When I was growing up, a big part of summer was all about freezing or canning the summer bounty to prepare for the winter. Back then, we always knew where our food came from. My dad raised cattle, pigs and chickens for meat and eggs. We had a cow for milking. We always had a huge garden and grew plenty of vegetables for eating and putting away. Many evenings were spent shelling peas or lima beans, or snapping the ends off of green beans. We didn't have air conditioning like most homes today have, and I still remember that steamy kitchen! When my mom wasn't freezing something, she was canning, pickling or making jam or jelly. (She still is, for that matter!)
We always had an abundance of tomatoes. I hated picking tomatoes. I didn't like the way the vines smelled, or the green streaks they left on everything they touched. But the worst part was reaching for a tomato and finding one of these instead. I probably whined a lot about picking tomatoes which is probably how I ended up helping in the kitchen. No hornworms there. But it was very satisfying to see the neat packages of vegetables in the freezer and the beautiful jars lined up on the shelves. (My dad would say "They're better than snowballs!")
We always canned a lot of those tomatoes. My mom still does, and uses them all winter long in soups, chili, stews and sauce. They are so much better than the cans of tomatoes you buy at the grocery store, and doing it yourself puts you a little bit closer to knowing where your food comes from.
I got some tomatoes from my brother last weekend and decided to make sauce, since that's what I use the most. I cooked this particular batch down until it was thick to use for pizza or maybe pasta. Once you've made your own sauce, I guarantee it'll spoil you for the store-bought varieties. If you have an abundance of tomatoes, I heartily recommend that you get out your apron (this can get messy) and try putting some away for later. This recipe makes a small batch, so it's easy to freeze or can.
Tomato Sauce for spaghetti or pizza sauce
adapted from the Ball Blue Book of Canning
15 lbs. tomatoes
1 large onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 Tblsp. olive oil
1 tsp. oregano, dried or fresh
1 tsp. crushed red pepper
1 tsp. dried basil ( or a handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped)
1 tsp. black pepper
2 Tblsp. sugar (or to taste- some tomatoes are sweeter than others)
salt to taste
bottled lemon juice, should you decide to can your sauce.
Wash tomatoes. Remove core and blossom ends, and cut into quarters. Set aside.
In a large stockpot, saute onions, pepper and garlic in olive oil until tender. Add tomatoes and other ingredients (except lemon juice) and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until tomatoes are soft.
Run the tomato mixture through a food mill to remove seeds and skin. (I strain out some of the watery liquid when I put the tomato "mush" in the food mill.) Put the strained mixture back into the stockpot and slowly simmer, uncovered, until sauce thickens. (You want to reduce volume by one-half.) Stir frequently to prevent sticking. Scorched tomato sauce is not so good. (Don't ask how I know this.) Taste and adjust seasonings.
Yield: about 3-4 pints Your yield depends a lot on the type of tomatoes you use. Roma (plum type) tomatoes are meatier and have less water in them, so your sauce yield will be higher than if you use regular eating tomatoes.
You can freeze your sauce or can it in jars. If you are canning, add 1 Tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each pint jar, or 2 Tablespoons to each quart jar. Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Adjust two- piece caps. Process pints 35 minutes, quarts 40 minutes, in a boiling water canner.