I admit it, I am a lazy gardener. The weeds take over, we knock them back, they regroup and attack again and so it goes: the never-ending battle … I wish my garden was pristine year round, but it is not. We just have other things to do …
A well-mulched and weeded garden is a joy to behold … But all too briefly!
When garden produce does begin to come in, we live like kings and surplus is dutifully canned/preserved/shared. Asparagus season is short, greens come and go. Tomatoes seem to produce forever- once they begin to come in that is. Nothing takes longer in a garden’s year than the first tomato to ripen!
Canning Tomatoes and Canning Tomato Sauce
As the bounty begins, canning tomatoes and tomato sauce is my priority. Some days I will pick a few, or lots- it is always a mystery and it is easy for us to get overwhelmed. Also, if I am going to the trouble to can sauce, I want to CAN SAUCE in large batches as it takes just as much effort to do 6 quarts as 12 quarts. I have found an easy way to save tomatoes for sauce and process large batches without spoilage or waste; the lazy gardener’s tomato sauce.
Basically, during the summer all you do is rinse and dry your ripe tomatoes, put them in (clean) used grocery bags and place in your chest freezer. When you are ready for sauce-making (October? December? March?), dump the tomatoes out of the bags and thaw overnight in your sink. (If it is humid, be sure to put a couple old towels under your sink to collect dripping condensation) The tomatoes will “deflate” as they thaw and leak water. I have read that some people say this is losing too much flavor, but for pizza or spaghetti sauce, we don’t notice a major difference, plus the lost water is what I would be boiling out of the sauce anyway, so it is a shortcut of sorts.
Put the deflated tomatoes into your food strainer and grind out the seeds/skins, cutting the tomatoes in half if needed. Collect the pulpy liquid in your large stock pot. The juice is much thicker than juice from fresh tomatoes and the chickens will love the skins/seeds.
Two gallons of seeds/skins from 10 or so bags of tomatoes (I told you I was lazy…)
On medium high heat, reduce down by one third or so, till the sauce reaches the desired consistency. Watch for scorching! I add spices to the sauce while it cooks down.
Prepare your jars and lids per manufacturers’ instructions- my canner holds about 14 quarts.
Process at 10 pounds pressure for 15 minutes.
And voila! Homemade tomato sauce done at your leisure.
In the winter when the humidity is much lower from the wood stove, the added steam is welcomed. In more humid times, I use the hood vent to keep the added moisture to a minimum. Pizza, lasagna, pasta or spaghetti- we are now covered in sauce!