Here’s What You Can Do With All Those Tomatoes!
No, its not spaghetti sauce, but it is real close to spaghetti sauce! It’s a seasoned homemade tomato sauce. Not real chunky but very versatile in what you can do with it. One night it can be a soup stock, the other night it can be spaghetti sauce, the next you can use to to flavor your sloppy joes or meat loaf. Best of all, if you have bags and bags of tomatoes from the garden sitting in your kitchen – it will very quickly use up a ton of tomatoes!
The recipe I used was from the Ball Blue Book . If you don’t already have a copy of that inexpensive but incredibly useful book, I highly recommend picking one up. It’s a hundred years worth of time proven and safe food preserving recipes. If you look at this recipe, and are put off by the fact that it is not your favorite family recipe of chunky tomatoes, peppers, and mushrooms – but merely a ‘tomato sauce’ there is a reason for that, bare with me.
Anything canned in a boiling water bath canner needs to be high acid (for the science buffs, this means that it has to have a pH of 4.5 or below). This is because botulism cannot grow in high acid environments. However, tomatoes are in the grey zone of acidity, typically having a pH right around 4.5. Since they are, you need to add acid to tomatoes when you can them, so that the levels are pushed into the safe zone and the pH becomes something lower than 4.5. That’s why all good proven recipes you’ll find for water bath canning tomatoes includes two tablespoons of bottled lemon juice per quart jar (you can also use citric acid, or red wine vinegar).
For a good spaghetti sauce, you usually add ingredients that, while delicious, lower the acid levels to the unsafe zone. So unless your family’s secrete spaghetti sauce recipe contains several cups of red wine vinegar, it will be too low in acid to be canned in a boiling water bath. Now you could process it in a pressure canner as you would stew and keep it in the safe zone, but I prefer sticking to time tested and proven recipes rather than pushing the envelope over and over again with home canned goods. Now I am sure plenty of people out there water bath can real spaghetti sauce and live to tell about it. I know preppers love to thumb their noses at USDA guidelines and do what we want anyways, but……………………. it would really suck if that one time it didn’t work, was the batch you choose to serve to your family in middle of a pro-longed emergency when medical help was not available, wouldn’t it? Before medical help was instantly accessible, people died from botulism poisoning originating from home canned goods, and I personally know people who have messed up water bath canning tomatoes and have gotten sick from them so it is not impossible.
But FEAR NOT! This tomato sauce is NOT bland! Far from it. It has all the flavor one could want for an excellent pot of spaghetti. Personally I LOVE it. You would only need to add a few ingredients from your food storage and no one could tell that this wasn’t the original family recipe. Look for these tips at the bottom of the article.
Yield – 7 Quart Jars
- 45 pounds tomatoes (see, I told ya – LOTS of tomatoes but this process is so time intensive – I figure why bother doing it if you are not going to get at least 7 quarts out of it?)
- 6 cups chopped onions
- 12 cloves of garlic
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- 2 tablespoons oregano
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil (we added this because we grow it – not part of original recipe)
- 6 piece bay leaves (I skipped these, just a taste preference).
- 1 tablespoon black pepper
- 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar (I doubled this after tasting)
- 1/4 cup salt
- 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper optional (I left it out)
- Bottled lemon juice (TIP: lemon juice is used in a lot of food preservation recipes for what you will spend on it at the grocery store – you can get two jumbo bottles of it at Costco or Cash and Carry, it also stores well and has many other uses so don’t be shy buying it)
Set aside TWO days to do this.
Day 1: Gather the tomatoes from your garden and go grocery shopping for all the prep work. Wash tomatoes; drain. Remove core and blossom ends. Cut into quarters; set aside.
Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil in a large stock pot. (I used a 20 qt stainless steel, because they are an easy to clean stock pot ,and it was too small and had to add the smaller 12 qt — go bigger!) Add tomatoes, oregano, basil, bay leaves, black pepper and sugar. Stir in salt and crushed red pepper, if desired. Simmer 20 minutes, stirring, it may take up to an hour for your tomatoes to reach a simmering temperature (don’t get impatient and crank the heat up, you’ll just burn them to the bottom). Remove bay leaves.
Pureé tomatoes using a food mill. (I used an old fashioned food mill with a wooden pestle – because I like using that kind of stuff, but if you wanted to speed this process up use the Food Mill attachment on your Kitchen Aid mixer). Strain puree to remove peels and seeds (the mill I used automatically does this, but if you use your kitchen aid you can just run the results through a mesh strainer or a strainer bag that you would use for jelly).
Day 2: Cook pulp in a large, uncovered stock pot over medium-high heat until sauce thickens, stirring to prevent sticking. Reduce volume by 0ne-half (its more like tomato water than pulp, and what the book doesn’t say is that it may take 8 hours to reduce it by half). Then get ready to can it. This is a hot pack so your sauce will be boiling, your jars will be hot and your water will be hot.
Add 1 tbsp bottled lemon juice to each pint jar, 2 tbsp to each quart jar. Ladle hot sauce into hot sterilized jars, leaving 1/2″ headspace. Adjust two-piece caps. Process pints 35 min, quarts 40 min*, in a water bath canner.
* When canning you need to increase the boiling times for high altitude.
0-1000 ft. P 35 min.; Q 40 min.
1001-3000 ft. P 40 min.; Q 45 min.
3001-6000 ft. P 45 min.; Q 50 min.
over 6000 ft. P 50 min.; Q 55 min.
Spaghetti Sauce From Food Storage
- Start with one quart of Seasoned Tomato Sauce
- Add one pint of drained canned hamburger or you can also go meatless
- One 14oz can of diced tomatoes will give you the chunks if you like chunks
- One 6oz can of tomato paste will thicken the sauce
- One small can of mushrooms will give you the mushrooms (or a handful of dehydrated ones, no additional water)
- Two teaspoons of dehydrated onion will soak up the excess moisture and rehydrate into tasty onions
- And one teaspoon of crushed red pepper or red pepper flakes will give you the pepper that you want
- Add more granulated garlic and salt and pepper to taste
Cook on a stove top on low or in a dutch oven (keeping a close eye on your heat) for 30-45 minutes. The longer you let it simmer, the more your dehydrated elements will absorb the moisture and thicken the sauce). Add to precooked noodles of any shape!
Note for the frugal: It is not cost effective to buy all the ingredients to make this. Now, if you have a garden full of tomatoes, onions, and garlic – it is very cost effective and way more healthy for you to boot. If you don’t have a garden up and running yet, your best option for stocking up spaghetti sauce is picking up the canned stuff when it is on sale. I have seen the Del Monte brand as low as .68 a can, when it drops this low I buy three or more cases of it. But it is always more healthy to make things yourself and it might be good practice to make this once or twice just so you know you could if you had to.
If you have made your own sauce and have some tips, please share them in the comments below. I find the experiences of others to be priceless when preserving food. With garden season wrapping up, I will have more frugal and tasty articles soon!