Mmmmmmm. Tomato season. Between our vacation in August (I know – poor me, right?) and the busy season at work, I’ve let nearly all of prime canning season pass me right by. This time last year, I had jars of oven-dried tomatoes, ice cubes of pesto, and bags of corn and blueberries in my freezer; jars of tomato sauce, whole tomatoes, applesauce, pickles, and a whole variety of jams lining the shelves of the pantry; and bunches of front-yard lavender drying in the laundry room. This year? One batch of pickles, and one of jam. Yikes! Determined not to be stuck with store-bought tomato sauce until next July, I bought the first of several flats of San Marzano tomatoes at the farmer’s market (for about $1.20 per pound!) a few weekends ago, and have been in the grip of a saucing mania ever since. Working late from home on weeknights or enjoying the more leisurely pace of a weekend in the kitchen, there’s a batch of sauce and the canning pot bubbling away on the stove.
Last year, we got hooked on the trendy-but-still-delicious Tomato Sauce with Onion and Butter, and figured out that with a little modifying so that it more closely resembles professionally tested and published (and therefore safe!) recipes, it works just fine for canning. I use my kitchen scale to measure 28 ounces of peeled tomatoes instead of popping open a can. Instead of butter, I use olive oil, and halve the amount in the original recipe. Now wait! Don’t worry – the long simmering time still brings the excellent richness of the original recipe, and I add butter after I open the jar, as I’m getting ready to use the sauce. Also, because tomatoes are of uncertain acidity, I follow the directions of my favorite canning book and add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice to every quart. I promise, when I open a jar in February, pour it over creamy polenta and top it with a fried egg, it’s heavenly.
Now that my sauce needs for the year are almost satisfied, I’m wondering where to turn next – ketchup? Whole tomatoes? Tomato paste? Suggestions?
A tip! I learned recently, from both this book and the wonderful blog thekitchn, that if you freeze whole fresh tomatoes, the skins slip off with almost no effort once the tomatoes are thawed or run under warm water. This trick works perfectly, and has made after-work saucing possible. No more flying boiling water or fishing slippery tomatoes out of a freezing ice bath at my house!
A second tip! I save the skins from the peeled tomatoes in bags in the freezer, and add them when I make veggie broth. Quick, easy, and minimal waste.