Thursday, September 16, 2010

Savvy Homegirl's Canning Adventure - Tomato Sauce

From the very begginning of spring, I planned to make tomato sauce with my garden tomatos. I love homemade tomato sauce, and putting this away for winter only made sense.

Since I've never canned, I checked out some recipes recommended for doing so. Secretly, I thought I'd be making a grand Bolognese, until I read it's better to limit the recipe to tomatos and spices, because other vegetables will alter the pH. I experimented with a few recipes, making a few small batches, before finding this super yummy recipe at Canadian Gardening.

It makes a HUGE batch, and I didn't have near enough tomatoes for the full recipe. I ended up quartering it, using fresh basil and parsley, and it turned out absolutely delish. I cooked the sauce on Sunday then put it in the fridge to can this week.

Despite getting home late from work, I was determined to can the sauce last night. Like I said, it wasn't a huge batch, and I only had about 3-4 pint jars worth to do. I didn't own a canner, but I thought for small jars, I could likely get away with using a stockpot on my stove.

This is where I wished had learned by now to do my research BEFORE I start a project, instead of simultaneously. With the sauce reheating reheated on the stove, my lids sitting in hot water in the sink and jars hot in the dishwasher, I turned my stockpot water on to boil and prepared to spoon my sauce into my jars.

Then I realized it. I didn't have a rack to keep the jars off the bottom of the pot. Did this matter? Do I need a rack? What if the jars sit on the bottom? I couldn't find a website advising a rack WASN'T needed, and I couldn't find anything to substitute for a rack. Panic set in. I turned all the burners off, grabbed my keys and headed to the only place I could think of that would have a rack at 9:30 PM. Wal-Mart. ick.

The whole drive to the store and back, a little voice repeatedly told me how stupid it was that I didn't do more research on this BEFORE starting the process (for a second time). Planning to just by a rack that could sit in the bottom of my pot, I ended up with an entire canner. At $16.97, I decided to go for it.

Arriving back home, I poured 4 inches of water in my new canner, put the glass jars back in hot water, pulled one out, dropped a 1 Tbsp of lemon juice in the jar and started spooning in the tomato sauce. At that point, I began questioning my IQ for a second time. The 'pop lids' were too big. I bought the size too big. I bought them Sunday! Why didn't I check this out before tonight?!

Thoroughly defeated, I put an old lid on one of the jars and put it in the freezer. I poured the remainder of the sauce back in my bowl and returned the bowl to the fridge. So now I have enough for 2 bottles of sauce. Yes, TWO. I bought a canner for 2 jars of tomato sauce. They're not even quart jars, they're pints. I think I'm going to have to make a lot more tomato sauce to justify this purchase.

Especially, since my mom told me after I could've heated up my jars, poured the hot sauce into them, put the seal on and it would've sealed on its own. Of course, your seals have to fit first... All my research also said NOT to do this, because you always run the risk of the jars spoiling if they're not sterilized or the food isn't hot enough.

So, for the second night in a row, I put my sauce back on the stove tonight to heat up. It was overkill, but I put the water canner on also, heated my jars in hot water in the sink, poured in my sauce, put the lids on and put them in the canner. They sealed in ten minutes. 2 jars in a 6-jar canner is totally overkill, but all in all, it was a good practice run for a bigger batch next time.


  1. Hahaha what an adventure! Well, in the dead of winter, that tomato sauce will taste AMAZING. I've never canned by myself- just as a kid with my mom instructing me. I'd love to try it, but my tomatoes will need to perform a lot better than they did this year.

  2. I've done a lot of canning in the past. The first few times your nerves are always on high alert. Just go with it. There is quite a few bernardin cook books out there just go with them and your instincts. Dont worry about the rack i've never used one but I never ever resuse my lids. Make sure that rim is super super clean. Even wipe it off with a damp paper towel just to make sure! I just boil my jars pull them out with tongs fill, clean rim put the lid and ring on and place on a surface with no temp change (no ac or open window) then wait for the popping of the lids. Some people then boil thier filled jars or pressure can them. But thats more work then i'm up for and people have been doing it this way forever.

    Good luck and enjoy I have more jam, sauce, salsa, tomato sauce and chili sauce then I know what to do with.

    Maybe look into freezer canning if you have lots of freezer space.

  3. Thank you SOOOOO much for the advice. I needed you a week ago! Freezer canning is out, because my freezer is too small. I didn't think I needed the water canner either, but since I don't have a really big stockpot, I think it's going to come in handy in multiple ways. I just won't go the extra trouble to boil the jars if they've already been boiled and my sauce is hot. I think I even have a Bernardin cookbook stashed in my cupboard. I definitely want to get more tomatoes to do this sauce again. It is so tasty! I would love to try salsa too, but otherwise, I'm not a big jam eater. Yet, I do have a crab apple tree that I could have lots of apples for jelly!

  4. When you have your first cold front move in and have your homemade canned sauce think how happy you will be!

  5. It will be SOOOOOO yummy! I bought a bushel of Roma tomatoes today to make more! Mmmm