This is the time of year where you see all the Italians sitting in their garage making homemade tomato sauce. Ever wonder what their secrets are? I’m about to give you a step by step guide, with photos. The secret is out! 🙂
End of August, or early September is always tomato sauce season for my family. Growing up in an Italian household means being spoiled with the most amazing homemade tomato sauce all year round. The process to make homemade tomato sauce is a tradition that I remember doing every single year around the end of summer. For us, this is a normal part of the year, no different than celebrating birthdays or Thanksgiving! We always try to make enough to last us the entire year, until we make another batch the following year. That means, the entire family gets together so we can have all hands on deck.
Today we made 8 bushels, which is actually a little light for us compared to most years. We may have to make more next weekend! I’ve broken down the steps with photos below. Feel free to make as much, or as little as you’d like. The recipe at the very bottom is for 1 bushel of tomatoes, to make it simple enough for a beginner. 🙂
Before beginning, get everything prepared.
Then of course, wash your tomatoes. We use a giant tub to wash ours since we make large quantities, but of course, you can also do this in your kitchen sink!
Once you’ve washed all your tomatoes, you will need to cut each one in half. The reason for this is to check for any rotten ones, or bad spots. Although the tomatoes may feel firm on the outside, it’s possible to have a few bad ones. You don’t want to throw even one bad tomato into your sauce, as it may ruin the entire batch.
While you’re cutting the tomatoes, bring a large pot of water to boil. We use industrial sized pots with propane burners outside. You may also do this with a large stock pot on the stove top if you’re making a smaller amount. Or you may work in batches. Add the tomatoes to the boiling water and give them a stir. (Yup, that’s me below stirring the cauldron, haha.)
The cold tomatoes will likely cause the water to stop boiling. However, once it returns to a boil, that is usually when it’s time to remove the tomatoes, and drain them. You should look for the water to start foaming on top with an orange film from the tomatoes, as shown in the pic below. You do NOT want to overcook the tomatoes, or you will be wasting/losing precious sauce.
Next, you will drain the tomatoes until mostly drained. You do not need to over drain since the water will have absorbed a lot of the tomato goodness!
Now it’s time to turn your tomatoes into sauce!
We use an industrial, motorized Italian tomato press that separates the skin and seeds from the tomato. It discards the skin and seeds and pours the sauce out. You will need two separate containers/buckets. One to collect the saucy goodness, and another to collect the seeds/skins to be disposed. If you’re making a smaller batch, a food mill will work just as well!
Once all the tomatoes have been crushed into sauce, heat the olive oil, with the chopped onions, garlic and bay leaves in a large sauce pot.
Then pour your sauce into the pot to get it cooked. Make sure to stir often.
Once the sauce is fully cooked, you will fill your mason jars and seal tightly. We use Bernardin snap lids, and buy new lids each year to ensure proper sealing. (You may reuse the jars, but use new snap lids each time to make sure you get a proper seal.) TIP: Use gloves to handle the jars and seal tightly. They will be very hot to handle when filling with the hot sauce.
Next, we boil the jars in order to get a proper seal that will help them keep for the year. Cover the jars with water and boil for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat. Once cooled down enough to touch, store your delicious tomato sauce until ready for use!
The reward after a hard day’s work!
My favourite part of the tradition is enjoying a fresh plate of pasta with the newly homemade tomato sauce! YUM.