…..I can’t have tomato sauce without pulp!)
ahhhhhh! If only you could get a whiff!!!!!
Let the sauce cool down for about half an hour, then begin filling your sterilized jars\bottles. I sterilize my jars using the old fashioned plunging each jar and lid in boiling water method. I’ve heard you can also run the dishwasher to sterilize them.
Note: You can reuse the glass jars until you see them compromised (glass cracking, chips, etc….) The lids, I would change every 3-4 uses or when you see them weakening (not closing easily, metal chipping, etc….). If you generally buy the same products over and over (mayonnaise, sauce, etc) you will always have extra jars and lids!
Here they are all sterilized and ready to be filled…….Yes, the towels are clean, that black mark you see on the towel is a burnt mark….it once accidentally touched the flame on the stove =( ……hubby doesn’t know that I nearly burned the house down, and I plan to keep it that way! =D
Here they are with my handy dandy canning funnel! Would you believe I just found this last year!?…Before that, I was using an oil funnel that you use on cars =D It was the only thing I found with somewhat of a wide spout! But now, oh…It’s so much easier filling these jars.
When finished, fill a large stockpot with about two cups of water….place your jars in…..fill with more water until the jars are almost completely submerged and bring to a boil. If you are worried about the jars noisily dancing together, just place clean fingertip or washcloth towels in between the jars. Boil on medium for about 30 minutes.
Then, line a large laundry basket or container with a thick heavy blanket and place the basket in a draft free, undisturbed area of your kitchen or house. Using jar tongs, remove the jars and place them inside the basket, covering them well with more blankets on top so they stay warm initially and cool down gradually….you will hear their lids pop and start to vacuum seal as the day passes. Let them stay in the basket at least two full days. Then check each lid to make sure each is air tight! To check the lid, press down in the center……if it’s airtight, you will see the center sucked in and it won’t click down……if it clicks down, it’s not air tight….so just open the jar and place in the fridge or transfer to a container and freeze for later use.
Store in the pantry and you have the best pizza and pasta sauce ready for you meals…..just add whatever other ingredients you like, e.g. onions, more garlic, etc after opening the jar and prepare your delicious meal =)
Happy tomato canning!