Introduction: Large Batch Tomato Jars
Like any large Italian family Labour Day weekend is the time we make our tomato sauce for the year. One of my earliest memories is helping my Nonni prepare sauce for the coming year.
Because there are so many of us, we purchase and process jars on a large scale bases. While some of the equipment might seem expensive when you first begin canning on this scale, the price is often worth it in the long run as many materials are used over and over again.
There are many traditions and superstitions we follow when making our sauce for they year and I choose to share them with you today!
I hope you enjoy!
Step 1: Gathering Your Equipment
The size of your equipment will largely be based on the amount of tomatoes you wish to process. To put things into perspective, one side of my family processed 32 bushels of tomatoes. If you wish to process a much smaller amount, some of sizes of pots/buckets/ and the amount of jars will be smaller.
Because we process such a large about the equipment we use is as follows:
- outdoor propane burner
- propane tank
- large stock pot
- tomato straining machine
- large slotted spoon
- 3 large plastic buckets
- Mason jars (one bushel makes approximately twelve 1L jars)
- snap lids and ring tops
- smaller pot/ milk jug to use as a ladle
- accesses to running water, electricity, and a large sink
- cardboard or fabric (optional)
- Large metal oil drum (optional)
It's important to know that things will get messy! Wear something you won't mind getting dirty or stained.
Step 2: Gather Your Ingredients
- bushels of tomatoes
- fresh basil
Step 3: Preparing Your Equipment and Tomatoes for Processing
I arrived a little late at my Nonni's so I didn't get many pictures of this. Sorry!
- As with any canning endeavour, you should wash and sterilize all equipment. You want to minimize the chance of bacteria contaminating anything and ruining your batch.
- Inspect and remove any tomatoes which have spoiled.
- Wash your tomatoes several times to remove any dirt.
- Wash and lightly dry your basil.
- Set up your tomato strainer according to the appropriate manual. You will need one large bucket for the processed tomatoes to be gathered in and a smaller bucket to catch the skins of the processed tomatoes.
- Prepare your jars. Set them out on your work surface and place a few sprigs of basil in each jar.
- Light your propane burner, and place your tomatoes in the stock pot. Add enough water to cover the tomatoes.
- Allow the tomatoes to boil for several minutes. Until the skins start to split.
It is important to note that the snap lids should be replaced every year to prevent damage to your jars, screw lids, and to prevent the possibility of bacteria accumulation in storage.
Step 4: Processing Your Tomatoes - Two Ways
Now there are 2 ways you can process your tomatoes. If you prefer your tomatoes a thicker consistency continue below:
- Using a large slotted basket spoon remove the tomatoes from the boiling water and into one of the sterilized buckets. Reserve as little water as possible.
- Begin to feed your tomatoes into the top of the machine.
- As the tomatoes begin to strain there will be an accumulation of pulp on one end of the output mechanism. You will periodically need to scrape this pulp off to prevent the loss of product.
- Continuously monitor the bucket in which the skins are being deposited. You will need to rotate/shake this bucket to level out the skins otherwise you will end up with a mountain of skins which could spill over.
- The skins can be feed into the strainer again to ensure you maximize your tomato sauce output.
- Once you have either processed all the boiled tomatoes, or your bucket is full you can begin jarring your sauce. Make sure to lightly salt your tomatoes before canning.
If you prefer your sauce thinner continue below:
- Begin to feed your tomatoes through the strainer reserving and feeding some of the water while processing like above. If your tomatoes seem too thick add more water while processing. If your tomatoes are too thin use less of the reserved water.
- Continue steps 2-5 as above.
Step 5: Modification for Thinner Sauce
- After you have a full bucket of sauce, transfer the sauce to your sauce pot.
- Gently simmer the sauce for approximately 30 minutes.
- Season with salt, and stir often.
- After the tomatoes have simmered you can continue on to jarring your sauce.
Step 6: Jarring Your Sauce
This part is pretty self explanatory, however there is a slight modification for the thinner sauce which saves you a step.
- Using whichever product you have chosen for your ladle, fill jars to within an 1/4 of an inch from the top.
- Make sure that the lip of the jar is clean and place a snap lip on the top.
- Screw on a ring very tightly. We usually wear gloves to make sure that we get a good grip and that they are secured tight enough.
- Set aside for further sealing.
Thinner Sauce Modification
- Follow steps 1-3 as above.
- Instead of setting aside for further processing, place the jars upside down on your work surface (or where ever you choose to store them) overnight. Because the thinner sauce has been cooked, the heat from the sauce will seal the snap lids and there is no need to further boil them to seal.
- If after 24 hours some of your jars do not seal you can then boil them to seal. Generally this does not happen, but if there is one or two jars we set them aside for immediate use.
Step 7: Sealing Your Jars
Because we process such a large amount of tomatoes at once we use a large oil drum to place the tomatoes in. We separate the layers of jars with cloth or cardboard to prevent them from rattling against each other and breaking. Because this drum is so large it takes a very long time to bring to a boil and process adequately (approximately 3 hours).
If you are processing a smaller batch of tomatoes you can use the stock pot used previously to boil your jars.
When the jars have been processed you can either let them cool in the water and then remove them, or use canning tongs to remove from the hot water and let cool.
Label your jars and enjoy for the coming year!