For those of you that have been following the saga of the sauce, I’ll begin with a brief update. I’ve harvested my first batch of tomatoes (Cherokee Purples) from the tomato patch, but they’re still not quite ripe enough for sauce-making. The next round of sauce-making, however, was a substantial improvement over the previous. I started with much riper (store-bought) tomatoes, and I followed a recipe that I found on a blog site, (more on this below) a simple recipe that made a delicious sauce. I am more than satisfied that the first objective of my challenge: to learn to make a tomato sauce from fresh tomatoes - has been accomplished. The second objective: canning said sauce - has proven somewhat more elusive. While I did successfully can the most recent batch of sauce using a pressure cooker, I did not use a USDA approved recipe, and therefore might be at risk according to some. Herein lies the challenge. Tested and approved recipes are important for canning - nobody wants botulism. Tested and approved recipes, however, are somewhat uncommon, and often pretty basic. Making delicious sauce? Check. Canning sauce? Check. Canning the delicious sauce? Not recommended by the USDA.
I’ll continue to try out new recipes, particularly once my tomato crop is fully ready. I intend to experiment with some basic USDA recipes for canning tomato sauce, but I also intent to simply can fresh crushed tomatoes, in order to give myself more flexibility with recipes. While it won’t be ready-to-eat out of the jar, I’ll be confident that I’m not going to get sick. Plenty of folks that I heard from in the videos and blogs I read assured me that “my Granny’s been doing this for 300 years and she ain’t never got sick!” I’d like to believe them, and my intuition tells me that certain methods should be safe, but if I’m going to be feeding my family (including young children), it’s probably best to air on the side of safety.
The entirety of this learning process was done through networked learning. I intentionally depended on networked “human” sources - YouTube videos, blog posts, forums - rather than traditional sources like recipe books. The recipe that I most recently discovered was on a blog called Smitten Kitchen. The post was titled “naked tomato sauce,” and in the words of the author, “The tomato flavor is so pure, so clear, so tart and sweet and roasted all at once, I was desperate to crack the code…” That sounded great, and I can largely corroborate her findings.
One of the fascinating things about networked learning is that the resource you’ve discovered is often already several steps along the network. The previous quote continues, “...and it didn’t take long for Google to unearth for me the secret ingredient: Nothing. Nothing! Not onions or carrots or celery. No tomato paste, no slow-roasted garlic, no tomato variety so rare, you’ll need a second mortgage to even be allowed to look at it. The recipe for the sauce is pretty much just tomatoes, cooked until saucy.” The blog that I was reading wasn’t claiming to own the recipe, but was actually relaying a review and lightly modified (remixed) recipe from her network.
The greatest challenge of using only networked resources for this learning project was that the official recipes, guidelines, and techniques for canning safely were generally off-limits. The great benefit of it is that you gain insights, opinions, ideas, and tangential information that you would never come across in the straightforward canonical, authoritative guide. Furthermore, you have the opportunity to engage the resources you come across through comments and messages. While it will be a relief to be able to consult the “official” sources for the next batch, I encourage you all to explore the full wealth of available networked experience and knowledge when you embark on your next learning project.
Check out the video below for some saucy tips and tricks.