Friday, September 16, 2011

Tomato Basil Simmer Sauce

*I thought this was another fitting post for the end of the summer. If you're like anyone else, tomatoes are busting out of your garden about now and you're running out of ideas to use them for. Try this sauce, you'll love it. And if you've canned all you can can, you can dry your tomatoes and call them sun-dried tomatoes; they're pretty posh in the store, but cheap and easy to make at home.

I've been canning my own pasta sauce for a few years now. I've experimented with different pouch mixes, where all you have to add is basically the tomatoes, as well as doing everything from scratch, chopping an dicing every last veggie and herb. I have two favorites that I really like now and they are completely different. The first is Mrs. Wages Pasta Sauce pouch mix; I believe it is readily available in most markets near the canning supplies. I love that all I have to is add the tomatoes to the mix (well after all the work of blanching, peeling and chopping in the food processor- which is really not that bad). I like the flavor of the pouch, but my husband wasn't as fond, so I started trying actual recipes from scratch.

I came across this Tomato-Basil Simmer Sauce last summer and made a batch then. I really liked it and even got a thumbs up from my hubby; so, this has become my other favorite. Since it's a basic sauce, it's not really much more work than using a pouch; all you're really adding is herbs and spices to the tomatoes. I love the fresh, clean taste of this sauce. It's not overly seasoned, so apart from using it as-is for a light pasta dish, you can still dress it up with Italian sausage to make a more complex sauce.

The recipe only makes about 6 pints, which is probably a good-sized batch for beginners. However, if I'm going to can, I'm going to CAN! I like to can my pasta sauce in quarts and make about 12 quarts worth at a time. If you decide to multiply the batch and do more, make sure you check your measurements WELL and even then add the spices a little at a time to make sure it tastes to your liking. I made the mistake of adding WAY too much black pepper once and although the sauce tasted good, it gave you that kick in the back of the throat right after.

For more information on basic canning you can check out the Ball website or grab the Ball Blue Book of Canning at your local grocery store or Walmart. I love this book, I call it my canning bible. I've used it a ton and well-worth the $5 or $6 it costs to purchase.

Tomato-Basil Simmer Sauce
Makes about 12 cups sauce (6 pints)

12 pounds ripe tomatoes (about 25 tomatoes), blanched and peeled
3 Tbsp packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp kosher salt or 4 teaspoons salt
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 cup lightly packed assorted fresh herbs (such as oregano, thyme, parsley, or Italian (flat-leaf) parsley), chopped
6 Tbsp lemon juice

Cut peeled tomatoes into chunks and add some of the chunks to the food processor. Cover and process until chopped. Transfer chopped tomatoes to a 7- to 8-quart nonreactive heavy pot. Repeat chopping remaining tomatoes, in batches, in the food processor. Add all tomatoes to the pot.

Add brown sugar, salt, vinegar, and black pepper to the tomato mixture. Bring to boiling. Boil steadily, uncovered, for 70 to 80 minutes, stirring occasionally, until mixture is reduced to about 12 cups (making sure you have enough to process 6 FULL pints) and is desired sauce consistency. Remove from heat; stir in herbs.

Spoon 1 tablespoon lemon juice into each of six hot, clean pint canning jars. Ladle sauce into jars with lemon juice, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Wipe the jar rims; adjust lids. Process filled jars in a boiling-water canner for 35 minutes (start time when water returns to a full boil). Remove jars; cool on wire racks.

SOURCE: Better Homes and Gardens

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