Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Preserving the Harvest :: Marinara

There's something about the start of fall that makes me yearn for the coziness of gooey, cheesey baked pasta. A hearty lasagna with chunks of spicy sausage, stuffed shells with an earthy mix of ricotta and sauteed Swiss chard, or even a weeknight baked ravioli. I call this hibernation food. It's great, stick-to-your-ribs, warm you from the inside out food. Perfect after a day of raking leaves. This might also be why I gain 10 pounds every winter. What can I say, I'm a Wisconsin girl that loves her cheese and pasta. But I digress...

While it's easy to open a jar of your favorite storebought pasta sauce for these dishes, starting them off with homemade marinara makes them extra special. I don't know about you, but I don't have the time to stand at the stove making a big batch of sauce every time the yearn for pasta hits. Enter home-canned marinara.

As I mentioned before, I have been working on perfecting a cannable marinara recipe for a couple years now. While I also like to freeze marinara, I don't always remember to thaw it in time and there's something really special about seeing the pretty jars all lined up in the basement.

After making another big batch Sunday, I can confirm it's the tastiest marinara  that's come out of my kitchen in a long time. I hope you like it as much as we do.

A note on the tomatoes - feel free to use whatever kinds you have/prefer. I like plum/Roma tomatoes, but rarely get 12 pounds at a time, so I use a mix of whatever we harvest from the garden. Also, please refrain from adding onions or garlic to the sauce. Adding too much from the allium family brings the pH of the sauce to a questionable zone for safe canning practices. I like to saute a few cloves of garlic in olive oil, then add the sauce to the pan to simmer for a bit before serving.


12 pounds tomatoes, peeled and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 cups loosely packed fresh basil, rough chopped
1 tablespoon red chili flakes (optional)
6 tablespoons bottled lemon juice

Over medium-high heat, add tomatoes, salt, vinegar, sugar, and dried herbs to a large nonreactive pot. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer, stirring occasionally.
Continue to cook, breaking the tomatoes down with a wooden spoon, until the sauce is nice and thick. This can take 2 to 3 hours.
While sauce is simmering, sterilize canning jars in a large pot of boiling water. Set aside. Fill a large canning pot with water and bring to boil.
Once sauce has thickened, add fresh basil. Briefly blend sauce with immersion blender. Raise temperature to a boil. Meanwhile, add new canning lids to a pot of simmering water to prepare for canning.
Add 1 tablespoon of bottled lemon juice to each pint canning jar. Ladle hot sauce into canning jars, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Wipe rims with a clean, damp cloth, then add lids and bands. Process in hot water bath for 20 minutes.
Remove jars from hot water bath and let cool.

Yield:  About 6 pints

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