Tag Archives: Canning/Preserving

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:


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’.


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.



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.



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.


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.


Pickles for P.E.O.s

You know who really knows her way around the kitchen?


My Grandma Neva, that’s who. (Did you think I was going to say Ina Garten? Also a good answer.) Grandma Neva always brings her contributions to family dinner in a big basket, and everything that has ever come out of that basket has been just plain legit. I want to emulate her in cooking (and in just being a great lady in general), so sometimes I wear one of her old gingham hostess aprons while stirring things. She has also been published (several times, I might add) in the Jefferson IA P.E.O. cookbook series.


Oh, are you not familiar with P.E.O.? Let me explain: it is a club for ladies who are passionate about civic engagement, educational attainment for women, and light refreshments. We have meetings in living rooms, give scholarships, etc. My grandma is a P.E.O., as is my mom, so it was preordained that I too would join when I came of age. The club started in Iowa in 1869, but now there are chapters all over the place. Also, it’s one of those clubs where, when you get initiated, you get to find out secret things. And I LOVE SECRETS. That’s all I can tell you. Perhaps I’ve already said too much.

My grandma’s best contribution to the P.E.O. cookbooks, in my opinion, is her recipe for “Crisp Pickle Slices.” It appears in the volume pictured above, but I don’t think you’ll find one of these on Amazon, so I’ll break it down for you right here. First, you need a really big bowl. Like, three times the size of your head.


And get out your box o’ canning supplies.


Slice up the cukes and supporting-role veggies, toss with canning salt in the giant bowl, and cover the whole mess with ice for 3 hours. (My mom has always used the slicing disk on her food processor to slice the veggies. My grandma used to do it by hand–feasible, but it’ll take awhile.)



When it’s time to get to canning, drain the cukes really well and put them in a big pot with the vinegar, sugar, and spices. (The amount of sugar in this recipe looks kind of insane, I know. But it makes a lot and it’s not like you’re going to drink the pickle juice, right? Who does that? I would certainly never do that…) At this point you also need to sterilize your jars and lids by boiling them for several minutes. (This is important! If you don’t sterilize your jars don’t come suing me over your botulism!)


Boil the bejeezus out of those jars and lids, and meanwhile, heat the pot of pickles just to boiling, stirring occasionally. They’ll change from a happy green color to a more muted, pickle-y color. Then take out the jars one-by-one, fill ’em with pickles and juice (a wide-mouth funnel is helpful here), and screw on the lids. Use potholders and tongs as needed, people–this is hot stuff! When the jars seal properly, there will be a little “pop” sound as the lid goes down. Once the jars are cool, press on the lids to see if they still have some give in them. If you get one that does, you’ve gotta refrigerate it, my friend. Eat that one first, because those pickles will not stand the test of time.


I’m going to type out the recipe below, just as it appears in the cookbook, plus the helpful hints my mom has written in with pencil over the years. Give it a try, and have yourself a splendid weekend!

Lovingly in P.E.O.,


Crisp Pickle Slices

  • 4 qts sliced medium cucumbers
  • 6 medium white onions, sliced
  • 2 green peppers, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 c. coarse salt (pickling/canning salt)
  • 5 c. sugar
  • 1 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1 1/2 tsp celery seed
  • 2 tbsp mustard seed
  • 3 c. cider vinegar

“Do not pare cucmbers; slice thin. Add onions, peppers and whole garlic cloves. Add salt and cover with cracked ice; mix thoroughly. Let stand 3 hours. Drain thoroughly. Combine remaining ingredients, pour over cucumber mixture. Heat just to a boil. Seal in hot sterilized jars. Makes 8 pints.”

Notes: We usually use about 16 cups of sliced cucumbers, and end up with about 10 pint jars at the end.