Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Spaghetti Sauce

So here we are again, with yet another garden based post. What can I say? It's summer, the garden's growing, and I've got to find some way to use up all this produce so it doesn't go bad. I've mentioned before how plentiful the garden is, and a person can only make so many veggie fairy drops to friends before she begins to feel a little like a Mormon missionary. People are polite, but how many zucchinis and tomatoes can their family stand? I imagine just as much as mine, but we don't want to overwhelm them.

Tomatoes ready to peeled.
In April we got 6 tomato plants from Costco. They're all different varieties, two of which produce cherry tomatoes. These suckers are throwing off fruit like gangbusters. From what we've heard other people have had some trouble with their tomatoes this year. My aunt and grandma, who are gardening goddesses with magical green thumbs, even got some from us because their tomatoes weren't producing big fruit, just little guys. We have one plant called "Big Beefy" and he produces tomatoes the size of softballs. These guys are so big they almost tip the plant. We do recognize that this harvest was mostly based on luck, but we're enjoying having been so lucky!

So, suffice it to say, we've had a number of tomatoes, and a need to make sure they don't just rot on our counter. So far this summer, my mom and I have processed over 120 pounds of tomatoes. And that's not including the ones we've used fresh. I've made tapatio sauce (as you've seen-- the second time I did it I upped the peppers and it was spicier, which I think is better), canned tomatoes, and spaghetti sauce-- which is the theme of this blog post.

Homemade canned spaghetti sauce is amazing. Working with the spices and fresh ingredients gives me a place to experiment and be creative. And it also makes you feel like a domestic pro to complete the process. Of course after you've completed it, you will crash in front of the TV with a glass of wine and a bagful of candy corn. But what makes that so different from any other night? And this way you'll have spaghetti sauce in the end. So everybody wins!

 20-25 pounds fresh tomatoes
1 onion
3 cloves garlic
1-2 bell peppers (use what you've got in the garden if you have them)
fresh basil (I don't measure this, just put as much in as you want-- around 1/4 cup)
2-3 bay leaves
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 cup red wine
1/4 lemon juice

To start core and score the tomatoes and peel them like I showed you here ( This process takes the most time, but you need to do it, the peels become bitter over time and the sauce will not be great if you leave them on.
After they look like this. So pretty right?
Then chop the onion and mince the garlic. Saute in olive oil over medium heat. This will take about 3-5 minutes. After the onions are translucent and you kitchen smells like heaven, add the tomatoes and all other remaining ingredients (yes it is a very simple process). Let cook down, stirring occasionally, and smashing up the tomatoes where necessary. I usually let my sauce cook at least two hours and I taste and fiddle with the spices as I go. The longer it cooks--without burning-- the more the enhanced the flavors will be.
We had so many tomatoes we ended up with 3 pots full of sauce on the stove.
Recipes I've seen have varied on the cooking times dramatically. The shortest was 30 minutes, but I believe that woman finesses her sauce at the time she's using it in the meal. So her canned sauce is less flavorful. To me the point of having it canned is that it's all ready to go and I can just throw it into something, but to each his or her own.

So after your satisfied with your sauce now you get to start the canning process. Fill the canning jars (I suggest using quart jars, but I feed a family of 6) within a 1/4 in of the top. Seat the lid and hand tighten the ring around the top.

So close to the end...
Then you get to boil the canning jars. You put the jars in the canner and keep them covered with at least 1 inch of water. Keep the water boiling. Process the jars in a boiling-water bath for 35 minutes for pints and 40 minutes for quarts.

And voila! You have your very own homemade spaghetti sauce canned and ready to go! 

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