Canned Pasta Sauce

Water Bath Canning as a method of preserving isn't something you hear of very often in the UK, we seem to favour good old pickling or freezing. I came across canning a year or so ago from American homesteaders. It is a way of preserving food in jars so you can keep them on the shelf (and save room in the freezer) - much like you would do in a tin. Water bath canning is only suitable for some food types (tomatoes with added acid, fruit and fruit juices, jams and jellies, salsas etc) a lot of other (lower acid) vegetables, meat and fish require a pressure canner. Tomatoes were the obvious thing for me to start with which kept me in the equivalent of tinned tomatoes for a winter. This is my recipe for a canned pasta sauce that can sit on your shelf over winter ready to be added to a lasagne, bolognaise or made into a soup. It is a great way of using up lots of tomatoes and I hide lots of those massive oversized courgettes in there too! The main thing you will need are Mason jars - the kind with the two part lids - one seal lid and then a screw ring. This recipe is for 500ml size jars. The other thing you will need is a big enough stock pan to be able to place these jars into and completely cover with water. You can buy water bath canners with have a rack in the bottom so your jars don’t touch, but I just improvise with a large stock pan and some tea towels. This is a big recipe and makes approximately 5 litres of sauce, so please feel free to scale it up or down depending on your needs!

:: 2kg of tomatoes (roughly!) :: olive oil :: 5 onions :: 10 cloves of garlic :: 150ml red wine :: a good handful of fresh basil stalks removed and chopped:: 1.5kg courgettes :: 2 tbsp paprika :: 2 tsp Worcestershire Sauce :: 2 beef stock cubes :: salt and pepper :: lemon juice (1 tbsp for each 500ml jar)

  • First of all prep your courgettes. I grate mine and then salt them to remove excess liquid from them. To do this place the grated courgette in a colander with a good sprinkling of salt (be quite generous here!). Mix the salt in, cover with a tea towel and then place the colander in the sink or a bowl so the liquid can drain away for half an hour or so.
  • Wash your jars and lids in warm soapy water and set aside
  • Finely chop your onion and garlic and add them to a large stock pan with a glug of olive oil (I use the same pan I use for the canning later and just give it a wash once I have all my sauce in jars). Sweat on a low to medium heat with the lid on until the onion goes see through
  • Peel and chop your tomatoes (to make them easier to peel make a small cut in the skin at the bottom with a sharp knife then pop them into boiling water for 30 seconds or so - you should find the skin will just peel off!). Once the onions are cooked add them to the pan
  • Then add your wine, 2 litres of water, basil, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, pepper (don’t add any extra salt at this point) and crumble the stock cubes in. Bring to the boil and reduce to a simmer with the lid on
  • Wash the salt off your courgettes and then give them a squeeze to get any more liquid out and add them to your pan
  • Simmer for a good hour or so stirring occasionally
  • Put your oven on (for the jars) at 175 deg C
  • After about an hour remove the lid on your pan and start to reduce the sauce until you have a good consistency - you want it to be thick enough that it won’t be watery. Taste and adjust the seasoning adding more salt if needed
  • place your clean jars onto a tray and pop them in the oven for 15 minutes to sterilise. Put the lids and seals in a pan - but DO NOT let it boil or it will ruin the seals - the water temp needs to be hot - about 80 deg C but not boiling
  • Remove the pan from the heat and using a hand blender blend it all together so it becomes a smooth sauce, if needed put it back on the heat for a few minutes to reduce down even further
  • Take your jars out of the oven and your sauce off the heat and allow both to cool for a few minutes
  • Take your lids and seals from the water and place upwards on a clean tea towel to drain
  • Carefully pour your sauce into your jars (I do this with the help of a ladle, a jug and a spoon, but you can get jam funnels which are designed for this purpose and I really probably should invest in!) and leave about 1-2cm clear at the top of each jar
  • Add a tablespoon of lemon juice to each 500ml jar, stir it in and make sure there are no air bubbles around the sides. If there are use the handle of a spoon to get rid of them
  • Carefully clean the rim of each jar
  • Without touching the inside of the seal lid place one on top of each jar and screw the screw band down finger tight – don’t over tighten
  • Wash your big stock pan out and boil your kettle
  • Place two folded tea towels on the bottom of your pan and then place your jars on top
  • Wrap more tea towels around your jars to stop them touching each other or the sides of the pan
  • Add some cold water first then add your kettle of hot water. Top up with more cold water if needed. You must completely cover the lids for the whole processing time...if the water level starts to drop then add more boiling water
  • Bring to the boil and boil for 35 minutes if you are at an altitude of 1000ft (add 5 mins to your cooking time if you are 1001-3000ft, 10mins for 3001-6000ft, 15mins for 6001-8000ft and 20mins for 8001-1000ft)
  • using either a jar holders or a good set of tongs remove the jars from the water - be careful!!!!
  • Place them on the side and leave them alone and upright for 24 hours to cool and seal properly.
  • The lids should go concave in the middle if you have a good seal.


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