I am sure all of us have had times when you get home from a long day and really don’t want to cook. I have many days that I just don’t plan ahead enough and it is 5 and I still have no idea what we are going to eat and everyone is hungry. This is my back up plan, it is a home-made tomato sauce that we use as a chili base and saves me from making the chili base from scratch every time. No looking to see if I have all the ingredients. No reason to worry over long cooking times.So when cool weather sets in and chili sounds like the perfect meal to put together in a slow cooker or a quick last-minute dinner this is the way our family makes chili. I also love that it uses a large amount of our garden tomatoes every year.
The idea to can a chili base came from my father in law and his disliked of making a pasta sauce that needed hours to cook down. This idea is so much faster and easier than making large amounts of pasta sauce. It also tastes great and a 1/2 bushel of tomatoes ( about 25 pounds or about 80 to 90 plum tomatoes ) makes about 6 quarts from one patch of sauce. I usually make 18 quarts every year. The other thing that is wonderful about this is it is a non-pressure recipe, it is made in a boiling water bath canner. As long as you stay with the ratio of 25 pounds tomatoes to one cup of onion and 2 1/2 cups peppers you will not lower the acid levels of the tomatoes. In our sauce we use a mixture of hot and sweet peppers and you can adjust the heat to your families liking. In our case we use 2 cups sweet peppers to 1/2 cup hot peppers or around 4 banana or other large hot peppers. This mixture adds flavor but not much heat.If you like it hot reduce the sweet peppers to 1 cup and raise the hot peppers to 1 1/2 cups and feel the burn, do what ever sounds good to you.
The hardest part of canning any kind of tomato is the necessary step of blanching the tomatoes. This is the process of removing the skins so that you do not have chucks of skin floating around in the sauce. I have tried to grind the tomatoes and leave the skins on and it is just better to remove them if you do not like the taste or though texture of skins floating on the top of you chili.
To blanch Tomatoes I use a 8 quart stock pot of simmering hot water and a sink full of cold water. The colder the better, adding ice if you have a good ice maker is great. Into about 5 quarts of simmering water I place about 20 plum or any tomatoes and simmer for about 3 minuets then plunge them into the ice-cold water with a strainer.
The trick is to make sure before you remove the tomatoes from the water that you see the skin of one or all the tomatoes either tear away or start to wrinkle before the plunge. If you get that step right the skins almost fall off in the ice water and pealing is a snap. I core the tomatoes before blanching it makes the skins slide off faster as the water is able to get under the skin of the tomato. I have friends that do it after blanching because they do not want any extra water entering the tomato before cooking…( this is a very important to pasta sauce makers not so much for me). After pealing the tomatoes I have another stock pot ready to place the tomatoes into and blanch more as I place peeled tomatoes into a larger pot.
This photo shows what you start cooking with.
You will next cook the tomatoes and juice down and run through a food mill before adding any spices or other vegetables.
Here is the recipe for cooking the chili sauce in our families traditional way.
1/2 bushel fresh tomatoes
2 cups sweet peppers
1/2 cup hot peppers ( we use yellow Banana peppers)
1 cup onion
2 teaspoons chopped garlic or about 5 cloves mashed
1/2 cup sugar
4 Table spoons chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
2 small cans tomato paste
2 table spoons mustard seed
1 bay leaf crumbled
5 whole clove heads all bundled together in a cheese cloth sack or in a tea strainer
this mixture usually makes 6 quarts of fresh sauce
Cook freshly peeled tomatoes for about 15 minutes to break them down into a watery broth. When most of the meat of the tomato has cooked down but you still have a few stringy portions and lots of seeds floating on top run hot tomatoes through a food mill, ricer or sieve to remove seeds and any tough tissues. Place back over med heat and add peppers, onions, garlic chili powder, salt and pepper. Add the spice bag or tea ball and simmer 15 more minutes. At the end of the cooking time remove tea ball and add two cans tomato paste and stir until well blended. Ladle into hot sterilized jars leaving a 1/2 inch head space, wiping lip and covering with sterilized lids and rings. Process in a boiling water bath 20 minutes..
When ready to make chili all that you need is one pound of ground meat. We use venison or beef or both mixed together browned and two cans or about 4 cups beans. We like to mix up our beans so I have used light kidney, dark kidney, pinto, cranberry beans, use what you have on hand. Brown the meat drain off any excess fat, pour in one quart jar of chili sauce and add 4 cups of your favorite beans and simmer a few minutes and you have dinner in about 10 minutes. The best part of all is this if all goes well in our garden the only thing that we did not grow ourselves is the tomato paste. Farm fresh goodness all winter long and a quick family meal that should make about 4 servings.