Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Live and Learn part 3,891 or Homemade Canned Tomato Sauce Hell

They say if you can't be a good example then you'll just have to be a horrible warning. So... I'm sharing my experience with dun, dun dunnnnn.... canning homemade tomato sauce.

Oh the visions I had of jars and jars and jars of a thick, rich, complex, yummy homemade better than anything you could ever buy canned tomato sauce from the fruit of my efforts in my veggie garden. What I've ended up with after using 35 pounds of my fresh from the garden tomatoes was three and three quarter quart jars of possibly the longest, exhausting most expensive cooking process ever.
my 1st big pick of the season

 First offense, I used my primo tomatoes for this project which happened to be from my first of the season big bumper crop, which are always the tastiest you know. Okay, I did devour a few with salt and pepper before the long torturous adventure but we wont' count them cause I had to share them with my family. Picked fresh the evening prior to said slave labor.

After hours of washing, blanching and peeling all these beauties I then had to core and get the seeds and juice out of every single tomato. A totally thankless job and time consuming beyond belief. You would think there would be some easier way to do this, maybe there is but I'm unaware of it so I did it all with a paring knife and my fingers. I honestly don't know how anyone would do this more than once in their lifetime. Maybe that's why Ragu is a huge and profitable company.

I started this project at four in the afternoon. First mistake. Second mistake - I did it by myself. Had I known, I would've had a friend over to help. Preferably one that hates tomato sauce so I wouldn't have to share.

Slaving away for hours it is now about 11:00 pm and I've finally got every tomato peeled, seeded and juiced and in the biggest pot I own besides my big canner. I follow the directions from many websites that tell me to now reduce my tomatoes by one third for a thin sauce and by half for a thick sauce.  Easy peasy I'm thinking after all this neck straining feet killing work.
They didn't say anything about the tomatoes burning to the bottom of the pot! Oh son of a @!*%! Well so now I'm trying to regulate my now fire roasted tomatoes (a.k.a. burnt) into a gentle simmer... three and a half hours later (yes, that's what I said... 3 and a half) it has only reduced by like 1/8th. Ugh... I'm going cross-eyed with exhaustion and trying to pull out the little burnt flecks floating around. So I decide that sleep will win out and I take the whole thing and put it in the refrigerator and finish Tuesday. No telling what that will do to my end result of now a smoky-ish sauce. Jeesh... but I'm not giving up dammit.

I drag myself out of bed at 9:30 and pull the pot out of the fridge and get it back on the burner. It wasn't even cold to the touch. It probably spoiled everything in my refrigerator, too. So back to simmering. I finally felt it was reduced enough by 1:30 in the afternoon (!). That is seven hours folks. Besides it probably not having any nutrients left in it at all, I probably will have an electric bill out of this world.
reduced - finally!
Excitedly, I have my jars ready and start ladling the sauce in and start to realize that there is no way this will make 7 quarts like the directions said it would. I manage to scrape out three and three quarter jars out of the pot and start canning. They are still in the canner as I write this and it is 3:30 pm.
filling up a whopping 3 3/4 jars
lonely tomato sauce
The number one thing I've learned from this expedition is that unless someone has some magical formula to reduce time by like 100 times, this is my first and last time I will ever make canned tomato sauce. I don't care if it turns out to be the best dang tomato sauce I've ever tasted. Liquid gold, texas tea. Nope, that's it. Never again. Chocked up to be yet another lesson learned. Did I mention that my husband hates spaghetti?

Homemade & Canned Tomato Sauce - my final cost = probably about $50 a jar
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  1. I used to go through all that. Not any more. I give most of my tomatoes aways and have given lots this season. I made tomato sauce, cooled it and put it in plastic containers and freeze it in the garage freezer. I've got enough to last all winter. It's just too much work to jar them but looks like you did a great job.

  2. Oh this is funny--but I admire your determination, and I'm sure you'll appreciate this sauce like an expensive bottle of fine wine.

  3. I made my first homemade sauce earlier this summer- we don't have as many plants as you, so what we did was put them (halved and seeded) into ziplock bags in the freezer and kept adding to them until we had 5 pounds. Freezing them has one little benefit- when you defrost (on the counter), the skins are "hand peelable" so no blanching or burning your fingers :D Then I used Cheryl's recipe from the Healing Woman, which while time consuming, was not nearly as bad as the other recipes I'd read....
    Like you, we didn't end up with as much sauce as I'd hoped for, but it WAS delicious! Also, instead of canning, the ziplock freezer bags are great for storing the sauce in the freezer!

  4. Well, at least you can say you did it once! You were brave to start in the first place in my books !
    Enjoy those precious jars !

  5. oh my goodness what a disaster!! My mom cans her own tomatoes, and I know it is a long process but I didn't think it was that long! I don't think I'd be attempting this again either if I were you, lol ! way too much time and effort for so little result. Oh well, I am sure these ones will taste so amazing when you get to use them

  6. Years ago I used to can tomatoes and make jam. These days its hard to find the time and the produce! :-)

  7. Oh dear...been there done that :( Did you end up with wrinkly fingers after peeling the skins? I have a lot of Italian friends and they don't make sauce individually. It's a massive family production...mums, sisters, aunts, grandmothers, cousins...everyone. They even roped me in a couple of years ago. They don't grow the tomatoes themselves they buy them from a local grower. Baskets and baskets of Romas. They set up these cookers with big pots...usually in someone's garage and many hours later out comes jars and jars of sauce. Everyone takes a turn minding the pots and doing the stirring etc. It's a tradition with lots of fun too....and, amazing sauce:)

  8. you have made this into such a funny story! i love the $50 per jar comment. good for you for finishing the job. it will no doubt be the best sauce you have ever eaten! and i appreciate the advance warning!

  9. OMG!!! You made me laugh!!!! That is sooo funny!!! Good for you! At least you had the experience and you will never think of it again!!! Pricless!!!

  10. I had anxiety reading this post remembering back when I did this kind of crazy thing! Didn't take long to figure out it's always more expensive when you add in your time per hour!!Insane what women did way back when, also they didn't need a gym pass they got their workout cooking and cleaning!! Very funny authentic post!!!

    Hugs Giggles....

  11. My hubby does all the sauce-making and canning. I am the official taster! tee hee hee We don't have any tomatoes ready yet! I longingly look at the garden every day - urging them to turn red. LOL I don't envy your task, however - as I see all the hard work my hubby puts in. But the end result is always worth the trouble, right? :)

  12. How incredibly sad!!! I've never done this before, either. We planted a huge amount of tomatoes (54 plants!) so we can can some. I was thinking just canned tomatoes, though, not sauce. And now, I'm definitely leaning in that direction. My first canning experience was making apple sauce last fall. It took us hours and hours and hours and part of the problem (we learned later) was that we didn't really know how to use our electric stove! For our HUGE canning pot we had the burner set to this tiny ring of heat! Hilarious looking back on it.

    Great story you'll be able to tell for years and years to come.

  13. Had to laugh when I read this. I've had similar things happen to me too.


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