Summer is winding down and it was time to harvest and can the “love apple” or better known as the tomato. This year, for the first time in a long time, we had to buy some tomatoes from our favorite local farmer to make our sauce. The tomatoes in our garden got a bit to much rain and split from all the juiciness they held.

My husband and I started right after our coffee to get these babies canned and ready before dinner. You see the process doesn’t take that long but cooking down the sauce takes the afternoon of stirring and making it thick. I usually cook my tomatoes down for about 5 hours or until the sauce is thickened to the consistancy of tomato sauce instead of tomato juice.

We bought a bushel of tomatoes and added a couple of dozen from our garden and came out with 17 pints and 5 quarts of canned sauce. We ended up with about 3/4 of a quart of sauce that we refrigerated for immediate use. I’ll be using that in our stuffed peppers that I’m making for dinner tonight.

The steps to making tomato sauce:

Start with one bushel of tomatoes. (See the featured photo) The bag holds 1/2 bushel and we purchased two of these bags plus a few extra from our garden. A full bushel made two big pans of sauce and finished up with 17 pints and 5 quarts of sauce. I used both my hot water bath canner and my pressure canner to process the complete “batch” at once. You’ll need to determine how many pots, canners and jars you have to work with to determine how many tomatoes to buy.

washing tomatoesFirst step, wash the tomatoes in cold, clear water. Change water as needed. I use two bowls to help get them extra clean. I change the water often, usually every other bowlful. The first bowl may need changing with every bowlful you wash, depending on how dirty your tomatoes are.

Using cold water keeps the fruit fresher and firmer as you work. Yes, I said fruit because they are technically a fruit. However a heavier tax was imposed on fruits than on vegetables so the clever Italians started referring to them as a vegetable so they could avoid paying excess costs for their goods.

coreing and cutting tomatoesOnce I’ve gotten them washed I further process the tomatoes before I hand them off to my husband. I core the tomatoes and put them all in a bowl as a treat for our chickens. Regular sized tomatoes are quartered and any Roma tomatoes are halved, if necessary. This is to accomodate the opening in the Victoria strainer. When using all Roma tomatoes, which are what I grow in our garden they are small enough that it isn’t necessary to slice them to fit. However, this year my husband said the crank on the Victoria strainer was much easier to turn when the tomatoes were sliced as opposed to whole Roma tomatoes.

He recommends wearing glasses when cranking the tomatoes to avoid tomato juice in the eye.

operating strainer This picture shows my husband’s arm as he holds the “pusher” which does what the name implies….it pushes the tomatoes down into the hopper (white receptacle in picture). The pulp comes out one end and goes into one bowl as the sauce dribbles into a separate bowl. The seeds and pulp are seperated from the sauce and makes the whole job possible.

The pulp can be restrained through the Victoria strainer for additional sauce. My husband stopped after a couple of bowls of sauce and was able to squeeze about 1/2 to 3/4 of a bowl more sauce when he reprocessed the pulp. The remaining pulp was squeezed to nearly dry once it was processed twice. This pulp is given to the chickens along with the cores of the tomatoes for a special treat. The chickens love the seeds more than the juice, so they don’t mind if we squeeze every last drop out of our “love apples” first.

We are usually done with this part of the process in about an hour and a half or so. This is the messiest part of the job, as you can see.

sauce in potsNext, the pans are filled with all the sauce and both burners turned on low to cook down the sauce. The juice should be reduced by about half the volume to create a thick sauce for canning. This process usually takes about 5 hours to cook down. You can’t rush this process or the tomatoes sauce will burn. You’ll want to visit the stove often and stir the sauce to keep the mixture uniform and cooking down properly.

I use a roaster that features a top and bottom that can be used separately as two pans for cooking. My old turkey roasting pan was chipped and when I bought this new turkey roaster I was thrilled that I could also use both the bottom and the top as pans for sauce. My old roaster had a lid that was just a lid and nothing more. I love kitchen gadgets that do double duty.

I processed the quart jars in my hot water bath canner and the pints jars in my pressure canner. I can stack a second layer in the pressure canner when using pints, so I did the pints in it.  My pressure canner held 7 pint jars per layer and did a total of 14 pint jars. I put the 5 quarts and 3 of the pint jars in the hot water canner and processed them as directed for quart sized jars which was 40 minutes of boiling water processing. The pressure canner only reqired 15 minutes of actual processing.  I started the hot water canner first and by the time this kettle was done it was time to start timing the pressure canner’s processing time. Please refer to your pressure canner’s instructions to determine how long to process them. I refer to the Ball Blue Book on Canning to determine the processing time.

before wipedown and labelingSo here’s the finished product waiting to be wiped down and labeled. Our water is hard and leaves a film or deposit on the glass jars when it reacts to the aluminum canner. My hot water canner is stainless steel and doesn’t have this residue quite as bad as my pressure canner.  The jars should be cool before you wipe down and label. I usually let mine cool overnight before this last step.

Now to make room in the pantry for all these jars. We still have some left from last year’s batch.  We have enough to keep us through the winter this year until our love apple harvest time next year.

how to grow a catIn case you wondering how to grow a cat…here’s a picture for you.  I decided to open the back screen door to allow the breeze to cool down the kitchen and got a good laugh at our cat, Snickers. She decided that she wanted to grow a little bigger so she planted herself, quite literally, in a pot on the porch.







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