I recently spotted pretty jars of heirloom tomato sauce for sale in a kitchenwares shop and thought, “Shoot! I can do that myself.”
So I did. Not without difficulty.
I started with four pounds of three different varieties purchased from Findlay Market and the Lunken Farmers’ Market: Mortgage Lifter, an heirloom variety that’s dense and full of flavor, a golden variety whose name is unknown to me, and your standard reds (I think these were Jet Star).
I intended to can crushed tomatoes (as opposed to sauce)—a shortcut that turned out to be a bad call (crushed tomatoes don’t have to cook nearly as long as tomato sauce prior to canning). See, when I lifted the first batch out of the water-bath canner, the tomatoes and their watery liquid had separated in the jars in a very unappealing sort of way. Dismayed at the results, I popped the lids off the still-hot jars, dumped the contents back into the saucepan, ladled off some liquid, ran an immersion blender through the mess to create a smooth sauce, and re-processed them. My yield from this batch was One. Measly. Pint. Jar. But man, is this stuff good: deeply concentrated and flavorful.
With that experience behind me, I vowed not to screw up the next two batches. Again, the stick blender was my friend, helping to create a smooth sauce that reduced nicely in a shorter amount of time than simply cookingcookingcooking the bejeebers out of the tomatoes to get them to thicken. I canned the golden tomatoes straight-up, and added garlic and dried and fresh herbs to the Jet Stars to make a nice spaghetti sauce.
Ultimately, my home-canned tomatoes probably weren’t that much cheaper than the gourmet varieties I found at the store. But they’re prettier and, I’m sure, more delicious. Plus, they’re of my own hand.