I know, I’ve been MIA for a bit. I’ve been up to my elbows in tomatoes, literally. September is looking like a pretty hectic month and I needed to make sure I got my tomato canning in. With the next three weekends booked, last Saturday seemed like my only option so I headed down to the Fort Greene Greenmarket and my favorite farm, Wilklow Orchards, to pick up 50 pounds. Where they sat, all weekend while we visited family in Jersey. Part of me hoped we’d return to find them magically transformed into chopped and sauced tomatoes, but alas, these weren’t the self canning variety. Instead, I’ve spent the past three nights canning. Coming home around 5pm, and peeling, cutting and canning until near midnight each evening.
It’s the peeling that really gets me, a step required for chopped or whole tomatoes. For marinara sauce, you can leave them unpeeled and push everything through a food mill before cooking it down to a thicker sauce. Though if you’ve ever messed around with a food mill in tomatoes, it’s not the easiest or cleanest job. I feel like I loose half my tomatoes with the skin and end up with a fraction of the yield promised. BUT this year I discovered the secret to easy sauce, higher yield and less skin problems.
There’s actually nothing wrong with canning tomatoes with their skin. Unlike peach skin, that potentially increases the risk of bacteria, tomato skins are good. They contain natural pectin, add body and flavor the a sauce. Removing them is more of a cosmetic/texture thing. Tomato skin, even after boiled down for what seems like forever, tends to remain stringy. Nothing ruins a rich delicious sauce more than a tough string of tomato skin.
However there is a way to use most of those skins and yield extra sauce! I worked off my standard marinara sauce recipe, just rewrote the instructions a bit. Cook the tomatoes until extra soft, close to 45 minutes. Then the secret step? Puree the sauce. It will break down most of the stringiness of the skins and leave you with extra bulk for your sauce. Push the pureed mixture through the fine plate of a food mill or sieve, then continue cooking. Rather than losing close to 2 cups of skin, you lose less than 1/2 a cup. Plus, the sauce finished in a couple of hours, rather than last year’s 4-5 hour tomato battle.
No Fuss Marinara (Makes 8 pints)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 c chopped yellow onion
- 6 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 tbsp salt
- 18 pounds Roma tomatoes, cored and coarsely chopped
- 8 tbsp bottled lemon juice, divided
Heat oil in a VERY large pot over high heat. Add onion, garlic, salt and saute until onions are translucent, about 5-6 minutes. Add tomatoes, increase heat and bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer for 45 minutes until tomatoes have broken down and onions are very soft.
Using an immersion blender, puree sauce then pass through a fine bladed food mill or mesh sieve to remove leftover skins. Return sauce to pot and simmer until thickens and reduces by about a third, about 1 hour.
Prepare clean, hot pint jars. Add 1 tablespoon bottled lemon juice to each jar then ladle in sauce, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims, apply lids and rims. Process for 35 minutes in a boiling water bath.