SIMPLE TOMATO SAUCE

Making the sauce

You will need:

5 Pounds of ripe tomatoes
Italian paste tomatoes work well. Heirloom tomatoes have a higher
water content so be prepared to cook them longer. You may continue to
add more tomatoes as the sauce cooks down.
2 red or yellow onions
4 to 5 whole garlic cloves
1 to 2 red, green, or yellow peppers (sweet, not hot)
1 ½ to 2 cups mixed fresh herbs including basil, oregano, thyme and marjoram
(Use less if you only have dried herbs instead of fresh.)
3 bay leaves
Several sprigs of fresh oregano, thyme and marjoram, and a handful of
basil leaves, for adding to the jars at the last moment before sealing
Salt and pepper to taste

Cut out the stem of each tomato and chop into three or four coarse pieces. Peel and cut the onions into halves or quarters. Peel the garlic cloves. Core and cut each pepper into three or four pieces. Coarsely chop the mixed fresh herbs. Place all of these ingredients, together with the bay leaves, into a large, heavy enamel or stainless steel kettle with a lid. Add salt and pepper.

Cover and cook slowly over low heat, stirring occasionally. Covering the pot allows the tomato juices to develop naturally without boiling away. If the tomatoes are ripe and juicy, it’s rarely necessary to add any extra water to the pot. The sauce will need to cook for at least an hour to reach the desired consistency. Once it has reduced and thickened, lower the heat, remove the bay leaves, and check for seasoning.

Finishing the sauce

You will need:

An Italian food processing mill or “Mouli” The next step involves pressing the sauce, a few cups at a time, through an Italian hand held food processing mill called a Mouli. This process yields a smooth, silky, thick sauce. While the mill screens out the seeds and the skins, it allows all the thickened pulp to go through. Using the mill means that tomatoes do not need to be skinned or seeded beforehand. In addition to saving time and trouble, I prefer leaving the skins on while cooking because they impart intense color to the sauce and act as a thickening agent. Once screened through the mill, return the sauce to the stove and continue to cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until your jars are prepared.

Canning the Sauce

You will need:

a case of canning jars, rings and lids
I prefer pint jars so that I can choose to open one or more jars according
to need
2 large stainless or enamel kettles with lids
long–handled spoons
large ladle and a jar funnel
jar-lifter for removing the jars from the hot water bath
tea towels

Sterilizing the jars

Fill one of the kettles half-way with water. Submerge the clean canning jars under the water. Cover and place over high heat to boil. The jars must be completely covered by at least an inch of hot water. Scald the lids and rings separately in a saucepan by covering them with boiling water removed from the flame. Keep them covered until ready to be used.

Canning

Using the jar-lifter, carefully reach down into the boiling bath, grab a canning jar by the neck, and lift it out. Set the jar down and place the wide-mouth jar funnel into the jar. Using the ladle, fill the jar with hot tomato sauce to within one-half inch of the jar rim. It’s very important to leave this air space as it is critical to the successful sealing of the jar. Dip a few sprigs of the reserved fresh herbs under boiling water for a few seconds and then arrange them against the inside wall of the jar. Use the tongs to place a jar lid exactly over the clean mouth of the jar. Screw down the jar ring and tighten with a tea towel. Repeat for the rest of the jars. Then, use the jar-lifter to return the filled jars to the boiling bath. Add water if necessary to ensure that the jars are covered by at least one or two inches of water. Cover the kettle, bring back to a boil and allow jars to remain in the boiling water for 45 minutes. Count processing time from the time the water returns to a boil.

Turn off the heat and remove the jars from the hot water in an upright position. Place the hot jars gently onto a folded towel to cool. Do not allow them to touch. Listen for the “ping” sound as the jars seal. Once sealed and cooled, you may remove the rings. It is best to store jars in a cool, dry, dark place.

Note: Plan to consume within a year of canning.


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