I am SO not a canner. Actually, canning tends to freak me out, but we didn’t die from the applesauce I canned last fall, so I am doing tomatoes now (seeing that the freezer is already full of peaches).
With a borrowed food mill (if that’s even what this is), we made the tomatoes into raw tomato sauce in under 30 minutes. The cooking part was easy too. I just left the pot of tomato liquid/pulp on the back burner of my gas range overnight, and in the morning, voila! Sauce.
I don’t have any bell peppers, celery, or even garlic on hand, so I’ll have to be content with plain tomato instead of a much-more-interesting spaghetti sauce. Oh well. I’ll add fresh vegetables when I open it.
With a real canning kettle, there’s a rack that fits inside to suspend your jars up above the direct heat from the burner. I don’t own a real one, but thanks to my mother in law, who was visiting the day I needed to can Concord grape juice last year, I know how to improvise a canner by arranging screw bands on the bottom of a large pot. I once used a couple dish rags, and that worked okay too, but I like the neatness of the screw bands much better.
Tomatoes! I’m not sure how many pounds of tomatoes I used for this project. I know I started with about 20 pounds, but I also know that we ate quite a few of those tomatoes before we started the sauce. I should have weighed them again.
(If you’re looking for a more inspiring list of ingredients, try this recipe.)
Wash and core the tomatoes, removing any bad spots.
Puree them in a blender or food processor.
Run the pureed tomatoes through a food strainer. This is the one I borrowed, although it’s a much older model so the color is different. I use this same food strainer every fall to make applesauce. I know there are much fancier models out there, but this one does the job well, and we haven’t needed to buy anything.
Put the tomato puree into a large pot and simmer uncovered on medium or low until it’s as thick as you’d like. I reduced mine by half because that’s what happened when I left it on the stove all night.
Sterilize your canning jars in boiling water for at least 5 minutes. Carefully lift out one at a time and dump the hot water into the sink. Leave the rest of the water in the pot because you’ll be returning the filled jars there to process them.
Working quickly, fill the hot jars with hot tomato sauce leaving an inch of empty space (head space) at the top.
Wipe the jar rims.
Using a fork or tongs, dip each lid into boiling hot water for 15 seconds or so.
Fasten the lids onto the jars firmly with screw bands.
Put the filled jars back into the kettle of hot water. You want the water to come up to the shoulder of the jars. If it doesn’t, adjust the amount of water in the pot now.
Turn the pot on high or medium high and return to boiling. Once it starts boiling, start your timer for 25 minutes.
Process the jars for 25 minutes, maintaining the boiling temperature the whole time. When the time is up, turn off the stove and lift out the jars with canning tongs and set them on a towel to cool and dry.
Admire your canned tomato sauce!