Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Water Bath Canning: Tomato Sauce

I went to a great canning class at Lavender Fields Farm this past Saturday.  We learned how to safely preserve this summer's harvest and how to feed our families all year long.  The instructor, Nicole, is very knowledgeable and I would strongly suggest taking one of her classes.  She has a passion for growing her family's food and herbs organically on their 21 acres of farmland in Glen Allen.

I want to share some of what I learned, but by no way is this a tutorial as to how you should prepare your food.  This serves merely as documentation of the process.  I gently suggest that if canning interests you, that you either take a class and/or learn more about the logistics.  Food safety is nothing to mess around with and I'm not trying to give you botulism.
I began with approximately 30 pounds of tomatoes from my friend and farmer, Russ, from Edible Old Dominion.  

I went to Kroger and got my supplies:
canning jars, large funnel, can holder, magnetic lid lifter (doubles as an air bubble remover) and not shown, a water bath canner dipping rack. (mine is plastic and I long for a metal one)

I cut the onions, which couldn't be sauteed in oil, since it affects the canning process.  Instead they were sauteed in water.  The Family Secret Tomato Sauce recipe was suggested by our teacher Nicole, was from a great book, Animal, Vegetable, Miracle.

This is the sauce after it simmered for a few hours.  The recipe said it would make 6-7 quarts.  Mine made 8 quarts. Juicy tomatoes?  I only deseeded the first 2 quarts of the tomato puree, which will be a lesson for next time, since I never really notice seeds in store bought sauce.  The consistency is also more watery than most sauces, but it can be thickened and additional veggies or meat added once opened.

In addition to having clean, sterile jars, caps and rings, the jars should soak in clean, hot water, awaiting the hot liquid to enter without breaking the jar.

Time to spoon the sauce into the jars, leaving about an inch of room from fill to lid.  A plastic utensil should be used to scrape the sides to prevent any air bubbles.  Add 2tsp of lemon juice per quart jar to insure the right acidity level. Apply lid and ring, but not too tight.  Prepare a stock pot with boiling water so the water bath canning process can begin.  It's also a good idea to have a kettle on the burner, so you can insure that the submerged jars are completely covered in at least two to three inches of water in the stock pot.  Cover and wait 35 minutes.

This jar is ready to come out, sit and do it's thing.  Hearing the "plink" of the seal is a cool reminder of your success.  You may also tap the lid to assist the seal.  If for some reason it doesn't, refridgerate and consume the product within two to three days.  I was only able to do three quarts at once, so I had to do this time consuming step numerous times.  It was getting late as you can see by the clock in the background.
Eight quarts of tomato sauce that can be stored for up to a year.  I'm feeling like Laura Ingalls after slaving in a hot, trashed kitchen for most of the day.  I'm looking forward to trying some of the sauce tomorrow and adding fresh garlic and fresh basil, since only the dried versions were allowed in this recipe. 


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