The cool breeze has officially brought the autumn season upon us. While we put our shorts and bathing suits away and take out our winter attire, we need to decide what to do with our remaining summer garden produce. Everyone tackles the end of gardening season differently. Some will just eat the last of the tomatoes and fruits as they are, others will make pestos, jam and sauces out of them. For those who think making a jam or a sauce is too difficult, you will soon be converted as both recipes are deliciously simple.
Purchasing and sterilizing the jars
The first thing you need when making sauce or jam is jars. Any jars made out of glass and can close tightly are good. You can buy a box of 12 mason glass jars for under $10 at Rona.
Once you have acquired your jars, the first step is to sterilize them. You can wash them with hot water and soap or you can put the jars and caps in a pot of boiling water. Make sure to sterilize the tongs you will use to remove them and be careful not to put them on a dish rag to dry. The reason is because the rag will contaminate the sterilized jar and will force you to start the process all over again.
Once you have properly sterilized, turn your oven on to the minimum heat setting and put only the jars inside. This dries your jars and keeps them warm, which is important because if you put hot jam into a cold jar it will tense up the fruit.
Nonna Pina’s Sicilian salsa di pomodoro
When it comes to preserving your tomatoes, the easiest thing to make is tomato sauce. One simply can’t compare canned to homemade tomato sauce, especially when the recipe comes from a Sicilian grandmother (namely, my own).
– 20 or more tomatoes
– 1/2 teaspoon of salt per 20 tomatoes (can add more if necessary)
– 1 sprig of fresh basil for every jar
This sauce has a very simple flavour which allows you to dress the sauce up and add other seasonings.
1. The first step is to get all your nice, red tomatoes soaking in cold water. Once they’re clean, cut off the stems and any bruised or sick looking areas. If you see a black spot, cut it out.
2. Once you are done, put a large pot on the stove at medium-low heat.
3. Then chop the tomatoes into fours and throw the pieces into the pot, add some salt and cover.
By covering the pot, the steam inside will release all the liquid from the tomatoes, which is what we want to happen; this is what gives the tomato sauce its consistency.
The reason you add such a little amount of salt is that it is all that is necessary to take the tomatoes from sweet to savoury. Keep in mind that this sauce will go straight to the jars, but once you use it for your pasta then you can add more salt and spices for taste.
Note: To quicken this process, take a potato masher and mash the tomatoes to release the juices.
4. Don’t forget to stir at least every couple of minutes. The tomatoes will most lately take up to 20 minutes to release all their juices.
5. Next, take a tomato strainer and put one to two ladles of sauce in at a time. The strainer blends your tomatoes and your juices while separating the skins.
If you don’t have a tomato strainer then you could use a blender but you will have to pick out any dry tomato skins that you see by hand.
6. Take your jars out of the oven and fill them with your tomato sauce. Add the fresh basil leaves on top and seal the jars.
7. Put the jars in any room that is at room temperature and cover them with a blanket for two weeks.
The blanket keeps the tomato sauce warm and gradually eases the sauce to room temperature. The jars need to stay warm and covered, otherwise the lids will pop allowing air to enter the jars and spoil the sauce.
Phil’s strawberry, apple and blueberry fusion
Finding a jam recipe I liked was difficult. A lot of them called for pectin, which is a thickening agent made up of the carbohydrates from heavy fruits like apples. It is used in jams, cosmetics and pharmaceuticals. I wanted to make a jam that didn’t involve thickening agents or anything but fresh fruits and a lot of sugar.
This recipe is a combination of several different ones and the result is one super delicious jam.
– 6 cups of strawberries, chopped into fours
– 1/2 cup of blueberries
– 1 apple, finely chopped and peeled
– 3 cups of white sugar
– 1 tablespoon of lemon juice
– 1 tablespoon of apple juice, preferably all natural apple juice
First things first: now that you know how to do it, wash your jars and put them in the oven.
1. Wash your strawberries and hull them. Hulling your strawberries means you are going to take the tip of your knife, insert it near the stem and cut a circle all around the stem. When removed properly the stem and core should look like a mini cone.
The reason you’re doing this is because you do not want the cores in your jam, because they are not going to become as soft as the rest of the strawberry.
2. Once they are hulled, chop your strawberries into fours and add them to a large pot on medium heat.
3. Then, wash your blueberries and add them to the pot. You do not need to chop them, just add them whole.
4. Next, peel and finely chop your apple and put it in the pot. Apple picking season is almost over, so if you want a really fresh one, run to a farm now! (You can pick up the apple juice while you are there, too.)
5. Add the three cups of white sugar, lemon juice and apple juice to the pot.
6. Turn your stove to medium heat and watch the sugar dissolve.
Making jam actually does not require that much stirring, but keep an eye on your jam to making sure it is not burning, especially on the bottom.
7. Let it cook for about 25 minutes.Your jam should transform from a red to a fuchsia colour. Once it is fuchsia just stir to make sure everything is mixed in perfectly and that there aren’t any apple pieces that are still yellow in colour.
8. When everything looks ready, take the pot off the heat and wait about 10 minutes before putting your piping hot jam into the hot jars.
9. After closing them tightly, place a dish rag or towel around the jars and leave them in the fridge for two weeks before eating.