Since moving to Connecticut, we have slowly made friends with the neighbors. We are lucky enough to live in a pretty safe and quiet area, where the people are very kind and welcoming. My good fortune is knowing a guy named Tony, a few houses down the street, who gardens for his health.
Now, there are lots of well-known reasons why gardening is good for the body and soul. Being out in nature brings a sense of peace and calm, helps relieve stress and lower blood pressure, and may boost your immune system. Having home-grown fruits and vegetables enables healthier food choices and better nutrition, while keeping you active and exercising. All those hours of digging, planting, weeding, tending, picking, and preserving burns serious calories and keeps you toned and limber.
Not to mention the fact that gardening can save you serious cash! Just buy the seeds and materials once (better yet, swap seeds with other local gardeners for better-adapted produce, and save your own seeds for next year!) and you can garden for free almost forever. It is easy to find local, free sources of soil amendments like fertilizer and mulches if you ask around and get creative.
Tony takes this to a new level! His garden is literally the size of a football field, all out in his large 2-acre New England backyard. He and his wife single-handedly till, plant, weed, and tend this garden every year. His wife tells me that he has even shrunk the garden a little this year, due to time constraints and health issues, so the garden used to be even larger before I knew about it. Amazing.
Tony says his favorite thing about the garden is the sense of community. Everyone on the block knows Tony, and knows they can come by anytime to pick a bag full of produce to take home. His garden produces far more than he and his family alone could enjoy, so he gives freely to everyone around him.
This is the beauty of gardening. You make friends, share food, recipes, and stories, and build a true community.
Needless to say, I was hooked.
By mid-August, I had my kitchen table and counter literally covered in tomatoes, and needed to finally take the time to do something with them all. A large batch I simply cut into quarters and put in gallon freezer bags. They will sit in the freezer until I need to make a soup or chili; then I will thaw them, and the skins will fall right off, and I can use them in whatever recipe is on my mind.
Another large portion goes into cans as sauce to rest in the pantry until it’s pasta night. Tony shared his “lazy Italian” way of making sauce, which saved me tons of work and hours in the kitchen!
The typical way of making sauce is to boil the tomatoes briefly, then submerge in ice water. This makes the skins easy to remove. You then separate the seeds and skin from the inner flesh, and cook down for hours until it thickens into a sauce.
This cooking down process makes the house smell amazing, and warms it up on a chilly day. But this also takes a lot of time, and energy from the stove. I’m a fan of the new “lazy” way, and the sauce tastes just as good! So pull out your blender, and lets get started!
This recipe will make about 5 quarts of sauce.
Don’t add the spices if you want a plain tomato sauce, or change up the spices to whatever you want in the end product. This does use the water-bath canning method, read up on all possible dangers of canning or use a pressure canner if you are unsure.
- 8-10 pounds assorted tomatoes
- 5-6 canning jars, lids, & rings
- Per jar:
- 1 tbsp dried onion
- 1/2 tbsp dried garlic
- 2 tbsp basil
- 2 tbsp parsley
- pinch of salt
- 1 tbsp vinegar
- Cheesecloth or coffee filters
Step 1: Sterilize your jars by boiling for 5 minute,s or run them through the dishwasher. To each jar add the spices for the sauce. I also chose to add one whole tomato just diced to each jar, because I like a little texture in my sauce. You can skip that step and just add the pureed tomatoes.
Step 2: Wash all your tomatoes, and cut out the middle hard part & stem. Remove any brown or black spots or mushy areas. If you want to and have time, you can remove the seeds (and save them for next year!). Cut the tomatoes into quarters.
Step 3: Put the tomatoes into a blender, and blend in batches. My blender can handle about a dozen large tomatoes at a time. You may need to squish some juice out of them to get the blender going at first.
Step 4: Line a strainer over a large pot with coffee filters or cheesecloth. Pour the tomato puree into the strainer and let it sit. You can wait a few hours, or leave it over night if you have a lid. This lets most of the watery juice drip out, leaving the thicker sauce on top. Saves you the hours of boiling down, and now you can keep the tomato water too!
Step 5: Pour your separated sauce and tomato juice into prepared jars. Wipe the rims and put on the lid and ring. Process in the water bath for 35 minutes (adjust for altitude). Remove the jars to a cloth and let them cool 8-10 hours.
The jars are ready if you hear the “pop” of the lids seal, or if when you press down in the middle the lid does not spring back. Any jars that do not seal, put in the refrigerator and use within a week, or process them again.
The tomato broth that filters out is like liquid gold, and will be great as a base for soups and stews, or you can freeze it in ice cube trays to cook veggies in instead of using oil. The sauce will bring back the taste of summer later on in the dead of winter.
And this is how I processed and preserved about 50 pounds of tomatoes in two days time!
And it is so easy. As long as you use vinegar or lemon to acidify the tomatoes and broth, they are perfectly safe to water bath can at home. Enjoy preserving your bounty. Do you have more tomatoes than you know what to do with?
More things you can do with tomatoes:
- Oven Dried Tomatoes
- Fried Green Tomatoes
- Green Tomato Salsa
- Tomato Basil Soup
- Tomato Zucchini Panzanella
- Fresh Garden Salsa