We had a ton of tomatoes from our backyard garden during our most recent harvest. Last year I canned tomatoes, but this year I decided to take it one step further and make and can my own sauce. When deciding on the consistency of my sauce, I decided to make a sauce that’s smooth and chunk-free; that way I could easily use it as a pizza sauce, and could then use fresh tomatoes (or a can of diced tomatoes) to add chunks to a spaghetti sauce.
Because the amount of tomatoes you have may vary, I decided to keep this recipe fluid; you could make this sauce with as many or little of those red, savory fruits as you’d like.
1 bay leaf (per six tomatoes)
1 clove garlic, chopped (per six tomatoes)
1/2 tsp lemon juice (per six tomatoes)
1 pinch each dried oregano, sea salt, black pepper (per six tomatoes)
1 fresh basil leaf, chopped (per six tomatoes)
2oz tomato paste (per six tomatoes)
Any tomato will do, but the best tomatoes for making sauce are roma tomatoes (also called “paste tomatoes”); removing seeds from them are easy and they have a lot of “meat” to them. I didn’t use roma tomatoes, and getting the seeds out was a bit of a pain.
The tomato paste isn’t totally necessary, but adding it will thicken the sauce and cut down on the cooking time significantly.
Your first step is to remove the skins and seeds from the tomatoes. Boil some water in a large pot, and drop each tomato in for about ten seconds; pull the tomato out, and with a paring knife cut a thin line down each side of the tomato and slip the skin off. Then cut the tomato into quarters, and remove the seeds and stem with your fingers. I recommend putting the seeds in a colander and putting a bowl under the colander to catch the tomato juice, which you can then use in your sauce.
Place the tomato quarters, tomato juice, and bay leaf into a pot and start to simmer on low for about an hour, stirring often. Mash the tomatoes down with a potato masher while the tomatoes simmer. A few minutes before the hour is up, add the rest of the ingredients and pull out the bay leaf. By now the sauce should be pretty thick; if not, continue to let it simmer, or add more tomato paste.
While the tomatoes are simmering, you’ll want to prep your jars for canning. In a large pot, boil some water and dip the jars in the water for about a minute to scald them. It’s better to have more jars on hand than you think you need, just in case. I also used several different sizes of jars, so that I can pull out the appropriately sized jar for any occasion.
Once the tomato sauce is ready, pour it into the jars until you’re about 1/4 inch from the lip of the jar. Place the lids and rings on the jars, and then submerge them in boiling water on a steam rack (you should have enough water to cover the jars with at least an inch of water) for 45 minutes. Pull the jars out of the water (which is tricky – I used rubber-tipped tongs and a large metal spoon) and set them on the kitchen counter overnight.
If the lids suck down into the jar, then you’ve got a good seal. The sauce is shelf-stable and will keep for about a year.