Satisfactorily sauced

Canning season continues! Because we’re very sensible people, we’re preparing for the harsh winter ahead by capturing as much garden bounty in glass jars as possible. Sure, it may be balmy out today, but soon enough it will look like this:

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And then, some poor saps will be stuck inside with nothing but ramen and ketchup. Not MOI, my friends! I’ll be under an electric blanket, watching Sister Wives with a big bowl of home-sauced spaghetti.

To make this recipe you need about 16 pounds of tomatoes. How does one come by 16 pounds of tomatoes, you ask? Well, you could go buy them, but you have to be careful that they don’t come from a million miles away and taste like mealy nothingness. You could grow them. Or–you could find yourself a tomato guy. I have one. His name is Elmer, and he lives about 80 miles from here. We go way back. We received word a few days ago that Elmer was in possession of a giant bucket of garden tomatoes. A rendezvous was arranged at the Godfather’s Pizza in Adel, IA (a convenient mid-point), and thus the stage was set for some serious sauce makin’.

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You need to peel the tomatoes first, and I suggest you do this by putting them in boiling water for about a minute until the skins break and then dropping them into ice water. They should peel easily after that. Then, you pretty much just throw everything into a pot and let it simmer while you go about your business for two hours. Your home will smell like Giada’s. Note: that is just an assumption because Giada has never invited me to one of her girl’s-night dinners full of pan-CETT-a.

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Just like back when we had our chat about pickles, you need to boil your jars and lids to sterilize them and get a good seal.

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To test this stuff out (and to make sure I was not leading you fine people astray), I made a little lasagna with zucchini from our garden and some tofu ricotta. (Tofu ricotta = tofu mashed with a fork, jazzed up with a squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper, a drizzle of olive oil, and some nutritional yeast if you have it.) It was delicious, in a no-fake-ingredients, made-with-love, I-would-do-a-cartwheel-if-I-hadn’t-already-broken-my-wrist-twice kind of way. So here’s the recipe! See you cats and kittens later.

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Spaghetti Sauce (full batch will fill about 8 pint jars)

  • 1/2 c. olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 small onions, diced
  • 3 bell peppers, diced (whatever color you like, or a combination)
  • 16 lbs. tomatoes, peeled, cored, and diced (*Drain off most of the juice, but save some in case you’d like to use it to thin out the sauce at any point)
  • 2 12-oz cans of tomato paste
  • 1/4 c. sugar
  • 1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley (or about 2 tbsp dried parsley)
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano leaves (or 1/2-1 tbsp dried oregano)
  • 2 tbsp salt
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
  • 3/4 tsp pepper
  • 2 bay leaves (leave them whole and fish them out at the end, or just crush them between your hands when you put them in and don’t worry about finding them later)

Sautee the garlic, bell pepper, and diced onion in the olive oil for about 10 minutes, and then pour all of this into a large pot. Add the remaining ingredients, bring to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 2 hours. If you would like it to be thicker, just cook longer. Boil the jars and lids for 15 minutes. Then, fill them with the sauce, screw on the lids, and let them cool on the counter. When they’re cool, check for a proper seal–press on the lid and make sure it doesn’t pop down and back up. If any of the jars didn’t seal properly, store them in the refrigerator and use them as soon as you can.

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