Monday, August 24, 2009

Italian Americans Get Ready..Its That Time of Year Again..Time to Make Jars of Sauce...

Well, here we are again, tomato season is in full swing. This year I've heard many people talk about bad luck with their tomato crops due to a statewide (New Jersey) tomato blight. I am happy to report my father's garden escaped this problem and is now producing tons of tomatoes. With every year we grow tomatoes, we jar our tomatoes and make sauce for the upcoming winter months. This is a very old tradition but this is actually a trendy and an economic thing to do. It could save you money on sauce during the year and really you know where your sauce is coming from, an organic trend.

In making the jars of sauce, every Italian has their own method. So, for me to sit here and tell you the way we do it is the way to do it would be incorrect. I'm going to share our way anyway. Our method of making the jars starts with planning. Look, I have to be honest with you, many people go out and buy the works to make the jars of sauce, but in my family we truly are old school with the processes. My parents collect their jars throughout the year, so we don't do the typical mason jars, like many people usually do. Those bottles then get super sanitized before we even begin. This is key.

-We collect the tomatoes and select the best/ripest ones.
-We cut stems, weird skin, or dark areas out.
-We leave seeds and sometimes not (depends on whose in charge in that day and their preference, seriously--some think seeds make the sauce bitter..but honestly I never noticed the difference. You have to know how to make the sauce regardless for it taste good.)
-Then we actually pack the jars with the tomatoes raw cut into pieces with basil leaves on the bottom and top.
-Be sure to release all air bubbles along the sides of the jar. Use a knife to poke down and even out on the bottom.
-Then we place the lids on the jars just making sure there is enough grip not tight, because you want the air to be released as you start to boil.
-The jars are then placed in a massive pot with the water level at the necks of the bottle.
-Be sure to also put for example a dish towel in between the bottles, so they don't touch. If they touch, sometimes the heat and pressure causes cracking. (Again, this is our method, you might think its crazy or not the norm..but this is how it goes down at my house.)
-The jars are then left to boil for about 25/30 minutes, you should have a boil going.
-After your boil you should then shut off the stove and leave the jars in the pot to slowly cool. As they cool you will hear the air releasing the jars.
-As the jars are correctly cooling you will begin to hear the jar tops popping, which means the air is released and suctioned properly back in leaving no room for air.
-After the cool down and popping has come to a head, you can then take the jars out of the cool water and leave on the counter to settle. We usually leave them out for a few days.

So there it is folks, making jars of sauce from your garden tomatoes. I hope this gives you a better idea on the process. Every family has their own way, some better than others and more elaborate. But again, I will reiterate, this is our method and I invited you to share yours.

If you want other sources on making sauce for jars, here are a few:

http://kalynskitchen.blogspot.com/2006/09/how-to-make-and-freeze-tomato-sauce.html

http://italiancook.ca/italian-preserves.htm
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