Canning Spaghetti Sauce.

I have traditionally made spaghetti sauce in bulk and then frozen in single-meal portions.  In an ongoing effort to conserve freezer space, I decided when my stash ran out last week that I’d try canning the sauce this time around.  It was a challenge to find a way to convert my usual family recipe into a canner recipe!  Everything I found about canning spaghetti sauce had this huge elaborate recipe with all sort of vegetables in it….I’m a purist, my spaghetti sauce is exactly that..sauce.  (In fact when my Mommom was unable to make her own homemade sauce anymore and had to start eating storebought, she used to actually put it through a strainer because she was not interested in any sort of stray “chunks” that might be in there 🙂 ).

Also, every canning recipe assumes that you are going to be a good little canner and start with fresh, homegrown tomatoes….I prefer to let my friends at Contadina cook the tomatoes down for me so that I can just empty the can into the pot and add my own seasonings 🙂  I finally found a resource at www.freshpreserving.com which matched up mostly with what I was trying to do.

The sauce:

The family recipe calls for a ratio of 12 ounces of paste to 8 ounces of sauce.  So, when I make a huge pot, I do 96 ounces of paste and 64 ounces of sauce.  I am a loyal user of Contadina brand….I’ve tried others and been disappointed.  I’m sure it’s just because that is what my mother used so that is what I’m used to!  Add each can to the pot, and then add a can almost-full of water (maybe an inch from the top) to the pot as well, stirring between each can until sauce is completely smooth.  Then add seasonings.  I can’t even begin to tell you measurements here, you’ll have to just practice and taste as you go.  I add salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder, sugar, and dried basil.  Let simmer for at least an hour or so before proceeding.

The canning:

I chose to can in half pint jars – it’s just two of us, and we’re not big sauce eaters (just like to add a little to the pasta for flavor, don’t want it to be drowning!).  Prep your jars and lids (tons of resources online to tell you how to do that).  The recipe called for adding 1/4 teaspoon of citric acid per pint jar, so I reduced it to 1/8 teaspoon.  Fill jar with sauce, leaving 1/2 inch headspace.  Remove any air bubbles, then put on lid and add to canner.

Now, this original recipe was for a waterbath canner.  I found instructions elsewhere for doing either waterbath or pressure canner.  I have to admit my laziness here….I prefer the pressure canner because you don’t have to be quite as “sterile” when prepping your jars – you want them to be clean of course, and in hot water up until adding the food, but you don’t have to sterilize them and keep them in boiling water right up to the second that you use them (the canner does it for you).  Quite honestly, my kitchen is tiny, and I don’t have enough room on the stove to keep all that going on at the same time as the food I’m cooking – plus the lids – plus the canner…you get the idea.  So, whatever way works best for you…per the National Center for Home Food Preservation, process pints in the waterbath canner for 35 minutes, or in the pressure canner for 15 minutes at ten pound of pressure.

A reminder to always abide by the headspace rule…I tend to get carried away and want to just shove as much into that jar as I possibly can.  If you push your luck, the food will boil its way out, which not only makes a huge mess in your canner, but can compromise the seal of the lid.  Hold yourself back and accept the loss of space at the top of the jar!  🙂

Also, if you intend to convert your own family recipe into a canner recipe, do the research online first.  I spent almost an hour trying to find the information that I needed to have the right instructions.  If you add any sort of vegetables/meat/etc. it can vary the processing instructions in a huge way.  Apparently there are very specific ratios in spaghetti sauce to keep the acidity level balanced correctly for canning so that you don’t get any sort of harmful bacteria.  Be cautious, and good luck!  🙂

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