So THAT's What you Did with the 24 Lbs of Tomatoes

Yep ... that's it!  I made Tomato-Basil Sauce.  Then I "canned" it.  I honestly do not know what has come over me.  All summer long, I have been DYING to preserve stuff.  It all stemmed from a trip to the Farmer's Market one April Saturday in Seaside, FL.  A lady was selling jams and preserves and other things, and I talked with her about preserving.  When I got home, it started.  For me, it was simple Strawberry Preserves (everybody should learn how to do this).  I shared them with a few gals in the neighborhood, and was pleasantly surprised with "emails of love" about my preserves.  Even suggestions that I hit the MT Laurel Farmer's Market with my own wares.   Then the thought came to mind to add a little thyme and maybe a little lavender to the recipe.  Soon, I was back in the kitchen with my second "canning" of the season and a batch of Strawberry Thyme Preserves and Strawberry-Lavender Preserves.  So, last week, when I saw the large box of tomatoes at Mrs Caver's stand, I decided to can my own Tomato-Basil Sauce.  The basic recipe is from a book I picked up at Whole Foods from Homemade Living, called Canning & Preserving -  I added a little more basil, a little more pepper, a little more garlic, stirred it with my finger (oh, I'm convinced that's the ticket to the good taste!).  Simple recipe, and really tasty.  If you're interested in preserving (canning, whatever you want to call it), I suggest picking up this book.  It's laid out very well and has some good recipes.


16 lbs tomatoes
4 cups chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
5 teaspoons sugar
3 teaspoons kosher salt
Lotsa ground black pepper (put it on the big grind)
1 cup fresh basil, chopped
6 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
12 tablespoons bottled lemon juice


(1)  Slice an "X" on the base of your tomatoes - not too deep, just enough
to pierce the skin.  Next, prepare an ice bath (large metal bowl filled with ice and water; no special amount; the tomatoes are going to go in here to stop the cooking process after you "blanch" them to get the skins off).
Place the tomatoes in a pot of boiling water for about 30-45 seconds.  When the skin looks like it's pulling away where you've made the "X", remove the tomatoes with a slotted spoon into the ice bath.  The skins should just fall right off, but if not, peel the tomatoes.  Core the tomatoes - try to get as much of the white part out as you can (you can also do some of this when chopping them); this part is tough - not tasty.  Chop 'em up.  I just kinda quarter them then cut those quarters in half ... if they seem a bit big, take the knife to them a second time.

(2)  Place the chopped tomatoes in a stock pot - my favorite is a le Creuset oval dutch oven; this one is an 8qt. - let the tomatoes come to a boil and turn it down to a simmer.  Add the onion, garlic, sugar, salt and pepper.  Stir and let it cook for about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally to keep from sticking.

(3) While the sauce cooks, sterilize your mason jars, lids and rings (put the jars in your canner filled with water that has been brought to a boil and turned off; put the lids and rings in a saucepan, cover with water, bring to a boil and turn it off & let them sit till you're ready to use them).  This recipe made 12 pints.

(4)  Use an immersion blender to get your sauce to a smooth consistency.  Don't worry if all the tomatoes aren't smooth - it's nice to have a chunk of tomato every now and then.  Remove the sauce from the heat and stir in the chopped basil and balsamic vinegar.

(5)  Put your hot jars on a countertop covered with towels, add a tablespoon of lemon juice to each of the jars, then ladle the tomato sauce into each of the jars (use your canning funnel), leaving about 1/2" at the top of the jar.  Run a non-metal spatula around the top (most canning "kits" come with a little tool for this - use it.  It's basically just removing any air bubbles).

(6)  Wipe the edges of the glass jars to be sure they're clean of all the tomato sauce.  Place the lids on top and screw the rings on (not too tight, just finger-tip tight).

(7)  Put the jars in your canner, place the lid on, and boil for about 35 minutes.  Make sure you have enough water to cover the tops by 2"-3", and keep a hot kettle close by so you can add water if the water level gets too low.

(8)  Once your tomato sauce has "processed", take the jars out, and lay them on top of a kitchen towel, out of the way of drafts and anything that could move them.  Put a towel on top and let them sit.  After 24 hours, unscrew the screw rings and check to see if the lids are secure.  They should have been sucked onto the tops of the jars (I usually pick mine up by the lid if they're not too heavy - if they aren't secure, you will have to start the processing over with new lids and screw rings and newly sterilized jars.

Seems like a ton of work, but while the process is long, this is actually pretty simple.  Consult a canning book or the instructions that come in your canner - the directions here are pretty brief.

NOTE:  I had to do this in 2 batches.  You might cut the recipe in half or do the same, unless you are blessed with the biggest Le Creuset ever made!

This sauce is sure going to be tasty in February when all the tomatoes at the grocery store are hard and a funky color of red.  And, so, I probably ought to mention that everything in this batch of Tomato-Basil Sauce was grown within a short distance from  my home (the balsamic vinegar is the exception).  It feels so good to eat like that.

I will use this sauce as the base for spaghetti, maybe add some cooked mild and hot (2/3 mild, 1/3 hot) Italian Sausage (casings removed, chunked into pieces and sauteed in a skillet) combined with this sauce, and poured over some spaghetti.  I might use it in lasagna.  I might use it as the sauce over some handmade cheese ravioli (recipe coming soon).  The possibilities are endless!

WINE PAIRING:  Well, you have to start with a Prosecco (I'll find any excuse to drink bubbles).  As with all pastas in red sauce at my house, a yummy Italian red is in order.  This could get really complicated, so just go to your local wine purveyor and ask for a good Brunello (a Brunello di Montalcino is a full-bodied, intense wine; it will be dry and tannic - Get one that's at least 15y old).  If that doesn't do it for ya, there's always Chianti - no not the one with the basket bottle!  Chianti is very dry, medium-bodied, a little tannic with a tart "cherry" flavor.  Chianti Classico is usually the best (Try Ruffino with the gold label).  

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