Healthy Crockpot Recipes: Apple Butter

Many of you offered suggestions as to how to make Apple Butter – thank you!

My house smelled wonderful for hours, thanks to all of you! I decided to experiment with my friend Leesa’s apple butter method, and found it to be very simple and delicious. I only made a small amount this time, since I was experimenting – so you’ll want to double or triple this recipe if you want a larger amount. When I started with one quart of applesauce, I ended up with two and a half – half pints of apple butter.  However, it is very clear to me that writing half – half just looks weird and confusing.  It may make more sense for me to say that one quart of applesauce resulted in 2.5 half-pint jars.

Or we could say that I ended up with one full pint plus a half of a half pint of apple butter. This is, of course, the same as two and a half cups of apple butter, which is otherwise known as five half cup portions of apple butter, better known as ten – 1/4 cup portions, which we all know is precisely 20 – half of a half of a half of a half of a half pints of apple butter. Give or take a half of a half of a pint.

I’m done now.

Homemade Apple ButterYum

Healthy Crockpot Recipes: Apple Butter
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 1 quart homemade apple sauce
  • 2 Tablespoons sucanat
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
Instructions
  1. Stir ingredients into a crock pot.
  2. Cook on low for about six hours on low setting, with LID OFF, stirring occasionally.
  3. Store the apple butter in the refrigerator - or process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes to seal.
  4. If the jars are sealed properly, you can store your apple butter in the pantry until you're ready to serve.

Find my Homemade Apple Sauce recipe here. Read information on how to process in a hot water bath for 10 minutes to seal your jars here.

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Caution:  Contents cooking in crock pot are hot. Refrain from sticking a finger into the crock pot for a lick, even though the delicious smell will create a major temptation.  Dipping in with a teaspoon is obviously a much better option. No double dipping allowed. In addition, be aware that partaking in too many licks from the crock pot will result in a smaller amount of finished product, which will mean that all of the math I labored over above, rounding carefully to the nearest half of a half pint, will be null and void.

Leaving the Skins on Homemade Applesauce and Apple Pies

Slowly but surely I’m getting a few things figured out with this applesauce-making business. Many of you left comments sharing that you were shocked that with all the canning I do, I don’t have a Victorio. Others were shocked that I take off the apple skins. Yep, I’m just learning along with the rest of us here. I didn’t grow up doing any canning, so I’m learning as I go. I’d never even heard of a Victorio or a Squeezo before last week, so I’ve appreciated your ideas and suggestions!

Since I don’t have a Victorio strainer, nor do I know anyone who has one I can borrow, and since I’ve got apples that need to be put up right now, I went ahead and tried yet another applesauce method. Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner! (I think we will probably end up investing in a nice strainer, especially for tomato sauce. But for apples, can you all reassure me that the bad, wormy parts in the apples really do get strained out?  I’m still hesitant about that since the apples I work with aren’t always pretty once I cut into them. Really – do I just quarter them and throw them all into the pot, worms and all?)

This time, I followed the advice of leaving the skins on and blending them up along with the apples. I hesitated with this idea at first because I figured there would be little bits of apple peelings in the sauce and that my family would rebel. Well, what’s a mother to do, but to try the idea and not tell her family what she’s done?

Sure enough – I cooked my apples, ran it all through my food processor, served it up, and would you believe – not one boy or husband knew that there were apple peelings in the applesauce!

Not only did this method save lots of time, we’re getting a healthier applesauce. Plus, there was much less waste – so I got several more quarts of applesauce for my efforts!! Ahhh, I’m so happy about this.

Applesauce Instructions:

Quarter and core apples, cutting out bad spots. Cook apples in a large pot, following these directions. When the apples are soft, run them through a food processor until smooth. See, the peelings just get blended up in there! (I don’t have an immersion blender, but according to many of you, sticking the immersion blender directly into the pot saves yet another step. I may ask for one for Christmas.)  :)

I used some of my “special” jars this time, because this applesauce is so pretty. These jars came from my late friend Lorna Mae. I miss her. :(  I think she’d be thrilled that her jars are being put to good use for my family.

I also made a bunch of mini apple pies, a big apple pie and an apple crisp – all with apple skins left on. I may never peel another apple again.

 

So there we have it. Leaving the skins on the apples when making applesauce and apple pies saves time and adds nutrients. Now, on to the Apple Butter…

Healthy Homemade {Pink} Applesauce

For years, I’ve used this method of making applesauce. The past couple of years, I’ve decided to try something new, in an effort to cut down on preparation time and to make the homemade applesauce a bit healthier. Still, I have to say, this process still takes quite a bit of time and effort. After spending several hours making applesauce yesterday and only yielding five quarts – I felt a little bit discouraged. Several of you have mentioned that a Victorio Food Strainer is a worthwhile investment. After looking into this, I have to say that Matt and I are talking seriously about making the purchase. Check out this pretty tool. Does that not look like a life saver when making applesauce and tomato sauce?

Here is a run-down of yesterday’s applesauce process:

We used a mixture of apples, most of which had very dark red skin (Empire, I think). Cooking the apples with skin on created a lovely pink colored applesauce. To start, we gave the apples a good washing. I looked around for the cutest assistant I could find. Since everyone else was busy with math and vocabulary lessons, Malachi got the job.

While he was washing apples (about 18 pounds), I prepped my huge stock pot. I stirred 2 heaping tablespoons of Vitamin C Powder (ascorbic acid to keep the apples from turning brown) into 5 cups of water.

Then, I began to quarter and cut out all yucky parts. These apples were mostly organic (he had sprayed a little bit early on before the fruit set on), so there were some wormy parts to cut out. As I added apples, I stirred them around so that they would be coated with the ascorbic acid/water to  keep them from browning.


I continued this process until my pot was full and until my right hand was cramped permanently into a claw-like position.

I then cooked the apples on the stove for about an hour, stirring occasionally, until they became nice and soft.

Next I blended the apples in my Blendtec, careful to dip down to the bottom of the pot to get some of the juices with each scoop. I blend until the peelings are completely pureed along with the flesh of the apples. This makes the applesauce pretty and creamy!

Applesauce Cups

I ended up with smooth, beautiful, delicious applesauce that my family had seconds and thirds of at lunch time.

I then canned four remaining quarts (using this water bath process for 20 minutes) and put them into my pantry.

What do you use to make applesauce? I highly recommend the Blendtec to make this process super easy! (I also love the Blendtec for oodles of other kitchen tasks.)

I have yet to make apple butter or any of the other tasty apple dishes I talked about earlier this week. I do believe that next I will experiment with my crock pot and apple butter. Which means that I really need to make some whole wheat biscuits. Doesn’t apple butter spread on a hot, fresh biscuit sound wonderful?

Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce – easy!

When you make tomato sauce on the stove-top, it takes several hours, plus you have to stir the sauce quite often to keep it from scalding on the bottom. No biggie – I’ve done it this way forever and it hasn’t killed me yet.  But guess what? My friend Anne just figured out a way to make tomato sauce in the oven and it’s even easier!!!! (Maybe some of you  have been doing it this way all along and it’s only new to Anne and me?)

If you’ve read my stove-top tomato sauce directions, you already know that I do not peel my tomatoes nor do I take the seeds out. I just blend up the tomatoes and call it good. Some might call this lazy. Shucks, I call this lazy. But this is one instance where being lazy works fine. You are very welcome to take off the skins and take out the seeds if you prefer.

I never measure or weigh my tomatoes, but in doing a little searching on the internet, I find that it takes 35-45 pounds of tomatoes to make 7 quarts of sauce. How many tomatoes equals one pound? It totally depends on the tomato. What kind of tomatoes can you use to make sauce? Whatever kind you want. We always plant a variety of tomatoes and throw them all together into our sauce.

Because tomatoes are very acidic (especially heirloom tomatoes), I’m not terribly concerned about adding lemon juice to my sauce. However, if you feel more comfortable adding lemon juice for safety, you’ll want to use about 2 Tablespoons in each quart jar.

Now, how to make Oven Roasted Tomato Sauce:

First wash your tomatoes (unless you enjoy the grit of soil from your garden…mmm).

Next, cut up your tomatoes and throw them into a roasting pan or any large baking dish. I usually cut my larger tomatoes into fourths and my smaller tomatoes in half.

Place the container of tomatoes (uncovered) into a 350° oven for about 1 1/2 hours or until the tomatoes are all shrivelled up and are floating in their own juices.

Run them through a strainer so that all you have left is the shrivelled tomatoes.

Place the tomatoes in a blender until smooth. Or better yet!! Run them through a Victorio!!!

Can them in a water bath (you can read more about this process here) for 25-30 minutes.

Are you a canner? Have you ever tried making tomato sauce this way?

Apple Pie Filling

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What started out as seven grocery bags full of apples to trip over in our kitchen is now down to only three grocery bags full of apples to trip over. We’ve shared some (meaning we’ve begged people to take some off of our hands), made applesauce, dried apple rings and now apple pie filling.

Oh yeah, and we’ve eaten a bunch.

This was my first time to try canning apple pie filling and I am pleased with the results. It’s a little time consuming to make, but it isn’t hard. Will the hard work be worth it in February when I make a quick Whole Wheat Pie Crust, pour out the contents of the jar and bake a pie? Oh yes, I think so.

To make Apple Pie Filling you will need:

About 25 medium sized apples
1 1/2 cups sucanat or brown sugar
3 Tablespoons cinnamon
3 Tablespoons cornstarch, arrowroot powder or flour
1 cup water
1/4 cup lemon juice

(This amount makes 3 quart sized jars – enough for three nice sized pies.)

Peel, core and slice your apples.

Add remaining ingredients.

Stir and cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes until
a nice little syrup has formed and your apples are slightly tender.

Scoop apple pie filling into sterilized canning jars.
Hot water bath the pie filling for 25 minutes.

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To make pie:

Prepare this Whole Wheat Pie Crust and place it in a pie pan. Dump contents of Apple Pie Filling jar into the crust. Use bits of leftover crust to put little cut-outs onto the pie, or make a crumb topping. Bake at 350° for one hour.

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And now a little Q&A…

What kind of apples should I use for this apple pie filling?

I would suggest using the kind you get for free. Those taste best in a pie. Otherwise, granny smith makes a really good apple pie. Some of you want to share your favorite apples for pie making?

Can I freeze my pie filling?

You can certainly freeze this apple pie filling if you’d rather not can it, or if you don’t have canning equipment. I chose to can it because all of my freezers are pretty well full of meat, green beans, corn, strawberries, peaches… Wow God is good!

Can I use this apple pie filling to make an apple crisp?

Oh look – here’s a recipe for a Healthy Fruit Crisp. :)

How to Make Sweet Pickle Relish (the healthier way)

Your family will be so excited that I am giving you this sweet pickle relish recipe. Yes, the very strong smell of onions, cucumbers and vinegar cooking on your stove will bring them to tears and make them beg for a spoonful. (Or rather they will be like my boys and come downstairs with a disgusted look on their faces while holding their noses asking WHAT in the world you are making.)

Don’t worry…the smell in your kitchen goes away. Eventually. And then you are left with several jars of sweet pickle relish…enough to last you quite a while. (This recipe makes more than a year’s supply for our family. We don’t tend to go through pickle relish very quickly, but I really like having it on hand.)

If you have a few extra cucumbers and enjoy adding sweet pickle relish to your tuna salad, etc…you’ll like this healthier version. I cut the sugar in half compared to the other recipes I found..plus used organic sucanat (dehydrated cane sugar juice) instead of regular sugar and it is plenty sweet enough for our taste!

Homemade Sweet Pickle Relish Recipe

Sweet Pickle RelishYum

How to Make Sweet Pickle Relish (the healthier way)
 
Author:
Ingredients
  • 8 medium sized cucumbers
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 sweet green peppers
  • 1 sweet red pepper
  • ⅓ cup sea salt
  • 3 cups rapadura or sucanat
  • 3 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 T. whole celery seed
  • 2 T. whole mustard seed
Instructions
  1. Begin by slicing the cucumbers, peppers and onions.
  2. Chop the vegetables into tiny pieces. I find that putting them into my food processor works best for this.
  3. Pour the chopped veggies into a large bowl.
  4. Cover them with water and let them soak for about two hours (longer won't hurt).
  5. Pour the soaked veggies through a strainer until all the water is drained out.
  6. Pour strained veggies into a bowl and add remaining ingredients.
  7. Stir well.
  8. Pour contents of bowl into a large pot.
  9. Bring to a boil.
  10. Simmer relish for ten minutes, then transfer it into pint sized jars. (I was able to make six full pints, with a little bit leftover.)
  11. Following these hot water bath canning methods, process the pickle relish for 10 minutes (from start of boiling).

 picklerelish1sm
Begin by slicing the cucumbers, peppers and onions.

    picklerelish2sm
Chop the vegetables into tiny pieces.
I find that putting them into my food processor works best for this.

piclerelish3sm
Pour the chopped veggies into a large bowl.
Cover them with water and let them soak for about two hours (longer won’t hurt).

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Pour the soaked veggies through a strainer until all the water is drained out.

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Pour strained veggies into a bowl and add remaining ingredients.

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Stir well.

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Pour contents of bowl into a large pot. Bring to a boil.

Simmer relish for ten minutes, then transfer it into pint sized jars. (I was able to make six full pints, with a little bit leftover.)

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Following these hot water bath canning methods,
process the pickle relish for 10 minutes (from start of boiling).

picklerelishsm
Six beautiful jars of pickle relish all ready to go!

You’ll find more preserving help and tutorials in my Gardening and Preserving ebook!

The cost for this relish was very low, as the cucumbers were given to me for free and the other veggies came from my garden. The added ingredients were low cost as it all divided into SIX jars of pickle relish! Each jar only cost a few cents. I LOVE gardening season!

What to Look for At Garage Sales if You’re Planning to Preserve Food!

Freezing and canning your fruits and vegetables for the winter saves a LOT of money…but getting started can COST a lot of money too. There are some supplies that you just have to have. Almost all of the supplies you need are “one time only” purchases, so if you have to pay full price, you will get your money back on it eventually if you continue to preserve food through the years.

But…if you plan on going to garage sales or auctions this summer…here are a few things to keep your eye out for so that you can try to get a better deal:

Jars. Jars…jars…and more jars. 

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Ball® 16oz. Wide Mouth Jars with Lids

Jars are a must if you plan on doing any canning. Not a lot of people do much canning anymore, so they are ready to get rid of their jars. I’ve seen big boxes of them for super cheap at garage sales. I buy all I can get my hands on anytime I see them for a good price. I don’t even need anymore jars (I have over 300!), but I have friends who need them so I still grab them when I see them at a sale!

My favorites are the “wide mouth” jars, which tend to cost more at the store. I consider it to be a big score if I find wide mouth jars at a garage sale.  

And…here’s a little tip I learned from a friend of mine (who likes jars almost as much as I do):  If you see a box of jars at a garage sale…ask the owner if they have any more jars anywhere they’d like to get rid of. When my friend did this…the lady hosting the sale went down to her basement and brought up bunches of boxes of jars she was happy to part with! It NEVER hurts to ask!!!

Hot Water Bath Pot

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Granite Ware 21-Quart Covered Preserving Canner with Rack

If you’re just going to be canning in small pint sized jars, you can use a big soup pot. (The water has to be high enough to cover your jars as you process them.)  But, if you’re canning in quart sized jars you’ll need a Hot Water Bath Pot. It’s just the right size to hold seven quart sized jars.

My dad found two of them for me at an auction once for about a dollar. At that time, I hadn’t even learned to can yet…but that was motivation for me to learn!!

Cherry Pitter 

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Norpro Deluxe Cherry Stoner/Pitter

If you have a cherry tree or know someone who does…it saves a lot of time (and broken teeth) if you take out the pits with a cherry pitter. Mine is probably an antique, but it works great and saves me a lot of time!

Food Mill

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Mirro 50024 2-quart FOLEY Food Mill, Stainless Steel

I usually make my applesauce in a blender, but if you prefer to leave your peelings on your apples…cook them down, then run them through a food mill like this one. I have one and while it takes quite a bit of muscle to get a big batch of applesauce made, it’s yummy!

Funnel 

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Norpro Stainless Steel Wide-Mouth Funnel

In my opinion, a wide mouth funnel is a must-have for canning. I use mine ALL THE TIME. I paid full price for mine through Azure Standard and it was well worth it. But, I wouldn’t mind a second (or third) one, so I’m keeping my eye out for them at garage sales.

Ziplock bags

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Ziploc® Double Zipper Plastic Freezer Bags, Gallon (94604ZIP) Category: Plastic Ziplock Bags

Okay, you probably won’t find these at garage sales, but while we’re on the subject of saving money while you preserve food, I recommend stocking up on quart and gallon sized freezer bags when they’re on sale and when you have coupons. Two tips:  Only use freezer bags for freezing produce. Regular storage bags won’t cut it. And…stick with name brand Ziplock bags for produce. I won’t tell you about the time I made real apple cider and froze it in generic freezer bags. Let’s just say everything in my freezer was sticky for six months and I lost a lot of my apple cider. :(

Have you found any great deals at garage sales and auctions for canning jars and etcetera? What else am I forgetting to mention that we should be looking out for at garage sales?
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This post is linked to Frugal Fridays.

The Kitchen Overflowing With Fruit Whips Out Some Homemade Fruit Leather

When you look at an apple tree and see that it is loaded with fruit…it’s all so very pretty and exciting. So you begin to pick the apples and load your boxes…and it gets even more pretty and exciting. And then you go overboard because all of it is all so pretty and exciting that you just can’t stop picking.

And then, you go home with all of your apples, and someone else calls you on the phone and asks if you want some more apples. And you say, sure, because you just hate to turn away good (free) food. So then, you have even more apples.

And then someone else calls you (in the same day) and asks if you want some peaches. Like FOUR banana boxes full of peaches. And you get really excited (forgetting briefly about all of the apples) and say, yes, you’d love to have all those peaches. (And then you share some of the peaches because really, four banana boxes full? Have you seen a banana box?)

And then you get started in your kitchen making applesauce and canning and freezing peaches…and you keep working until everything, including your children, begin to look like either an apple or a peach. Sad, but true.

You decide that you’re kind of tired of doing the very same things with your fruit, so you try to make some fruit leather. And it works, and it’s yummy. Everything and everyone around you still looks like an apple or a peach…but at least now, you have another kind of snack stored away in your pantry for the winter. Hooray!

Homemade_Fruit_Leather

Here’s what you would do…

Apple Fruit Leather

1. Make applesauce as shown here.
2. Put a piece of buttered parchment paper on a cookie sheet and spread the applesauce about 1/8 inch thickness on the cookie sheet.

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3. Put it into a 170 degree oven for somewhere between 10-18 hours or longer, depending on your oven. Your fruit leather will be done with it is no longer wet….just sticky and leathery.

You can add some kind of sweetener to it or maybe some cinnamon or nutmeg if you’d like…I just left mine plain and it is sweet and yummy as can be!

Peach Fruit Leather (So Easy!!!)

1. Wash peaches
2. Cut them off of their pit and throw them, skin and all, into the blender.
3. Add a shot of water and puree them until there are no chunks.
4. Spread it onto a piece of buttered parchment paper on a cookie sheet, about 1/8 inch thick.

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5. Put it into a 170 degree oven for somewhere between 10-18 hours or longer,  depending on your oven. Your fruit leather will be done with it is no longer wet….just sticky and leathery.

***A few things to note about making the fruit leather.

*While you are making it you might think that it is taking FOREVER. And you’d be right. It does. Be patient.
*My fruit leather didn’t dry evenly in my oven…so sometimes I would cut off the sections that were dry (so that they wouldn’t get overdone), and stick the rest back in the oven. This meant I had some weird shaped fruit leather, but I was going to cut it all up to store it anyway, so it didn’t matter.
*I loved it that I could put this in the oven in the late evening, then I could go to sleep and have it be all done, or almost done, when I got up in the morning!

I let us all have a sample taste….then I put it into a jar and into the pantry (should be stored in a cool, dark place). Right now we have so many fresh fruits available to us that I’m sort of hoarding the food I’m preserving. I’ll pull out the fruit leather on some wintery day when fresh fruit is not so abundant! THEN it’ll really be a treat!

fruitleather7sm.JPG

Okay, I’m off to go start peeling more apples… :)

Awesome Easy Tomato Soup

Homemade Tomato Soup

It’s almost that time of year again…  The time when we can warm up at lunch with a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup!

I LOVE this recipe that was given to me by my friend Anne…who got it from her friend Anne. (Yeah, like that’s not ever confusing.)  Along with canning lots of tomato sauce and tomato juice and salsa, I love canning several jars of Anne’s tomato soup for the winter! (Wait, which Anne is that?)

Most of the tomato soup you’ll find at the store will have high fructose corn syrup or sugar in it…

This recipe has no sugar…which is amazing because it tastes so yummy and sweet! Once when Matt was eating some, he asked at least three times, “This really doesn’t have any sugar in it?”  :)

Homemade Tomato SoupYum

5 pounds chopped tomatoes
1 cup chopped onion
3 Tablespoon butter
1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

Put everything in a big pot and cook it for about 3 hours. Then, put it into your blender and blend until smooth. Freeze it, or can it following these canning methods (25 minutes in the water bath).

I love having recipes like this that are so simple to make and healthy for my family!

Canning Tomato Juice and Tomato Sauce

Okay, we’ve covered the basics of canningfreezing cornfreezing green beanscanning and freezing peachesmaking and canning applesauce

Now lets talk about tomatoes!

Last year, I planted 40…yes FORTY tomato plants. On purpose. Because I’m crazy.

I ended up having SO MANY tomatoes, that by the end of the summer, I had canned almost two years worth of tomato sauce, tomato juice and tomato soup. And, I still had tomatoes! I was begging people to please come pick my tomatoes and take them far, far away from my house. 

While canning that many tomatoes was a wonderful thing…I still hadn’t fully recovered from it when it came time to plant tomatoes this year. Therefore, I only planted 20 tomato plants this spring. *cough*

The good thing is…I never have to buy any tomato juice, sauce or soup. Ever. And the home-canned stuff is SO GOOD!!!

Here’s the way I make tomato juice and tomato sauce…

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First, you start with bunches and bunches of pretty tomatoes, like these. You can take the skins off and the seeds out if you want to…I pretty much just WASH them. I leave the skin on and and the seeds in…mostly because I’m just too lazy to do otherwise. My family doesn’t know the difference, and you can’t really even tell that the seeds and skin are still there. At all. 

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Next, I cut the tomatoes into fourths and put them into my blender.

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The tomatoes are then blended up until they are liquid. 
(Mmm, tomato smoothie anyone?)

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After I blend up my tomatoes, they go into a big pot.  Obviously this pot was not quite big enough! Filling your pot this full will just about guarantee that your pot will boil over and spill all over your stovetop creating a cooked on tomato mess. (Picture of the boiled over mess not available…because I scooped some out before it boiled over, thank you very much.)

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Next, I boil my tomatoes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. After a while it begins to look like this. Once that bubbly froth is just about all gone from the top (about an hour and a half or so after beginning the boiling process), you have made tomato juice, and you’re able to go ahead with the hot water bath process of canning tomato juice. 

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But, if you want tomato sauce, continue to let it boil for another hour or so. You’ll know your tomato sauce is done “saucing” when most of the watery liquid has evaporated. If you continue to cook it at this point, you will have tomato paste…which is fine…if you want tomato paste.

Can your tomato sauce for 25-30 minutes following the hot water bath instructions here.

Then, you will have tomato juice for yummy veggie soups and such…and tomato sauce for sloppy joes, pizza sauce, spaghetti sauce, enchilada sauce…and whatever else you use tomato sauce for. (If you want to, you can add your herbs and spices into the sauce while your making it so that you’ve got your spaghetti and pizza sauce already put together in your jars!)

I have a wonderful recipe for tomato soup that I’ll be sure to share soon! 
Yumm-eeee!