Monday, June 30, 2014

Preserving Marinara Sauce

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Where I live in the Arizona desert, our growing season is winding down . . . This week the temperature will hit 112F/44.4°C. Ferinheit or Celcius, that's way too hot for growing tomatoes!

Way back last fall a "volunteer" cherry tomato plant appeared on the south end of my garden. I watered, fertilized, and covered "her" when we had frost warnings. This spring "she" grew up and out and produced more fruit than I thought possible!

I have been blessed with an abundance of tomatoes this year, and probably a good 1/3 of them were those small, tangy, tasty globes of goodness, we call heirloom cherry tomatoes!

I had a dilemma! How could I use those delectable little fruits in a big way? I tossed them in salads, and was still left daily, with overflowing baskets! So, I began by dunking vines of them in boiling water, peeling their tiny little bodies, and squishing them between my fingers to make my canned tomatoes richer in flavor. I used them to make fresh spaghetti sauce . . . 1 pot pasta dishes . . . . I used them unpeeled in my spicy blender ketchup . . . I whirred them up, unpeeled in the blender, cooked them down with oregano, basil and garlic for freezer pizza sauce . . . I used them in 2 different kinds of canned salsa . . . and last, but not least . . . I whipped up 12 pounds of tomatoes (mostly cherry) to make my canned rendition of Giada's Marinara Sauce!

Needless to say, my pantry is bulging with a lot of tomatoey goodness . . . Thanks to a humble cherry tomato plant I lovingly named ~ "Ethel". I looked up the definition of Ethel and it's an English name meaning "noble". I guess that about covers it! That 1 noble plant took me to canning heights I never dreamed possible, here on the Arizona desert!

This Marinara Sauce may be frozen or pressure canned and makes approximately 10 pints (if you like it super-thick) or 16 pints for a thinner sauce. You can also use cans of crushed tomatoes in place of fresh tomatoes.

This is not your average marinara sauce . . . . Gourmet sauces like this can run $9.99 per quart! Tart tomatoes, sweet carrots, celery, onions and garlic marry for a rich, sophisticated (shhhh! . . . healthy, veggie filled) sauce!

MARINARA SAUCE a la ETHEL ~ the perfect sauce for lasagna, ravioli and chicken Parmesan!

1 cup extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 large onions - finely chopped, approximately 2 cups

8 celery stalks - finely chopped, approximately 3 cups

8 carrots - peeled, finely chopped or coarsely grated, aprox. 4 cups

2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

12 pounds of washed tomatoes, the larger tomatoes will need to be cored, approximately 8 quarts of blendered tomatoes or, (8 28-ounce cans of crushed tomatoes)

8 dried bay leaves

  • In a very large pot, heat 1/2-cup of oil over medium-high heat.
  • Sauté onions, and garlic until they are translucent, about 10 minutes.
  • Add chopped celery, carrots, salt and pepper and remaining oil, sauté for 10 more minutes.
  • Working in batches, put tomatoes through the blender (you will end up with 8 quarts). I counted to 15-20 seconds for each batch.
  • Divide vegetables, tomatoes and bay leaves between 2 stock pots or Dutch ovens.
  • Simmer sauce over low heat until sauce thickens, about 1 hour for thin sauce, 2-3 hours for thick sauce (stir often as sauce gets thicker).
  • Taste and add more salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Don't forget to remove the bay leaves.
  • If freezing - Cool; place in dated and labeled freezer containers and place in freeze.
  • If canning - Prepare your jars and lids and follow your pressure cooker instructions manual for canning "meat spaghetti sauce".
Prep your veggies.

Julie's Pressure Canning Tips:

Do not use a hot water bath to can this sauce! This sauce must be pressure canned! Please refer to your pressure canning booklet for the proper instructions. The amount of pressure and cooking time must be increased with altitudes above, 1,000 feet!

Any time you are canning using non-acidic fruits or veggies (apples, pears beans, celery, onion, carrots etc.), you must use a pressure canner! A hot water bath will not kill the bacteria known as botulism. Botulism is odorless and can cause DEATH!


For this Marinara Sauce a la Ethel ~ I used the instructions for spaghetti sauce WITH MEAT and referred to the charts for our altitude of 1,200 ft above sea level. That added extra time and changed the pressure from 10lbs. to 15lb.

As an added precaution, boil all home-made canned vegetables and meats without tasting for 10 minutes plus 1 minute per 1,000 feet above sea level (15 minutes at 5,000 feet). If food looks spoiled, foams, or has an off odor during heating discard.

Sautéing onions, carrots and celery.

Using a pressure canner is safe and easy! I received my first pressure canner as a wedding gift from Grama Helen, way back in 1972! I've replaced the worn out gasket, and relief valve once in 42 years of use, and it still works great!

If you carefully read and follow your pressure canner's manual, you will be able to safely preserve wonderful non-acidic fruits, veggies, sauces, meats and soups for you and your family!

This has been a busy and productive growing season filled with lots of wonderful fresh produce for eating and enjoying and bountiful excess for preserving . . . Over at Julie's!!!

When making ravioli or lasagna, I add a bit of red wine and basil to my marinara sauce when heating it through for 11 minutes as a precaution for low-acid canned veggies.

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