Its August and August means tomatoes!
At our former place, we had the most lovely neighbour called Ángel with a super productive garden. The funny thing is that he only plants three crops; tomatoes, peppers and onions. I don’t know how many kilos of tomatoes and peppers he has given me over the last few years, but he truly spoiled me. And, albeit unknowing, he pushed me into the world of canning tomatoes, making about 50 jars per summer.
This is my basic recipe, it’s not your authentic Italian pizza or pasta sauce, but it goes really well with both. It’s also a great add to couscous and rice and makes a great tomato-potato-stew as well. Let’s call it Angel’s tomato sauce.
Even if you don’t have a surplus of tomatoes in your own garden, or maybe you don’t have a garden at all, now is the time to make tomato sauce as tomato production is at its peak. Try to find as many ripe locally grown tomatoes as you can and head to the kitchen. No need for a canner or any other special kitchen utensils.
- Tomatoes (of course)
- Fresh or dried herbs
- Salt & pepper
- Olive oil
What else do you need
- The biggest pot you have to sterilize the jars
- Tongs (to grab the jars out of the boiling water)
- A clean kitchen towel
- A Funnel
- A Ladle (a big oversized spoon)
- An immersion blender (optional)
- Labels, or painters’ tape
- Start with sterilizing your clean jars and lids in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Use the tongs to grab the jars and place them upside down on a clean kitchen towel. If you have only 1 big pot, you can use it after this step to make your sauce.
- Chop all your ingredients in small bits of roughly the same size. If you are only making a small batch, let’s say 2 litres or less, you can chop and add to the pot as you go following the order below.
- Heat a little oil and stir fry your onions, add some salt after a couple of minutes and stir fry some more to brown your onions. Adding salt at this stage will make your unions sweeter as it draws out the moisture so they start to brown which gives them a rich, sweet taste and you won’t need any sugar for this recipe.
- Add your garlic and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
- Add your peppers and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
- Add your tomatoes and stir fry until they start losing their liquid.
- Add your herbs and lower the heat and stir every now and then for about 15 minutes. If you have an immersion blender you can use it to shorten the cooking time, or you can keep boiling and stirring until everything has been integrated.
- Taste! Taste your sauce and add more salt, pepper, garlic or maybe some chillies. Once you’re happy with the results it’s time to start canning.
- Pour your boiling hot sauce into a jar with the help of the ladle and a funnel. Fill right upon the neck of the jar. Make sure there’s no spillage on the edge, if so clean this with some paper towel. Close the lid, and turn your jar upside down. To avoid spillage I lift the funnel straight up, keeping it above the centre of the jar, and with the other hand, I put a plate below it and drop the funnel onto the plate. It might seem a bit exaggerated, but it works and without a clean edge your jar won’t seal.
- Repeat the above step, one jar at a time.
- Turn your jars upright again after 5 to 10 minutes, let cool and check the sealing. If you have lids with little circles in the middle, push it down and you should hear a pop and it should stay down. If you have another kind of lid it’s very hard to tell at this stage – so pay extra attention when you open it for consumption. You should hear a pop then.
- Label your jars with at least the date and store them in a cool and dark place. It will roughly last a year… until it’s August again and you’re ready to start again!
Some thoughts on safety
There’s a tendency of eliminating any kind of risk and installing fear by focusing only on what could go wrong. But it’s much more empowering to understand how things work instead of fearing the unknown. It will make us all healthier and happier.
The risk that your sauce will spoil is minimal and the risk that you will eat sauce that has been spoiled is even lower as you will know. When a jar wasn’t sealed properly your sauce will spoils and your jar will be sticky on the outside and won’t pop when you open it. If this is the case discard the content right away. Always smell right upon opening, it should smell good. Taste a little, it should have no signs of fizz whatsoever and it should taste good.
Now, botulism is another story as you won’t be able to see, smell or taste the toxin that makes us sick. The toxins are made by bacteria, but by sterilizing the jar, washing the ingredients and heating your sauce they’ll be gone. The problem is that the spores of the bacteria – which have a similar function as seeds – can withstand temperatures up to 121 ºC (250 ºF) and are able to thrive without oxygen (so vacuum sealing won’t help either). The spores are harmless, but they can germinate and give life to new bacteria, which on their side can produce toxins. A tomato sauce with only tomatoes will have a Ph of 4.6 which is too acidic and there’s nothing to worry about. This recipe includes other ingredients making it more alkaline. We could add vinegar or lemon juice. For this method to be safe we have to be able to measure the Ph, this can be done with Ph paper strips, making sure the Ph is 4.6 or below. Another very simple method is just to heat your sauce at least 5 minutes before consuming it to inactivate any toxins in case they were presented.
Happy & healthy canning folks!
5 thoughts on “How to make Angel’s tomato sauce”
This is a great recipe, Eva, thanks for sharing. It’s so simple and I love the fact it’s ‘all in’ with none of that faffing about skinning the tomatoes! I shall definitely be making a few jars as our tomato harvest is coming thick and fast now. 😊
Congrats with your tomatoes 🎉 It will give such a proud and satisfied feeling when you’ll open up a jar this winter. Enjoy!