Sunday, September 7, 2008

Fear Factor - Phobia IV: Conquering Canning

I've been wanting to get my feet wet with the whole canning thing for a long time now. I swore to myself I would do it this summer, and then here I was, first week of school, and no summer bounty stored away in a dark cupboard. And then we went back up north for labor day. And we went to pick blueberries at an apple orchard. And I came home with a bushel of tomato "seconds" (yes I know the logic's a little hard to follow - apples --> blueberries --> tomatoes?). There was absolutely nothing wrong with these tomatoes except they weren't the prettiest jewels on the plant. And they were twelve dollars. This after I was just forced to buy 5 tomatoes for sixteen bucks at Giant for deconstructed tomato sauce because I forgot to visit the farmer's market. So I really had no choice but to take them home. My hands were tied.

Bursting with juice and ruby red, they were wonderful sliced alongside burrata drizzled with balsamic and dressed with a shower of basil confetti. But one simply does not eat an entire bushel of tomatoes before they go bad. What a perfect time to conquer my irrational fear of canning (I'm worried I might kill someone). Tomato sauce is a wonderful way to break into canning, since its high acid content creates an inhospitable environment for those nasty little microbes. It was surprisingly easy, albeit a little time consuming. Now I have visions of jam bursting with fall fruits and jars of homemade pickles.

Use wide mouth jars for this, it will make your life much easier!

Italian Red Gravy (Also known as homemade spaghetti sauce)
Makes 6 quarts.

3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp olive oil
2 cups mirepoix (2:1:1 ratio diced onions, carrots and celery)
1 cup diced portobello mushrooms
1 cup Burgundy wine, or other semi-dry red
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 bushel tomatoes (about 30)

1 large container of Italian seasoning (about 2/3 cup)
4 bay leaves
2 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp salt
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbsp cracked black pepper
1 tsp crushed red pepper

6 cloves of garlic, sliced thin
2 Tbsp concentrated shelf-stable chicken stock (from Trader Joes) - demi-glace would also work
1 4 oz. can roasted garlic tomato paste
1 4 oz. can Italian herb tomato paste

6 Tbsp lemon juice
6 wide mouth canning jars with lids and rings
boiling water canner with rack
silicone coated tongs or canning tongs

In the largest stockpot you own, saute mirepoix and mushrooms in butter and oil until softened and slightly caramelized.
Deglaze with wine and vinegar and cook for 2 minutes over medium heat.

Puree tomatoes in batches in a blender. Strain the juice of seeds and skin in a china hat colander into the pot. Repeat until all tomatoes are used or until pot is full (if you're pot doesn't hold them all you will have to reduce it first, then add more and reduce again). Add seasonings and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce by half, stirring occasionally, 2-3 hours.

Add garlic, concentrated stock and tomato paste. Simmer another 40 minutes, or until thick. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate overnight.

Reheat tomato sauce over medium heat.

Fill the canner with water and place jars (without lids) under water on rack. Bring to a boil. Place lids in a small saucepan, covered with water and bring to a simmer (no more than 180 degrees). Do not boil!

Remove jars from hot water one at a time using tongs to fill them. First, put a Tbsp of lemon juice in each one. Using a ladle and canning funnel (both sterilized in boiling water), fill jars with sauce, leaving 1/2 inch headroom. Use tongs to fetch a warm lid. Center it on top of the jar and press down in the middle of the lid. Cover with a ring and tighten until your encounter resistance (fingertip tight). Do not tighten all the way.

Insert jars onto rack under water. Make sure they are covered by 1-2 inches of water. Bring to a boil. Lid and boil for 35 minutes. Remove jars to a folded kitchen towel and let sit for 2 days. Don't tighten the rings until after this 48 hour period. When you press down on the middle of the lid, it should not pop up and down. If it moves at all you need to reprocess.

Store in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Serve atop chicken parmesan, spaghetti and meatballs, layered into lasagna or in pepperoni rolls.


Gabi said...

Good for you for conquering your fear and also for getting your pantry stocked with a lovely stash of summer goodness! I'm waiting for my tomatoes to ripen- which they will all at once and then I'll bottle some marinara too :)

P said...

Those pics are wonderful. I spent many a summer canning with my grandma but we never did the "gravy" heck, its even vegan!!


Mary Coleman said...

Brilliant! I've been looking for an Italian gravy to put up this fall and this is it. Widemouthed jars are the way to go when you do something like this.
Great job!

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