My springtime “I-need-to-plant-something-green” eyes are inevitably bigger than my August “what-the-heck-was-I-thinking-when-I-planted-all-those-freakin’-tomatoes” tummy. Because I preserve a great deal of the meat and vegetables that I grow, I dutifully can all those tomatoes despite the growing number of unused and unneeded jars of canned tomatoes building on my pantry shelves.
This summer was no different except that I planted double the number of tomatoes than usual, thinking that I needed to provide my parents with tomatoes since they no longer grow their own. Well, they moved into a retirement home that provides all meals. To make matters worse, I learned in July that I needed to forgo my usual high-acid diet to help an acid reflux problem. So no more tomato dishes for me.
The tomatoes plants, however, outdid themselves.
My practice is to wash the freshly picked tomatoes and immediately freeze them in gallon zip-lock bags. Then when the weather cools off and I don’t mind heating up the kitchen with pots of boiling liquid, I preserve the harvest for long-term storage. This post describes two ways that I let my crock-pot do the heavy work for me.
- Dump a gallon bag of frozen tomatoes into a 3.5-quart (or thereabouts) crock-pot. Feel free to add up to 1 cup of other veggies (think V-8), such as celery or a jalapeño pepper.
- Cook for 10 to 12 hours.
- Pour the cooked tomatoes into a food mill that you’ve suspended over a large bowl.
- Force as much pulp and liquid as possible through the food mill and into the bowl.
That’s it. You’ll need to shake the juice to mix the pulp and liquid; it naturally separates. Store in the fridge for 10 to 14 days. Makes 1/2 gallon of juice.
The most time-consuming task in making tomato sauce is cooking it down to remove the liquid and thicken the sauce. The crock-pot will do that for you.
- Dump a gallon bag of frozen tomatoes into a 3.5-quart (or thereabouts) crock-pot.
- Cook for 10 to 12 hours.
- Pour the cooked tomatoes into a food mill that you’ve suspended over a large bowl. The liquid will go into the bowl; the tomatoes and pulp will remain in the food mill.
- Dispose of the liquid in the bowl (or save it somewhere to make soup with).
- Force as much pulp as possible through the food mill and into the bowl.
- Make five more batches of pulp. Store the pulp in the fridge until all batches have been processed. If you can borrow one or two additional crock-pots, it will speed things up a lot.
The pulp in the bowl is the perfect consistency to make tomato sauce, pizza sauce, and spaghetti sauce. We’ll add some basic spices to make a general-purpose tomato sauce. When you open the canned sauce, you can add meat or more spices to suit whatever you are making.
- Transfer the pulp to a large cooking pot, preferably a 5-gallon stainless steel one.
- Add the following to the pulp in the bowl:
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 cup chopped green pepper
- 1/4 cup brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp basil
- 2 Tbsp oregano
- 4 tsp salt
- Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring frequently to prevent scorching.
- Ladle hot sauce into hot jars, leaving 1″ of headspace.
- Wipe the jar rim clean. Place a hot lid and ring on jar and screw down tightly.
Process pints for 20 minutes and quarts for 25 minutes at 10 lb pressure in a pressure canner.