Grandma’s Spaghetti Sauce is Boss!

Homemade. The taste of home. Nothing compares. It is the taste of good memories. This is the recipe my grandma used to make, and I am lucky enough to be the owner of it.  It is in her handwriting and beautiful in all its aged and sauce splattered-up glory. A priceless treasure (to me). Grandma canned countless jars of spaghetti sauce, apple butter, pears, peaches, green beans & peas. I remember seeing the shelves in her old basement filled to maximum capacity with home canned goods. It somehow made the spooky basement seem ‘less’ spooky.

Grandma’s spaghetti sauce

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Here is the recipe:

Spaghetti Sauce

  • 1/2 bushel of tomatoes
  • 1 pint olive oil
  • 3 pounds of onions
  • 2 bulbs garlic
  • 8 cans tomato paste (6 oz cans)
  • 4 hot peppers
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/2 salt (I use 1/4 cup because my kids say it is too salty otherwise)
  • 1 Tablespoon Basil
  • 2 Tablespoons Oregano
  • 1 Or 2 Bay leaves

This is the second year I’ve been making my own sauce. Collecting your bounty and being able to enjoy it throughout the winter is satisfying on more levels than just making your taste-buds happy. The feeling of knowing you can provide for your family in this way without being (so) dependent on the supermarket is absolutely liberating. It’s a feel-good that goes right down to your core. We thank ❤️ God Almighty ❤️ every day for this.

Picking tomatoes is the first step in making your own heavenly sauce. We are lucky enough to have the acreage to grow a nice big garden. There have been years where we were hit hard with blight and haven’t been so lucky. I’ll talk about how to control blight in another post. Eventually. Some day.

Picking tomatoes

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You can use any variety of tomatoes for making spaghetti sauce, however, the variety I prefer is Roma. Romas are ‘meatier’ and have less water content to reduce in the end. If you don’t want to spend days and days cooking sauce to get it to the right consistency, I suggest you go this route and use Romas too. Although, if you plead your case “I’ve been standing literally all day!” you might get a nice foot rub?

Roma Tomatoes are best for spaghetti sauce

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The next step is to rinse off the tomatoes, and cut out any bad spots.

Wash tomatoes and cut out the bad spots

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Then I put them in a pot with a couple glasses of water. I turn the heat on low and put a lid on to let the steam soften them up. Then I drain them.

Now it’s time to remove the skins and seeds. I have an attachment for my Kitchen Aid to do this, but you can get a manual one relatively cheap.

Removing skins and seeds from tomatoes. This part can get messy. 😝

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Next, use a food mill to grind the onions, garlic and hot peppers.

Making spaghetti sauce

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Grinding onions, hot peppers and garlic for spaghetti sauce

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Cook this in olive oil for 30 minutes.

Cooking the onions, garlic and hot peppers in olive oil for spaghetti sauce

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Add the oil, onions, garlic and hot peppers to the tomatoes. Add all the rest of the ingredients. Except the sugar. Add optional items like mushrooms. Add the sugar about an hour before you plan to put into the jars. I find that when I add the sugar too early, it burns to the bottom of the pan a little.

Spaghetti sauce spices

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Cook until desired thickness is reached.

Cooking the spaghetti sauce on low heat to reduce the water content.

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Put into clean sterilized canning jars. Fill jars to 1/4 inch of the rim, wipe rims and put on the lids and bands. Don’t over tighten the lids, you just want the lid to stay on the jar and seal. Put the jars into your pressure cooker on the rack, with water (I put the water 1/3 – 1/2 way up the jars, but you should refer to your specific canner manual if possible) and close it up. Allow steam to come out of the pressure hole for at least 10 minutes before putting on the pressure weight, to remove any pockets of air inside. I use the chart for canning sauce with meat, because my grandma’s recipe uses oil.

Do not start timing until the weight on top of the canner begins to rattle. It should rattle every few seconds – a few times per minute. If it doesn’t have a pause between rattles, the heat is too high. Turn it down.

If you are using a dial-gauge pressure, please refer to instructions for use.

Below is a handy chart for pressure canning the sauce. Alternatively, you can freeze the sauce in freezer bags. I find they freeze very nicely when you lay them flat, and as they freeze you can stack them.

 If you are using a phone or tablet, you might have to turn your device sideways to view the chart correctly.

Table 1: Recommended process time for Spaghetti Sauce With Meat in a dial-gauge pressure canner.
Canner Gauge Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size Process Time 0 – 2,000 ft 2,001 – 4,000 ft 4,001 – 6,000 ft 6,001 – 8,000 ft
Hot Pints 60 min 11 lb 12 lb 13 lb 14 lb
Quarts 70 11 12 13 14
Table 2: Recommended process time for Spaghetti Sauce With Meat in a weighted-gauge pressure canner.
Canner Gauge Pressure (PSI) at Altitudes of
Style of Pack Jar Size Process Time 0 – 1,000 ft Above 1,000 ft
Hot Pints 60 min 10 lb 15 lb
Quarts 70 10 15

Finished spaghetti sauce cooling on the counter.

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Cool jars on the counter for 24 hours. Check seals. If there are any that didn’t seal, reprocess them with a new lid. If it still doesn’t seal, offer to wash someone’s skunk sprayed dog with it? I think you can run a Craigslist ad for something like that.

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