Last week when I brought over 3 buckets of tomatoes I thought I could get started before Mom got home and have it well on the way. Unfortunately there was a problem. I wasn't sure if we had to cook the tomatoes before running them through our strainer. I tried to think back to the last time we had enough tomatoes to process sauce and I realized it was before the blog started. So I waited impatiently for Mom to get home. Starting tomato sauce at 10:00 pm is a really bad idea. By the time we got things thick enough to process, the sauce had boiled for close to 10 hours.
Canning Tomato Sauce
To do this you will need a large stock pot (or two), a Victorino grinder (or similar grinder), tomatoes, lemon juice, strong arms, and patience. Sauce tastes better when you use a variety of tomatoes. We love the meaty Roma tomatoes, but they make very acidic sauce. The varieties we plant and used are Roma II, Early Girl, Celebrity, and Beef Master. Because we were making sauce, we picked slightly under-ripe tomatoes. These are the same color as those in the store, as well as vine ripe rich red tomatoes. If the kids accidentally knocked off a slightly green tomato we threw that in too.
First remove all stems and wash tomatoes. We filled the sink and swooshed them around a bit. If your tomatoes are extra muddy, be sure to change the water when it gets murky.
In a large stock pot put in a cup of water. This is water you will need to boil out later so just enough to go in the bottom of your pan to keep the tomatoes from burning. (Some websites suggest you can use a potato masher to juice the bottom layer instead of adding water.) Remove any yucky spots (blossom rot, cage marks, snail holes) while slicing tomatoes and adding to pan. For regular round tomatoes we usually quarter them because they are so juicy they easily grind. Meatier Roma tomatoes need to be cut into wedges small enough to fit into your grinder. They will not cook down as well.
Bring tomatoes to a boil and stir to prevent burning. As they cook down keep adding tomatoes until your pan is 3/4 full or you are out of tomatoes. Cook tomatoes for 10-20 minutes until they are soft and juicy. This time depends on how many tomatoes you keep adding to your pot and the ripeness of your tomatoes.
Process hot tomatoes through your grinder. We usually point our splash guard straight down for tomatoes because they like to spray and there is nothing worse than being hit with boiling tomato juice. Remember to scrape the screen frequently. We run the waste from our grinder a second time with tomato sauce. Unfortunately after running the waste again you may need to take apart the grinder and clean it out since tomatoes tend to get stuck. We had to clean out three times processing our three 20-qt. stockpots full, once between each pan.
At this point you could process this as tomato juice. We were making sauce, so the juice went back into the stock pot to simmer for hours and hours, until the extra water is cooked off. We had to fill both stockpots up to the top, and this added significant time to reduce our sauce. This could be lessened by simmering smaller batches.
You want your sauce to be slightly thicker than you need it because each quart gets a 1/4 c of lemon juice added to it as well as a tsp of salt.
As with most canning, put in your lemon juice, salt, then fill the jars to within half an inch of the top. Wipe the rims clean. Place your lids in boiling water for a couple of minutes, then put them on your jars and tighten rings. Process in a pressure cooker at 13 lbs pressure (in Utah) or you can water bath them for 90 minutes if you don't have a pressure cooker.
When jars are completely cool, remove rings and rinse jars, then put them in storage until you are ready to use them.