A simple summer preserve from chef Paul Virant. "Jars of preserved tomatoes are among the most versatile and popular pantry staples to make at home. I cook 100-lb. batches of tomatoes at a time, filling up several shelves with quarts of tomatoes, and yet I still burn through our inventory well before tomato season arrives again. Instead of blanching, peeling, and seeding tomatoes, I pass cooked tomatoes through a food mill, which succeeds in getting rid of much of the skin and some of the seeds. I also keep the sauce on the thin side. This not only cuts down on having a pot of tomatoes taking up space on the stove for hours, it also yields a fresher tomato flavour. If I decide to reduce the tomatoes into a sauce, I can do so later. But if I just want a spoonful of fresh-tasting tomato juice for gazpacho, all I have to do is pop open a jar."
Tomatoes*, preferably San Marzano or Roma, about 12 cups or 6 lb. or 2,700 grams or 99.5%
Kosher salt, 2 tsp or 1/4 oz. or 10 grams or 0.5%
* Selecting the right tomato is crucial. I buy locally grown San Marzano tomatoes — the ultimate canning variety (just ask the Neapolitans). These meaty, firm tomatoes offer more pulp than the round, juicy heirlooms. Timing is also important. The best time to can tomatoes is peak season (typically August and September), when they are not only inexpensive but also ripe. The decision whether to add either citric acid or lemon juice to tomatoes before canning them stokes debates among passionate canners. Although tomatoes taste acidic, their natural pH level can veer upward of 4.6, the border of safety when determining whether a product is acidic enough to water-bath process. To play it safe, food scientists recommend adding citric acid or lemon juice to tomatoes. But many old-school canners who have made tomato sauce for years without adding any acid feel this recommendation is overkill.
Step 1: Core and quarter the tomatoes. Put the tomatoes and their juices into a large pot. Bring to a boil, decrease to a gentle simmer, cover and cook, stirring every 5 minutes to prevent the bottom from scorching, for about 20 minutes. Uncover the tomatoes and cook until the tomatoes have released all of their juices and become very soft but before the juices have thickened substantially, 15-20 minutes more. Pass through a food mill fitted with a coarse disk and season with salt to your liking (about 2 tsp).
Step 2: Scald 5 pint jars in a large pot of simmering water fitted with a rack — you will use this pot to process the jars. Right before filling, put the jars on the counter. Meanwhile, soak the lids in a pan of hot water to soften the rubber seal.
Step 3: Using a ladle, divide the tomato sauce among the jars, leaving a 1/2" space from the rim of the jar. Check the jars for air pockets, adding more tomatoes if necessary to fill in any gaps. Wipe the rims with a clean towel, seal with the lids, then screw on the bands until snug but not tight.
Step 4: Place the jars in the pot with the rack and add enough water to cover the jars by about 1". Bring the water to a boil and process the jars for 15 minutes (start the timer when the water reaches a boil). Turn off the heat and leave the jars in the water for a few minutes. Remove the jars from the water and let cool completely.
Makes 4 to 5 pints
Use a bit of these tomatoes in Roasted Lamb Meatballs.
See more recipes from Paul Virant and Kate Leahy.
Reprinted with permission from Paul Virant and Kate Leahy's The Preservation Kitchen (2012 Ten Speed Press).