Saturday, August 21, 2010
We definitely have more than four seasons here in the Pennsylvania countryside--like Mud Season, for instance, which comes early in the Spring. But this time of year it's definitely Canning Season!
My husband has a bumper crop of Roma tomatoes in the garden, so I'm into making and canning spaghetti sauce right now. Over the years, we've worked out a system which keeps most of the mess out of the kitchen: he picks the Romas, washes them outside with the hose, and processes them with the Squeezo clamped to the wooden picnic table in the backyard. In case you're not acquainted with this great device, it's a hand-operated grinder that separates the pulp and juice from the skins and seeds. The characters in my book ANNA'S RETURN make sauce this way in one scene which comes straight from life!
Here's my recipe for homemade spaghetti sauce:
Starting with about 14 quarts of tomato pulp, begin cooking it down in a large kettle. Add 1 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of salt, 4 cloves of minced garlic, and a large onion, chopped fine. For seasoning, I prefer to use the fresh basil and oregano that's growing in pots on our patio, but you can also use dried. If using dried, add about 4 tablespoons of the herbs. If using fresh, chop a generous handful of the leaves. Add a pinch of red pepper.
Cook this down for about 4-5 hours. You should end up with about 10 quarts of sauce. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Fill hot jars and process in either a water bath or pressure canner. If you prefer the sauce thicker, you can always add a small can of tomato paste when you use each quart.
We generally use about twenty quarts of spaghetti sauce in a year, along with tomato juice and whole tomatoes. With just the two of us at home, we don't eat nearly the amount we once did! Still, I think it's well worth the effort. Fresh from the garden food has a taste nothing else can match, and I love to look in the cabinet, see all the rows of filled jars, and know we're prepared for the winter!