You Say Tomato…I Say Sauce
Another week has gone by and the counter has filled up with more good things from the Victory Garden.
I planted two types of tomatoes in the spring — Better Boy and Cherry. Both types were planted from seed, something I haven’t tried before because it takes an incredible amount of patience to wait for tomatoes to come up while the ones in the store are about to turn red even before frost is over and all you have to do is plop them in the ground. But, the funny thing was the seeded tomatoes I planted were ready to pick the same week as the store-bought in other people’s gardens.
Now that the sun is baking the yard every day, I am picking about three Better Boys and a dozen Cherries every day. Every. Day. That’s about 2 dozen large tomatoes by the end of one week and let’s just say roughly a million small ones in the same time.
So off I went to track down some good canning recipes. Salsa and Whole Tomatoes made the short list, but I settled on Spaghetti Sauce and Tomato Cocktail Juice.
For the Spaghetti Sauce, I used the Basil-Garlic Tomato Sauce recipe from the Ball Canning website. Key is to use lemon juice or citric acid in the recipe to keep it from spoiling during storage. I also learned I didn’t cook it down long enough. I simmered my recipe for an hour, but I should have gone 2-3 hours. As it cooled in the jars, it separated and became watery; still good, but not nice and thick like the really good stuff.
For the Tomato Cocktail Juice, I used a trusted recipe from Oscar, a dear family friend of my Aunt Carol. He shared his very best recipes and tips with Carol before passing away a few years ago.
Here’s Oscar’s recipe:
1 Kettle Cut-Up Tomatoes
2 Stalks Celery
1 Bay Leaf
1/2 Green Pepper
2 T Salt
2 T Sugar
2 T Lemon Juice
Cook until tender, about one hour. Put through a strainer and reheat. Bring to a boil again for about 30 minutes. Put into jars and seal. Process in hot water bath for 30 minutes. Keep water hot, but not at a rapid boil.
Carol adds carrots as well.
The best part about this recipe is that it used up both types of tomatoes. I boiled both down really well and then ran through my Omega juicer (one luxury of convenience I wish my grandmothers could have had!!). The juicer removed the seeds and skins completely, leaving juice and a fair amount of pulp.
While I’m being honest about my shortcut here, I’ll also confess that I did not cook down the onion, green pepper, celery or carrots. I juiced them after I ran the cooked tomatoes through. I’ve never tried juicing an onion or green pepper before, but it turned out fantastic and cut a lot of time off my finished recipe. I had been at the tomatoes for three hours by the time I got to the Tomato Cocktail Juice. So, if you wonder how I could stray off my WWII rules…yeah, don’t ask!
The end result is amazing. I am picky about tomato sauce. The only brand I buy is Hunt’s. The Tomato Cocktail Juice comes so close to the taste of Hunt’s Tomato Sauce that I’ll likely use it instead of Hunt’s and enjoy the added value of the other vegetables.