As the summer winds down, it is time to jar the tomatoes to use all year for the salsa di pomodoro (tomato sauce).
People all over Italy jar tomatoes, I did it every year growing up there with my family. When it was time to do the tomatoes, the whole family was involved, from the grandparents all the way down to the little kids. We would start early in the morning and wouldn’t be done until 10-10:30 at night.
And we didn’t use only jars back then. We used any bottles we could find, water bottles, wine bottles, beer bottles, etc. Then we had to cap the bottles with a special machine.
We did three types of preserving; not only the salsa but also pelati (the whole tomato we would peel and put in jars) and filetti di pomodoro or in dialect spicchi di pomodoro (tomatoes sliced long ways and put slice by slice in the bottle).
We use the filetti di pomodoro to make pizziaola sauce and my grandmother
loved to just put those tomatoes on bread. The kids job was to put the long slices in the jars, I hated that job!!
When I moved to the United States, I felt it was important to carry on this tradition and pass it on to my family. Jarred tomatoes taste so much better than the tomatoes you buy in a can and we use tomato sauce at least once a week for homemade pizza and pasta.
The first step to jarring is to buy the tomatoes! I usually go to Corrado’s, a huge Italian store in Clifton but this year there must have been a shortage on tomatoes because they actually ran out.
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I called many farms and finally found them in Clark. I buy them by the case, they are usually 25 lbs and I buy around 8 cases. We get 8-10 jars per case so around 80 jars total to use for the year.
Pick your basil the day before you are ready to jar the tomatoes.If you don’t have enough in your garden, buy it in the store.
Wash all of the jars and lids in the dishwasher to sterilize them. When I was growing up we had to wash them all by hand so it’s nice to have a dishwasher now!
The next day you are ready to make the tomatoes. Wash all the tomatoes and separate the good ones from the bad ones, cut them in half to tell which tomatoes are bad.
Then you start putting the tomatoes in a big pot of boiling water to par boil them. Stir the tomatoes until the skin starts to come off. Now you know its time to drain them and press them through the machine.
I have a hand crank machine that I put all the tomatoes through to separate the tomato from the skins and seeds. They do make electric ones and I think I may try that this year.
I put the skins through three times to make sure I get all of the tomato juice.
I’m lucky that my whole family and my son’s friend likes to help me. It makes it go a little faster!
After you have crushed the tomatoes now its time to jar them. You put one or two basil leaves on the bottom of the jar and then fill the jar to the top and seal the lid on. (Make sure you don’t get any sauce on the outside of the rim of the jar or it won’t seal correctly.)
The last step is to put the jars in a huge pot of boiling water for at least 20 minutes to preserve the tomatoes for the year.
I put a blanket on the bottom of the pot and a blanket on the top of the pot so the water can cool down slowly and the jars don’t hit each other.
Leave the jars in the pots overnight for them to cool off and then the next morning you can take them out and store them.
It may be a lot of work but its so worth it. Once you try the fresh jarred tomatoes you won’t want to go back to cans.
- – 2 1/2 tb olive oil
- – 4 oz finely chopped onions
- – 2 1/2 ts finely chopped garlic
- – 2 1/2 pounds Italian plum or whole-pack tomatoes, coarsely chopped, undrained
- – 2 tb tomato puree (paste) (level)
- – 2 1/2 ts dried oregano (crumbled)
- – 2 1/2 ts fresh basil, finely cut1 bay leaf
- – 2 ts sugar (scant)freshly ground black pepper
- Heat the 2 1/2 tablespoons of olive oil in a medium sized enameled or stainless steel saucepan and cook the finely chopped onions in it over a moderate heat, stirring frequently, for 7 to 8 minutes
- When the onions are soft and transparent but not brown, add the finely chopped garlic and cook for another 1 to 2 minutes, stirring constantly
- Then stir in the coarsely chopped tomatoes and their liquid, the tomato purie, oregano, basil, bay leaf, sugar, salt and a few grindings of black pepper
- Bring the sauce to a boil, turn the heat very low and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 1 hour
- When finished, the sauce should be thick and fairly rough in texture
- Remove the bay leaf
- Taste and season the sauce with salt and freshly ground black pepper