Monday, August 15, 2011

Tomatoes Part 1: Sauces

If you are anything like me you have seen a lot of tomatoes lately.  Whether they are coming from your backyard or a local farmer's market, they seem to be everywhere.  I like tomatoes in most any form, but I particularly like them cooked.  My hubby, on the other hand, will only eat them cooked and well seasoned with other ingredients which means lots of tomato sauces for us.  We eat Italian style sauces on pasta, pizza, and chicken, and we eat salsa almost every week on what has become our usual "taco night".  So, I decided to share some of the ways we preserve and use tomatoes in a two part post (the next part will follow in a day or so).  Today's focus, as you can tell by the title, is sauces. 

All of these sauces require that you either peel the tomatoes before making the sauce or pass them through a food mill to remove the seeds and skin.  Although I own just about every kitchen gadget known to man, a food mill is one thing I am missing. So I peel the tomatoes by hand.  It does not take that long to peel them, and I actually find it somewhat relaxing (call me crazy).  Something about the repetition and thoughtlessness of the task is nice.  If you don't feel the same way, just try to grin and bare it.  It only take a few minutes.  

I am sure many of you know how to peel tomatoes, but if you don't, here is a quick "down-and-dirty" set of instructions.

Cut an "x" in the bottom of each tomato.

Blanch the tomatoes in boiling water for about 1 minute until the peel starts to pull away.

Place tomatoes in an ice bath to cool for about 1 minute.

Peel the tomatoes by pulling the skin away starting at the bottom.  Use a knife to remove the cores from the tomatoes.  You can also core them before if you prefer.

Now that our tomatoes are peeled, on to the sauces.  These sauces can be processed in a boiling water bath but remember to follow the recipes and add the amount of lemon juice or vinegar called for to keep them safe.  Alternately, each sauce can be frozen. 

Sauce #1- Seasoned Tomato Sauce: 
This sauce is basically from the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving although I did change the method a little.  This sauce is a good basic sauce to use on pasta or pizza.  It cooks for approximately 2 hours which makes for a thicker consistency.  My hubby is a bit of a picky eater although I must give him credit and say that he has come a long way since we have been married.  One thing he does not budge on though is his desire for a smooth sauce which is one reason why we like this one so much.  It is pureed to create a smooth texture which is very versatile.  

Sauce #2- Garden Tomato Sauce:
This sauce is an adaptation of the Italian-Style Tomato Sauce in the Ball Complete Book.  I am a bit of a rebel and add some fresh and dried herbs for more flavor.  If you want to stick with the tried and true recipe to be absolutely sure, just omit the herbs and add them when you get ready to eat the sauce.  This is a great sauce for pasta as well, and if you have kids (or picky spouses), it is a great way to get more vegetables into the sauce without them knowing.  The sauce uses plum tomatoes which makes it somewhat thick.  In the original recipe, the vegetables are left chunky, but I puree the sauce to suit our tastes.  

Make sure to use plum tomatoes or drain your tomatoes very well to prevent a watery sauce.

This is what it looks like before being pureed.  It can be left this way for a chunky sauce.

Or puree it in a food processor for a smoother consistency

Pureed sauce in jars-  It made just over 3 pints. 

Sauce #3-  Salsa:
Okay, before I even start telling you about this salsa, I give you permission to call me a cheater.  I did cheat, and I will tell you right now that I would do it again in a heartbeat.  I used a packet of Fiesta Salsa Mix from Ball to make my salsa this year.  It was easy.  All I had to do was prep the tomatoes, and it came out tasting just as good (maybe even better) than other canned salsa recipes I have tried.  I will tell you that sometimes I take issue with canned salsa recipes because of the amount of vinegar you have to add.  With this mix, the salsa was not as tart, and I really tasted the tomatoes and seasonings.  I like it and will make it again next year even if it is cheating.  Mrs. Wages also makes a comparable salsa mix which turns out tasty (I have tried it also).  I do process the prepared salsa in the food processor to make a coarse puree. 

Seasoned Tomato Sauce (adapted from Ball Complete Book):
makes approximately 6 pints (mine made 7)

10 pounds tomatoes, cored, peeled, and crushed with a spoon
2 1/2 cups diced onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried basil
2 bay leaves
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 tsp granulated sugar
1/2 tsp dried pepper flakes
Bottled lemon juice (must be bottled, not fresh)

Stir all ingredients together (except lemon juice) and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring frequently, for about 2 hours (may take less time depending on type of tomato used) until the sauce has thickened slightly and is reduced by about half.  Turn the heat off, and transfer the mixture in batches to a food processor.  Process until the mixture is fairly smooth.  Return puree to the pot and bring back to a boil. 

Place 1 tbsp of lemon juice in each hot sterilized pint jar.  Fill jars with sauce leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles, adjust headspace, wipe rims, and top with sterlized lids and rings.  Process in a boiling water bath for 35 minutes.  Leave in canner 5 minutes.  Remove to a towel to cool completely.  After 24 hours, check seals and store.

Garden Tomato Sauce (adapted from Ball Complete Book):
makes approximately 3 pints

8 cups plum tomatoes, cored, peeled, and chopped
2/3 cup finely chopped onion
2/3 cup finely chopped celery
1/2 finely chopped or grated carrot (I grate mine)
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
4 tbsp lemon juice (bottled, not fresh)
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp hot pepper flakes
2 tbsp finely chopped fresh basil (or 1 1/2 tsp dried), optional
1 tsp dried oregano, optional

Place tomatoes, onion, celery, carrot, and garlic in a large nonreactive pot and and bring to a boil.  Stir in lemon juice, salt, black pepper, hot pepper flakes, and herbs (if using).  Boil sauce until reduced by about 1/3, approximately 15 minutes.  At this point you can leave it chunky or puree it (like I do) in a food processor.  If pureeing, return it to the pot to come to a boil again.  

Ladle sauce into hot sterilized jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles, adjust headspace, wipe rims, and top with sterlized lids and rings.  Process jars in a boiling water bath for 35 minutes.  Allow jars to sit in canner 5 minutes after processing time is complete.  Remove jars to a towel to rest for 24 hours.  Check seals and store.     


  1. I'm not much of a raw tomato person, either, but I love tomato sauce and tomatoes in stews and such. Our garden just shriveled up and died this year from all the heat combined with our gardening ignorance, so no homegrown tomatoes! :-( Thanks for posting these recipes; I'm going to have tomatoes for them next year, darn it!

  2. My garden did the same thing this year. I am not much of a gardener although I want to be. The heat just killed everything I was trying to grow. Even my squash shriveled and it is almost impossible to kill them. We'll have to try again next year :) In the meantime, farmer's market here I come!

  3. Aww! i forgot to put the lemon juice in the jar!! will it still be okay??

  4. Karinda, tomatoes are not acidic enough to can safely without the addition of lemon juice or some other form of acid. The lemon juice really is crucial in determining safety. I know it is a frustrating situation, but I would either refrigerate the sauce and use it right away or freeze it. Alternately, you could pop the jars open and reprocess it with the added lemon juice. Since it is a smoother sauce and not something that needs a crisp texture, it should be just fine to reprocess it. Just remember to heat it up thoroughly before reprocessing and use new lids.

  5. Why does this Seasoned Tomato Sauce recipe have you put lemon juice in the jars before filling, but the Garden Tomato Sauce has the lemon juice mixed into the sauce while it cooks? And if you put the lemon juice in the jars separately, should you stir it to make sure it is fully incorporated or does the hot water processing take care of that?

    Thank you!

  6. The recipes are written differently in terms of how and when they add the lemon juice. I would make them as written to ensure proper acidity even though it may be tempting to make them consistent. On the sauce where you add the juice to the jar, there is no need to mix the juice in. It will blend into the sauce during processing and will be indetectible.