Make your own tomato sauce
Italian families make the tomato sauce they use on pasta and pizza once a year when the rich, ripe tomatoes are at their best and cheapest. They make enough to last the whole year and store it in glass jars. You will need these few tools to make large quantities of sauce:
- Vegetable strainers These are available at specialty stores or online. Youâ€™ll use one to remove the skin from the tomatoes. There are a couple of different types but the easiest to use are the hand-cranked types that look a little like an old-fashioned mincer. Itâ€™s possible to do without one of these devices if you lightly score the skins of your tomatoes in a cross at their base and dip them in boiling water and then peel, but if youâ€™re making a large quantity, this will take an enormous amount of time.
- Stock pots Youâ€™ll need at least two very large pots â€” the bigger the better, but at least 20 litres. To process the jars, you can use the old-fashioned water bath method, or if you want an easier method, invest in a pressure canner.
- Jars Of course, you will need loads of these. If you are using the water bath method for processing, make sure your jars fit inside your stock pots. If you are using a pressure canner, refer to the manual for the correct jars to use. Jars for canning are available at department and specialty catering stores.
- Lids and ring seals will be needed for each of your jars.
This equipment is a bit of an investment but itâ€™s all re-useable.
Summer is the time to buy locally grown top-quality tomatoes at their most plentiful and therefore cheapest. Find the ripest tomatoes you can. If youâ€™re really serious about it, you could look for a grower and source your tomatoes straight from the farm. Otherwise, pick a day to go to the produce markets early in the morning when the best stuff is available.
Buy as many boxes of tomatoes as you think you will need for a yearâ€™s worth of sauce. As a guide, 1kg of tomatoes will make roughly 250ml of sauce. If you have pasta once a week and use 500ml of sauce youâ€™ll need around 100kg of tomatoes.
Along with your tomatoes, you will need salt, fresh, washed basil leaves and, if using the water bath method, a little lemon juice for each jar of sauce. Sugar is optional but traditionally not used.
Step by step
To prepare your tomatoes, simply wash, quarter and deseed under running water. Place in a colander to drain. Once you are ready, start cooking your tomatoes in batches. Simply put them in a large stock pot (without water), crush them a little with a potato masher and bring them to the boil. Allow to boil until soft and falling apart.
- If using a strainer, pass cooked tomatoes through the strainer to remove peel and place back in the pots to reheat. Salt and sugar may be added to taste.
- While the tomatoes are boiling, sterilise the jars and lids. This can be done in a dishwasher, or in boiling water, or in an oven set at 120Â°C for 20 minutes.
- When jars are sterile, add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice (for water bath method) and a couple of basil leaves to the bottom of each jar and fill to the top with sauce. Put the lids and ring seals on.
- Once your jars are filled, they will need to be processed. If you have a pressure canner, just follow the directions from the manufacturer. If youâ€™re doing it the old-fashioned way, place your filled jars into clean stock pots and cover with boiling water. The water should be at least 4cm above the top of the jars. Boil the jars for 45 minutes, remove with tongs or a jar lifter and place on towels. Cover the jars with towels or blankets to cool them slowly and be sure to prevent drafts, which could cause the jars to break. Be careful not to knock the jars against each other while they are hot.
When your jars are completely cool you can remove the ring seals and check to make sure your jars have sealed properly. The lids should be inverted and not move when you touch them in the centre.
Now all you have to do is enjoy your homemade sauce all year. Itâ€™s delicious as a pasta sauce on its own with a good parmesan or add meat and/or vegetables of your choice.
TIP: Store unopened bottles of sauce in a pantry or cupboard in the house or garage, but once you open a jar, keep it in the fridge and use within 3â€“4 days. Itâ€™s best to use jars that arenâ€™t too big so theyâ€™ll fit easily in the sterilising stock pots and to avoid waste once a jar is opened.
Make your own tomato sauce
Making a supply of homemade tomato sauce for pasta dishes is a great summer holiday activity when tomatoes are at their richest and cheapest. The lineup of jars will look good in the pantry, too.