Summer in a Jar

Last summer I experimented with putting up tomato sauce in jars. I used the last of eight jars a few weeks ago, which meant it was time to repeat the process, but on a larger scale. I called one of the farmer’s market vendors and asked for a box of plum tomato “seconds” – tomatoes that had a few dings or bruises which prevented them from being sold at the market – and asked to pick them up at Davis Square. It was a bargain, I got twenty pounds of tomatoes for fifteen dollars.

You can see some of the bruising, which would have no effect of the final product:

I spent the next two hours answering the question What does it feel like to be a prep cook at an Italian restaurant? as I cored and quartered all of the tomatoes – one hundred and fifty five by my count – and loaded them into my largest stock pot.

I discarded the cores into a strainer set over a bowl, this let me rescue the juice that slowly squeezed out of the pulp. I wound up with a quart of tomato juice.

I cooked the tomatoes for about an hour over medium heat, stirring every now and them to soften the batch, then applying a potato masher to pulverize the pulp and separate the skins. I passed the contents of the pot (in batches) through a strainer, then ran the pulp left behind through a food mill. I added the puree and the tomato juice back to the pot with the strained tomatoes, and cooked to reduce by about a third. I added nothing else to the tomatoes – no salt, oil, garlic, or herbs – because I want to be able to use the result as a base upon which I can build the sauce I might need for a particular dish.

I prepared a dozen jars by cleaning them and filling each with a teaspoon of salt, a quarter teaspoon of citric acid, and a whole washed fresh basil leaf.

I ladled the hot sauce into each jar, fixed the lids and bands in place, and processed the jars by boiling them for forty minutes.

After a solid day’s worth of work, I wound up with eleven pints of sauce.

The sauce was a much deeper red than last year’s batch, and also quite a bit sweeter. She Who Must Be Obeyed arrived home as the jars were cooling, had a taste of some of the leftover sauce, and said “I think we need more, don’t you?”

It wasn’t a question. Three days later, I repeated the whole process, and now we have twenty jars, which should get us through the winter and spring.

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