8.02.2010

Stress Prevention Sicilian Tomato Sauce

or It's Home Canning and I Helped!  An instant homemade meal.

Now, before you go running off at the thought of canning your own food let me lay it out for you.  This isn't your grandmother's canning.  Now I'm sure what she did was great, and the hard hours she put into it made it delicious, but much of that has gone by the wayside.  There are many tools that make it easy for you to preserve jars of delicious foods with only a few extra tools and your stock pot.  So never fear, modern home canning* is here!

Ok, I admit it, I am biased.  I love canning.  I only began canning on my own over the past year and it is already a mild obsession.  This recipe was one I created when I first started canning last Fall to make gift baskets for the holidays but my husband loved it so much that I soon had to make more.  To be honest, it was surprising how nice it was to be able able to pour out the slow simmered, homemade sauce over pasta and have such a delicious meal in the same time it takes to make a box of macaroni and cheese.  It does take some time to lovingly cook all those flavors into the sauce but just think of how many meals you'll have at your fingertips in the cupboard and it will all seem worth it again.  It took some adjusting, but I made a close replica of my Sicilian grandmother's spaghetti sauce base that is hot water bath canning safe.  And really, who doesn't want easy access to the grandmother's comfort foods?  Let the idea marinate as you read on, and maybe - just maybe - you'll find your inner strength to give it a try.

Beef bullion granules – 4 tbsp
Tomatoes - 1 can crushed or 28 oz fresh boiled and crushed
Diced tomatoes – 1 can, with basil & oregano, or 12 oz fresh diced and spiced
Onion – 1 large, minced
Garlic – 3 tsp fresh minced garlic
Seasoning salt
Parsley, Oregano, and Basil - 1-2 tsp each, dried
Garlic powder – 2 tsp
Tomato paste – 1 can, 12 oz
Wine – red, ½ a cup (perhaps an extra glass for the cook)
Parmesan cheese – ¼ cup, to taste

1. Get a big pot and saut√© garlic and onions with some seasoning salt.  As they start to sizzle and brown soak in those savory aromas.  Once the onions begin to turn translucent it is time to move on.

2. Stir in the crushed and diced tomatoes until well blended. Bring to a simmer.

3. Now it is time to add the tomato paste, 2 cups of water, and wine. Stir until the tomato paste is incorporated in the sauce and the aroma of the red wine mixes almost seamlessly into that of the tomatoes and garlic.  Keep the pot at a simmer and add the beef bullion granules, stir until completely dissolved and start to cook down.

4. Mix in the remaining spices, adding additional amounts to taste. If you love garlic as much as I do use a more generous amount of garlic powder.

5. Bring to a boil and simmer, stirring whenever you happen to be in the kitchen to prevent neglect induced bottom burning. Remember to add water as needed, and season with salt and pepper. Keep cooking down and attending to the sauce lovingly generally for about 2 hours or so.

6. Taste throughout and add more herbs or salt and pepper as needed. Separate out any that will not be canned and during the last 30 min add Parmesan cheese, stirring well. Heat all the way through.

7. If canning, prepare jars and lids according to guidelines below and complete while sauce is hot.

You did it!  Your first canning experiment is now complete, and believe me it will be worth it.  After a long stressful day at work, chasing kids around, fixing other people's problems, or just about anything else that gets under your skin, just crack open a jar, boild some noodles, and enjoy!  I love to use this in my slow cooker lasagna recipe (coming soon to a blog near you) and also adding some browned ground beef or crumbled Italian sausage for a quick meat sauce.  If you are having guests or just want to dress it up a bit, toss it wiith pasta after adding the ground meat and then throw in the oven topped with mozzerella for a quick baked dish that will taste like it took hours to make.  And of course, you can't forget the garlic bread.  With so many options, and a great back up supply, this can be a perfect go to dish for instant stress relief, but maybe that's just the Italian me.  Either way, I hope you enjoy!



Canning tomato sauce:
1.) Prepare boiling water canner or stock pot. Heat jars and lids separately in simmering water until ready for use. Do not boil. Set bands aside.
2.) Ladle the hot sauce into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove air bubbles with a non-metal utensil if needed by sliding it gently down the side. Wipe rim. Center hot lid on jar. Apply band and adjust until fit is fingertip tight.
4.) Place the filled jars in a boiling water canner or stock pot for 35 minutes, adjusting for altitude. Remove jars and cool. Check lids for seal after 24 hours. Lid should not flex up and down when center is pressed.


* You have to be careful to use tried and true recipe ingredients for hot water canning or it may go bad (some ingredients can only be pressure canned, a bit more expensive process).   As long as you stick to safe ingredient combinations, the options are endless!  So let loose and let those creative juices flow; just keep in mind a touch of restraint to keep from crossing over into forbidden ingredient land.

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