Tomatoes

Homemade Ketchup and an Update You Didn’t Ask For

Remember me?

It’s been awhile…  4 months, to be more specific.  I haven’t forgotten you!  Just got caught up in life!  I have a few new adventures – one being that my husband, after nearly 3 years of being unemployed, got a job!  He actually went into my family’s business and is LOVING it!  I’m so happy for him, because he’s spent most of his career being relatively unsatisfied.  Now he’s running a school catering business and putting his super annoy… incredible efficiency skills to good use!  Another bit of news is that I have a “job” too!  I started babysitting these two darling girls who are sisters, just 11 months and 20 months old.  (Crazy people!  My girls are three YEARS apart and I thought that was kinda fast!!)  It’s a really good fit, having four girls running around during the day, and it makes me chuckle a little to think that with cleaning my parent’s house every other week and babysitting full time during the week, I’m actually getting PAID to be a stay-at-home Mom!  Ha!

So, life is good!  I also invested in a new camera, and after my next two posts (which are already photographed by my old crappy camera)  you will start seeing some sharper pictures of the canning process.  I sure know how to keep you on pins and needles, eh Dear Reader?  🙂

A sneak peak of my new photographic capabilities!  This is my youngest daughter, Dagny.  Isn't she just the epitome of summer here?

A sneak peak of my new photographic capabilities! This is my youngest daughter, Dagny. Isn’t she just the epitome of summer memories here?

Anyway, I made some ketchup way back, even before Christmas.  I think I even alluded to it like a tease on my Facebook Page, but then never bothered to post it.  This ended up being a blessing in disguise though, because it gave my family time to actually consume the ketchup!  I still have a quart left, and I’ve learned a few valuable lessons:

1. Make this in small batches.  Unless you eat ketchup every single day with every single meal, you probably won’t consume an entire quart before it goes bad.

2. Do not store this in one of those cool retro red ketchup bottles or anything that doesn’t have a lid in the refrigerator, because if you do you will find yourself eating it and thinking it doesn’t taste quite right.  And then you will discover mold.  And then you will die of horror.

3. Do not put too much cayenne in the batch or your children will not eat it.  Wussies.

4. Whilst in the “reduction” phase of this recipe, a “low boil” is NOT the same as a “simmer”.  A low boil is more like reducing the heat from a high heat to a medium heat.  You want the sauce to boil down sometime while you’re still young, and if you turn the heat all the way down to simmer, you will die and be buried before it ever reaches the consistency you desire.  I’m actually writing from Heaven as we speak.  It’s amazing up here!  Say yes to Jesus!

5. Make this.  It’s really good and worth buying all the unfamiliar spices for!  The directions are all from The Ball Complete Book of Home Preservation, and they claim that the consistency will be thinner than commercial ketchup.  I think you can probably get pretty close to the right consistency depending on your patience in the reduction phase.  My batch turned out a little thinner than Heinz, but still held up nicely on a french fry.

Homemade Ketchup or Catsup for you weirdos out there 😉

Makes about 7 pint jars

What you will need:

  • 3 Tbsp celery seeds
  • 4 tsp whole cloves
  • 2 cinnamon sticks (4 inches each), broken into pieces
  • 1 1/2 tsp whole allspice
  • 3 cups cider vinegar
  • 24 lbs tomatoes, cored and quartered
  • 3 cups chopped onions
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup pickling or canning salt

Directions:

1. Tie celery seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks and allspice in a corner of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag.

1. Tie celery seeds, cloves, cinnamon sticks and allspice in a corner of cheesecloth, creating a spice bag.

2. In a stainless steel saucepan, add vinegar and spice bag.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Remove from heat and let stand for 25 minutes.  Discard spice bag.

2. In a stainless steel saucepan, add vinegar and spice bag. Bring to a boil over high heat. Remove from heat and let stand for 25 minutes. Discard spice bag.

3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine tomatoes, onions and cayenne.  Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently.  Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes.  Add infused vinegar and boil gently until vegetables are soft and mixture begins to thicken, about 30 minutes.  (I actually pureed and strained my tomatoes before adding the vinegar.  You can do it either way.)

3. In a large stainless steel saucepan, combine tomatoes, onions and cayenne. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring frequently. Reduce heat and boil gently for 20 minutes. Add infused vinegar and boil gently until vegetables are soft and mixture begins to thicken, about 30 minutes. (I actually pureed and strained my tomatoes before adding the vinegar. You can do it either way.)

Using a food mill or a food processor and working in batches, puree mixture.  Transfer mixture to a mesh colander placed over a glass or stainless steel bowl, shaking and  banging the colander on the side of the bowl to force the liquids through.  Discard solids.

4. Using a food mill or a food processor and working in batches, puree mixture. Transfer mixture to a mesh colander placed over a glass or stainless steel bowl, shaking and banging the colander on the side of the bowl to force the liquids through. Discard solids.

 

5. Return liquid to saucepan.  Add sugar and salt.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.  Reduce heat and boil gently, stirring frequently, until volume is reduced by half and mixture is almost the consistency of commercial ketchup, about 45 minutes

6. Meanwhile, prepare jars and lids.  See Instructions for Boiling-Water Canning.

7. Ladle hot ketchup into hot jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove air bubbles and adjust headspace if necessary, by adding hot ketchup.  Wipe rim.  Center lid on jar.  Screw band down until resistence is met, then increase to fingertip-tight.

8. Place jars in canner, ensuring they are completely covered with water.  Bring to a boil and process for 15 minutes. Remove canner lid.  Wait 5 minutes, then remove jars, cool and store.

I chose to can this into quarts, which I would not recommend.  Pints or half-pints make much more sense since there are no preservatives!  (Am I wearing a muumuu in the reflection?  That was SO 4 months ago! Tsk!)

I chose to can this into quarts, which I would not recommend. Pints or half-pints make much more sense since there are no preservatives! (Am I wearing a muumuu in the reflection? That was SO 4 months ago! Tsk!)

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Categories: Canning, High-Acid, Journal, Tomatoes | Tags: , , , , , ,

Basic Tomato Sauce and Condensed Tomato Soup

I’ve been making my own tomato sauce for several years now and have gotten into a certain…rhythm.  It’s not a difficult process, per se, but it is time consuming and extremely messy.  So messy, in fact, that the first time I made tomato sauce as an adult (without the tutelage of my wise mother) I swore I would never put myself through such an ordeal again.   My kitchen was a disaster and my sauce turned out thin and uninspiring.  In fact, I didn’t even use some of the quarts I had canned because looking at them brought back such unpleasant memories!   (Who says cooking isn’t an emotional experience?)

Those days are gone.  I’ve trial-and-error’d tomato sauce to a Chelsea Perfection: a rhythm I am pleased with, and a product I am thrilled with.  There is no need to blanch and peel the tomatoes, and all you need is a food processor and a strainer!

Step 1 – Choosing Tomatoes:  Choose the right kind of tomatoes!  If you can, use at least 50% of your batch with Romas.  They are small but meaty, and will give you the consistency of sauce you desire.  I like to blend 3-4 kinds of tomatoes to get the best flavors.  This year I planted and harvested Romas, 2 kinds of Heirlooms, and Better Boys.  Or Big Boys.  Or Early Girls.  I can’t remember.  I’m not sure it matters.  They’re red and if you let them get very ripe on the vine they have an amazing flavor…or so claims my husband.  I hate raw tomatoes, but adore all tomato products.  I know, I’m weird.

Step 2  – Preparing Tomatoes: Wash the tomatoes, slice in half, and cut out any blemishes, spots, cracks and the cores.  I then quarter them, and throw them all into a stainless steel pot.  According to the Ball Book of Home Preserving, “the acid in tomatoes can react with aluminum, copper, brass, galvanized or iron equipment, creating bitter flavors and undesirable colors”.  Turn the heat on medium, and cook them down into a mush.  Sometimes I even take a potato masher and make sure the chunks are practically liquified.  This isn’t totally necessary, but it does help to speed the process up a little.

Step 3 – Process and Strain: Here comes the messy parts!  I set up a work station like this:

Tomatoes in pot on stove (yes, I realize this is not a stainless steel pot. I’m a rebel.), next is food processor, next is the pot sauce will get strained into, then a waste bowl for the seeds and skins.

Once the tomatoes are completely cooked down, and resemble sauce more than whole tomatoes, break out your food processor.  Ladle a few cups of mush into the food processor and blend for several seconds.  Then transfer the liquid to your strainer.  Jiggle the strainer a bit to get all the juice through, then – with moderate force – bang the strainer down on the edge of the bowl to encourage the sauce through.  This doesn’t take very long, less than a minute.  There is no need to use a spoon to force it through, just do a variety of bang-bang-jiggle-jiggle’s on the side of the bowl.

Bang-Bang-Jiggle-Jiggle!

Once all the sauce is forced through the strainer, all that is left is the skins and seeds!

Step 4 Reduce Sauce:  Once all the mush has been processed and strained, return the pure sauce to the pan.  I usually rinse or wash the pan first, to make sure there aren’t any rogue seeds left in there.  Now assess your sauce.  Is it already the consistency you desire?  If so, you are ready to can, freeze or use it.  If it’s still a little thin then you want to reduce it.  Reduce is a word that the meaning of which eluded me the first time I made sauce.  What reduce means, in the cooking world, is to bring your sauce to a boil, then turn the heat down to a simmer, and let the sauce simmer for some time until the amount of sauce has decreased.  What happens during this time is that the juice evaporates, and the overall quality of the sauce thickens.  Depending on the type of tomatoes you use, sometimes you need to reduce your sauce by half!  (Meaning, you will get 2 quarts instead of 4!)  Try not to let this discourage you, as it did me at first.  You will be much happier with a thicker sauce when the time comes to use it, and even though it seems frustrating to “lose” half your sauce, you really want a nice, thick sauce in the end.

So anyway, if you need to reduce your sauce, do it now.  This might take an hour, so be patient.  Keep the heat on simmer and stir occasionally.  I usually need to reduce my sauce by a third, using the 3-4 kinds of tomatoes that I use, and it takes about 45 minutes to an hour.

Your finished product is a pure, no-additives, nice, thick tomato sauce from scratch!  At this point, you can use it, transfer it to freezer-safe jars or bags (you should let it cool first!), or you can can it.

Step 5 – Clean your kitchen!  Messy stuff, eh?

Canning Tomato Sauce

How much sauce you will yield will depend on how many pounds of tomatoes you started with, and how much you needed to reduce your sauce.  It’s highly variable.  I usually get about 3 quarts out of a full large stockpot of quartered tomatoes.  You will really have to play it by ear and hold off on preparing your jars and lids until your sauce is done so you can eyeball it and see how many jars you will need.

See the canning process for a boiling-water canner here, (you can also pressure can tomato sauce…more on that at a later date!) adding these steps:

  • Tomato products need bottled lemon juice added.  Add 1 tablespoon to pints and 2 tablespoons to quarts.
  • Process pints for 35 minutes and quarts for 40 minutes.

Jars acclimating to room temperature

Condensed Tomato Soup

Makes 4 pints.

In my quest to rid my cupboards of Campbell’s (*sniff* I love Campbell’s!), I needed to come up with a condensed tomato soup version.  I could just make a delicious tomato soup and freeze it like a normal person, but normal people think ahead and pull stuff out of the freezer the day before they want it.  I never know I want tomato soup until about 10 minutes before I HAVE to have it, so freezer soup isn’t gonna cut it!  There’s also that tricky problem that you’re not really supposed to can anything with thickeners or dairy due to heat’s inability to penetrate those types of fat for safe consumption.  SO, I’m shooting for a product very similar to Campbell’s Condensed Tomato Soup.  Open jar, add milk, microwave.  Yum.  Here’s what I came up with, and it’s shockingly easy.

What you need:

  • 8 cups tomato sauce
  • 2 tablespoons sugar (more or less to taste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • bottled lemon juice

Directions:

1. Bring sauce to a boil, add sugar.  Add 1 tablespoon of lemon juice to each pint.  Follow these basic steps for canning with a boiling-water canner, and process pints for 35 minutes.

2. When ready to use, open jar and dump into bowl.  Add half a pint (1 cup) of milk, and warm on stove or in microwave.  I usually add shredded cheese to my soup (I like a lot of cheese.  Like, a ridiculous handful.  And I wonder why I’m chubby.)  Serve alone or with grilled cheese sandwiches!  (No, the grilled cheese sandwiches do not always replace the insane amount of cheese I put in my soup.  I have problems.)

The Verdict:

It tastes very similar to Campbell’s!  It’s a little more tangy, which I like.  I am absolutely thrilled to be able to have the convenience of canned soup that tastes almost exactly like the real thing without all the cons – BPA, high fructose corn syrup, etc.  It’s a keeper!

Categories: Canning, Freezing, High-Acid, Soup, Tomatoes | Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

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