Processing Tomatoes for Sauce

by Jenn @ Frugal Upstate on September 10, 2013

This weekend I processed tomatoes and made my own tomato sauce!

Processing Tomatoes for Sauce

Since my gorgeous tomato plants were decimated by Late Blight (grrr!) I purchased tomatoes from our local farmers market.  I purchased two 25lb boxes of Roma tomatoes for $19 each.  We started out by washing them.  Buddy helped me to lay them on some racks we had, and I sprayed them off well with the garden hose.  Then I pulled out my Victorio food mill.  I love this thing!  It’s had some issues–the internal shaft got nicked making applesauce a few years back and it keeps causing the little C shaped retainer to fall off (which happened half way through this job)–I went online and ordered 2 new shafts, 4 of the C clips, 2 extra springs (just in case) and 2 new bushings–basically double of all the internal works–and it cost my $20 with shipping.  So I’m good for any future repairs.  If I ever have some extra money I would love to buy a “Squeezo” which is the same type of item except solid metal and about twice the price.

Processing Tomatoes - Cleaning

I set up my two stations–I could of course do this inside if I had to, but I prefer to do as much of the “messy” stuff outside as possible.  On the deck picnic table I set up a couple of cutting boards and knives, 2 dishpans (purchased specifically to use for canning/food prep) and I set my compost bucket on the ground.  Down on the driveway I put the food mill together and clamped it onto a picnic bench (a table works just fine).  I set up two clean 5 gallon buckets-one to catch the tomato puree, one for the seeds and skins.

Processing Tomatoes - the setup

Then Buddy and I got to work chopping the tomatoes.  When you use this food mill, you don’t have to peel or deseed the tomatoes.  You also don’t have to precook the tomatoes–just chunk them up and cut out any bad parts.  Then you feed it into the top of the hopper.  The crank is turned (and you use the “masher” to help get the tomatoes down in) and puree flows out the front while all the skins and seeds go out the side.

Processing Tomatoes - In Progress

Yankee Bill kindly did all the cranking.  Once the tomatoes where chunked up it took maybe 20 minutes to feed them all through the mill!  It is a messy process–so we just hosed everything down outside.

Processing Tomatoes -- Cooking Down the Sauce

The sauce starts out super thin.  I had a bout 4 gallons of puree, so I spread it out into two different pots on the stove and started boiling it down, stirring occasionally to make sure there was no burning.  If you are hot water bath canning your finished spaghetti sauce then you need to follow an approved recipe that balances out any non acidic foods with the acidic tomatoes to ensure that you have a safe product.  If you are going to pressure can then you can use grandma’s old fashioned recipe and just base your processing time on the longest cooking ingredient.

Eventually the sauce was cooked down enough to combine into a single pot, Then that was cooked down until it was just 3 or 4 inches deep and a thick sauce consistency.  Finally I jarred it up and processed it.  The result?

Processing tomatoes 12

Six jars of sauce.

Seriously!  Making a thick sauce takes a LOT of tomatoes.  You can “work the system” by adding tomato paste to act as a thickener and get a heck of a lot more jars out of that 50 lbs of tomatoes.  Done this way my jars cost about $5 each–not exactly frugal.  But that’s ok.  I like knowing how much work really goes into something.  If I really wanted to make all my own sauce out of my own tomatoes, I’d need hundreds of pounds of tomatoes.

As delicious as the sauce is–it may just make more sense to make a few jars of the good stuff, and then be much more “frugal” with the rest of my tomatoes and just can them crushed or quartered–you wind up with far more jars to be used as ingredients in other meals.

Who out there makes their own sauce to can?  Do you add tomato paste? How many jars do you typically get per pound?

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