The Crispy Cook is mightily staying on top of the perpetual tomato harvest by roasting tomatoes in the oven overnight (175 degrees F) tossed with oil, salt and pepper in glass baking dishes (metal cookie sheets get eaten away by tomato acid and then make the tomatoes taste unpleasantly metallic) AND by cutting grape tomatoes in half and dehydrating them overnight in the dehydrator AND by giving them away in our bookstore and to all friends and parents of kids' friends (HOW EMBARASSING!) AND by canning them into salsa or sauce. (Chutney is on the agenda next).
Canning tomatoes is somewhat of a multi-step and multi-hour process, but one with rhythms that soothe me after a long day, so I really do enjoy it. I've found that this year I've been able to get into a system of picking and washing tomatoes one day, chunking them up into the crockpot to cook down the next, and sieving and cooking down the sauce and canning on the third day. Here's what I've being doing at the Kitchen Tomato Factory:
Day One: Pick ripe and even a few slightly underripe tomatoes (for extra acid and zingy green flavor). I use whatever tomatoes I have ready, usually a mixture of plums and salad tomatoes, both red and yellow. Wash and let air dry.
Day Two: Core and cut up tomatoes into large crockpot (mine is 4 quarts). You don't need to add water because the tomatoes will let off a lot of juice. Cover and cook on high 1 hour, then lower heat to low and cook until tomatoes are mushy (at least 4 hours). I usually go to bed and wake up in the morning, turn off the crockpot and put the tomatoes in my Mouli contraption that presses out the tomato juice and pulp, but leaves a surprisingly small amount of seeds and skin behind. Then I either let it cool and refrigerate it until I have time to deal with it or proceed to:
Day Three: Cook down tomatoes until they are a thicker, saucy consistency. Dont' let the sauce scorch on the bottom. This is where you throw in the seasonings: sauteed garlic and onions, some red pepper flakes, black pepper, chopped basil and oregano and a hint of brown sugar to take the edge off the tomato acid. When sauce is desired thickness, add pickling salt and lemon juice/cider vinegar and keep on low flame.
Wash jars and put in canning kettle with water to cover. Bring to boil. Take out hot jars, fill with tomato sauce, seal and process in hot water bath. Take out and let the music of the popping lids bring a smile to your face.
I follow the Tomato Sauce recipe in my old reliable, the Ball Blue Book, but you can also find good instructions for canning a variety of tomato items on this site, which also gives you all the correct ingredient amounts and processing times. I personally would stay away from adding mushrooms to any tomato sauce as it just doesn't seem safe to add fungi to a home-canned item. You can always zip up your home-canned sauce later to add other chunky items or cheese or simmer it longer to get it even thicker.
Don't be afraid to learn how to do simple home canning. If you are scrupulously clean with jars and lids and in following exact proportions for canning recipes, you'll end up with delicious, nutritious, economical, beautiful items in your pantry. Things won't blow up, you won't poison your family, it'll be alright.
I am submitting this Tomato Sauce Extravaganza to Grow Your Own, a twice-monthly event started by Andrea's Recipes, and which is being hosted this round by Noob Cook, who is not only a talented cook but an excellent food photographer.