How to Can Your Own Tomato Based Spaghetti Sauce

Canning your own food assures you of the quality, and gives you control over the ingredients in commonly used foods. When you find that a member of the family needs to reduce their salt intake, for instance, the need to preserve your own food becomes a priority. But sometimes the motivation is just because you have a very special recipe and you want to can a supply for use in the winter while summer supplies are still abundant and relatively cheap. Homemade tomato based spaghetti sauce can be preserved by canning in quarts for a large family or in pint jars for two.

The steps to canning the sauce start with assembling all the canning supplies. The reason to assemble the supplies before you make the sauce is that you want to put the freshly made sauce, boiling hot, right into the jars and seal it. The sauce decreases in nutritional quality if cooled and reheated before canning.

Your tomato based sauce will be high acid (because of the tomatoes) so it can be safely processed in a boiling water bath. Boiling water bath canners are sold commercially or can be any kettle in your kitchen that meets these 3 criteria:
1. The jars need to be completely covered with two inches of water above the tops of the jars when the water is at a full boil
2. The kettle needs to have a tight fitting lid
3. The jars must be held off the bottom of the kettle by a screen so the heat can penetrate evenly (a round cake cooling screen in the bottom of the kettle will work).

Be sure you have all the utensils you will need located and freshly washed in hot soapy water and rinsed well before you begin. You will also want to wash your jars and metal screw bands in hot soapy water and rinse well before you start because you will want to use the sink for other purposes once you get started. Here is a list of items to assemble:
� Spoons and spatulas: Ladles, wooden or plastic long handled spoons, slotted spoons, measuring spoons, and spatulas.
� Knives: Your favorite paring knife, a good vegetable chopping knife and the handy little veggie peeler.
� Measuring Cups: several measuring cups of varying volumes
� A kitchen timer: timing is essential for the success of boiling water bath canning.
� Jar Lifter: This is a specialty item found where canning supplies are sold. I have lifted the jars with out one but it is dangerous and difficult.
� Jars: Use only jars that are manufactured for the purpose of canning. Kerr, Mason or Ball jars can be purchased from grocery stores or canning supply outlets during the canning season. I have noted that Bi-Mart has them all year long. The jars come with lids and metal screw band rings when you buy them. To reuse them you only have to purchase lids as the bands and jars are reusable.
� Lids: If you have a supply of jars (my mother gave me a lot of jars and aunts and friends gave me jars as well so I am well supplied with jars) you will only need to make sure you have enough metal screw bands and purchase the lids.
� Jar filling funnel: You can find jar filling funnels where you purchase other canning supplies. Be sure you get one to fit the size jar mouth you are using.

Make the first batch of sauce:
When you have assembled all the supplies you need it is time to make your first batch of sauce. Do not try to double the recipe. When making large amounts just do it in batches that will fill enough jars for one canner at a time. If you make more it just sits around loosing quality and gaining bacteria while it waits to be processed.

Tomato Based Spaghetti Meat Sauce

4 quarts peeled, cored, chopped tomatoes (Roma tomatoes are best because they are meaty with less watery juice)
3 cups chopped yellow Spanish onions
2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups finely chopped celery
1 �½ cups diced green peppers
1 cup diced yellow banana peppers
2 pounds ground beef
4 large cloves garlic, crushed
2 table spoons Italian seasoning mix
2 cups sliced mushrooms
�¾ tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

Brown the beef in a large saucepan with the onions, celery, and carrots. When the carrots are just beginning to get tender add the peppers. In a large sauce pot simmer the tomatoes until they reduce and begin to thicken, add the meat and vegetable mixture, and stir gently, add the seasonings and add the mushrooms last. Taste the sauce, if it is too tart; add a bit of brown sugar. Tomatoes should be ripe but they do vary in acidity so adjust the taste to your preference as needed. Simmer until all ingredients are tender and flavors are blended, stir frequently to prevent scorching.

While the sauce simmers get ready for the next step:

1. Look at your jars for nicks in the top rim, cracks in the body or bubble defects in the glass. Discard any imperfect jars.
2. Check all those metal screw bands for excessive rust, and toss out any that are bent or rusted.
3. You have already washed and rinsed your jars and rings so now you need to simmer the lids and screw bands at a temperature of 180 degrees and keep the jars in a hot water bath until you are ready for them.
4. When your sauce is done to perfection place a pan beside your simmering pot of sauce to catch the drips. Put your first jar in that pan and place your funnel in the mouth of the jar. Ladle boiling hot sauce into the jar. Be sure to leave �½ inch head space, remove the funnel, quickly wipe any drips off the sealing surface of the jar top with a clean wet cloth and place the lid on the mouth of the jar so the rubbery sealing material is firmly in contact with the top edge of the jar.
5. Screw the bands on nice and hand tight but do not use a jar wrench or other device. Hand tight is good.
6. Place your first jar into the canner and quickly go on to the next jar, repeating the process until the first canner is full. Cover the jars with very hot water making sure it is one to two inches over the tops of the jars.
7. Hot packed pints must be processed at a rolling boil for 10 minutes and quarts for 15 minutes.
8. Take the jars out of the canner with the jar tongs immediately when the processing time is up. Place them about an inch apart on a towel in a place away from drafts as a cool breeze can break a jar with a pop that you only want to hear once in you lifetime.

When your jars have all sealed and rested for 24 hours, remove the metal bands and wipe them down to remove any residue that might be on them. Place labels on the lids because they can be hard to remove from the jars when you use the contents. Every label should contain the product name, the date it was processed, and the proud cook’s name.

Home canned food should be kept in a cool, dark, and of course dry cupboard area or pantry. Because many modern homes do not have pantries like the country home I grew up in, a good substitute can be the hall closet fitted with sturdy shelves. That is basically all there is to canning your own spaghetti sauce.
For the best information on home canning contact your local extension office or get a copy of the “Ball Blue Book, The Guide to Home Canning and Freezing”.

Caution: The kitchen is no place for little children while Mom is canning. Have someone watch your babies for you because you need to concentrate on what you are doing; the dangers of canning with babies or toddlers under foot cannot be over emphasized.

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