July 21, 2010

Why My Kitchen Smells Like Pizza These Days

No, it's not because I'm making lots of pizza. It's because the tomatoes are coming in by the basketful! With garden production shifting into high gear, preserving the harvest is too.

Between my Roma tomatoes being ready to pick every 2 to 3 days, and the fact that sauce making takes me about the same amount of time, I have a batch of sauce in the works at all times.

Steps in making pizza sauce
After picking, the tomatoes are cut into chunks and cooked till soft. Then I run them through my Foley food mill to remove the skins and seeds. After that, the juice is cooked down in my crock pot. To that I'll add onions and maybe some sweet pepper sautéed in olive oil.  Also a little salt, perhaps some raw sugar, and whatever herbs I have available......

Homestead garden grown herbs
This is the first year I've had my own herbs to add. Top left is sweet basil, top right is rosemary. Bottom left is thyme, and bottom right is oregano. What I don't add to the sauce, I dry to preserve. I long ago gave up the charming custom of hanging bunches of herbs upside-down to dry. When the leaves get dry they get brittle, crumble, and end up everywhere. Plus bunches of dried herbs get dusty. I may try placing them in paper bags to hang them some time, but for now, I spread them out in low cardboard boxes, giving them a turn every day or so.

I process in a water bath. I used to add a tablespoon of lemon juice per pint, to ensure the correct acidity for water bath canning. More recently I've tried citric acid; it only takes 1/4 teaspoon per pint. Processing time is 35 minutes. It can also be pressure canned, 20 minutes for pints at 10 pounds of pressure (for my altitude).

Pizza sauce is the most frequent way we eat canned tomatoes, and each batch is different, depending on what I add to it. I put it up in pints because that lasts us for two weeks. And for the two of us, a pint jar of sauce is perfect for spaghetti too. I only call it "pizza" sauce because we eat more pizza than spaghetti!

Last year I used my excess Celebrity tomatoes to make sauce. I like the Romas better because, being a paste tomato, they have a lower water content and so cook down faster.  They have a somewhat sweet flavor and make a good tasting sauce.

Since we have pizza every Friday night, I need 52 meals worth of sauce, plus extra for spaghetti, lasagna, or other pasta dishes. 26 pints will do it for the pizza. Spaghetti or other pasta dishes we have at least once a month. Based on that, I reckon I ought to aim for a minimum of 40 pints this year.

I'm just getting started on putting it up, and I'm pretty certain I'll make my goal. After that, maybe I'll try some canned tomatoes for soups and stews this winter, or even put some up with okra.  It will depend on how well my plants produce!


  1. Oh yum, yum YUM! Roam tomatoes a favorite in this household too. Makes me just want to fly down there and steal some of that homemade sauce out of your pantry.

  2. Those are beautiful jars of sauce. I remember my mom and grandmothers going down to their cellars and staring at all the colorful jars of home canned foods. Mom called them her "jewels."

  3. Yes I would love some! I have the herbs and the tomato plants but no tomato's yet!

  4. yes, I could do with some:)) unfortunately only a few cherry toms do show the first signs of colour - so any pizza or pasta sauce has to be done with bought tins:(( I'd never get enough to make my own for storage... I do however buy some toms on offer sometimes - to make my own ketchup, or at least one batch of it.....

  5. Putting up food is such a satisfying project. I like your idea of simmering the sauce in the crock pot until it is ready for canning.

  6. Theresa, I'm just getting started!

    "Jewels." I really, really like that, Benita. Thanks for sharing that!

    Julie, may your plants produce many tomatoes!

    Bettina, ketchup! Mmmm. What a good idea. I do hope you'll blog about that!

    Evelyn, I love doing it in my crock pot because it never scorches! On the stove I'm sure to scorch it every time.

  7. I always wondered about hanging herbs to dry; the thought of dust and cobwebs always turned me off! I'd be inclined to put them in a 100-125 degree oven to dry them, although I've also heard you can use the microwave. But my rosemary produces year-round, so I never feel the need to dry it, and my basil only produces enough to supply our fresh use needs.

  8. sounds yummy at your house!

    We had a bad rain with wind last night and my one tomato plant that I had been meaning to get out and stake had completely fallen over on top of another tomato plant. So this morning I got to go fix that and weed some...and I smushed some squash bug eggs too. I know I should keep looking for more, but it's already too hot out.

    The tomatoes are finally turning orangey so hopefully we'll have some soon! I think I have something munching my cabbage.

  9. You probably know this, but add the basil just before you can it - a few leaves in each jar before the water bath is perfect. It will get bitter if cooked - this way you get the full basil flavor in your sauce (this is the secret to my cherry/basil jam...).

    Lucky you to have such a harvest! With life and knees and such, I didn't have a garden this year. I WILL have one next year tho!

  10. Oh wow, I'm so craving pasta and sauce now!! I saw an episode on the foodnetwork, in which Ina Gartner, the Barefoot Contessa takes tomatoes and dries them in the oven on low heat with some herbs they get like sundried tomatoes I know she said something about storing them in the freezer after. You might want to check it out online. As for drying the herbs I place mine in a plastic baggie take a ice pick and proferated it and let them dry that was no mess.

  11. Oh, that looks so nice! How many Roma plants do you have to get so many tomatoes?

  12. Yes, please! Sounds delicious. I was remiss in not getting a garden put in this year and so I'm living vicariously through yours. I'm certainly craving some home grown 'maters.

  13. Yum!!! I add some grated carrot to the sauce as it's cooking down, and it completely eliminates the need to add additional sugar. They add just the right amount of sweetness, and the carrot bits cook down so well you'd never know they're there (important for the picky eaters around here).

  14. I just want one my tomatoes to turn red. Just one - sigh. I'd eat it standing in the yard.

  15. Michelle, a dehydrator works well for herbs too. It's funny but I never cared for Rosemary until I got a plant. I was so surprised how lovely it smelled and the flavor it imparted. I ready that it can only tolerate temps down to about 20 F, so I'm concerned that it might not survive a cold winter like we had last year. I'm thinking that I need to cover it somehow as our nighttime temps can easily get down into the teens.

    Renee, oh no! Not more bad weather! I thought you had your share last summer. Hopefully your tomatoes will do well anyway and you can get rid of your cabbage muncher!

    Laura, thanks for the reminder. Cherry/basil jam? Sounds wonderful!

    Bety, good idea about baggies for the herbs. Sun dried type tomatoes is something I've not tried. I will have to check it out.

    Kari, I put in 30 plants! I've lost a lot of tomatoes though, due to not staking and not spraying earlier for blossom end rot. I'm curious as to what I'll end up with. That will determine how many I plant next year. :)

    Ken and Mary, it's not as though you've had nothing to do! :o A garden is a wonderful respite from the world though. I do hope you get one in next year.

    Sue what an excellent idea about the carrots. I used to make a veggie spaghetti sauce (not canned) that used grated carrot and zucchini. It was really tasty. I will have to try the carrots as sweetener though.

    Sharon, I hope your tomatoes cooperate soon!

  16. We also eat a lot of homemade pizza so having your own sauce makes me quite envious. But, drat and darn, our climate just won't allow us to grow enough tomatoes for canning. Unless we ever manage to get a greenhouse up and going or at least a hoop greenhouse in the field garden. I use a lot of stewed tomatoes in cooking (we both love soups) so would be thrilled to be able to make my own again some day.

  17. Oh, that sounds so good...I love canning - and I don't do it anymore since it is only me...

    And, I don't think my garden is going to produce gobs of anything.

  18. Your sauce looks so good and I'm sure your house does smell warm and inviting! Forty quarts will be a lot of work but worth it!
    Our tomatoes won't be ripe until the middle of September. You are fortunate to get to enjoy them this early!

  19. Mama Pea that sounds like a lot of work. Even though we have no trouble growing tomatoes, I know a gal in our area who uses hoop houses to grow tomatoes even in summer. The reason for this, she says, is to control pests and moisture. We have long thirsty spells each summer so our tomatoes suffer from that. My own irregular watering has cost me quite a few tomatoes. I guess I shouldn't always be holding out for that promise of rain in the weather forecast.

    Sara, better to start small! It's just as discouraging for production to get out of control and then have to lose it. I admire you for jumping in and learning as you go!

    Flower, after reading some of the comments, I realize I shouldn't take my tomatoes for granted! Still, you can grow cool weather crops longer, and I envy that.

  20. Do you have a pizza stone so your crust gets crispy? I need to keep this thought in my head, and if our tomatoes every turn red... If they ever got red and we beat the squirrels to them, I'll just eat them all myself and then complain about canker sores. Your garden is awesome!

  21. Oh wow, that looks fantastic! Our tomatoes haven't come in quite yet but I am hoping soon. Last year I canned a lot of tomatoes and still have a bit left. This year, if I get enough, I want to do some tomato sauces. I am really excited about trying something new out.

  22. I am loving your posts - I have recently bought a place in Sweden and am wanting to something along the same lines as you are doing. I am still in the planning stages and would love advice on what size of veg plot to start with for the growing of your own fruit and veg. I don't want to be too ambitious and then get disheartened when I struggle to manage it and food ends up wasted!

  23. Dee, thank you, welcome, and congratulations on your new place! I agree to start small and not let enthusiasm carry you away with more projects than you can manage. Usually it's recommended to observe the sun and weather patterns for about a year, but if I were you I'd at least have a small vegetable garden. Fruits are perennials usually, so they take longer to cultivate and appreciate a good spot. Grow what you like, at least a little this first summer. Next year you'll have a better idea of what did well, what problems you may have, and how it was to manage. Your own experience will be your best guide.


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