How to Perfectly Canning Summer Tomatoes (Before It’s Too Late)
Like any Italian American accustomed to tomatoes, Labor Day doesn’t just mean the end of summer. Much scarier: this is the final call for summer tomatoes. Those mellow, spicy-sweet relics that beckon you in farmers’ markets and grocery stores will soon be a thing of the past. If you have a food-centric social media algorithm like mine, recipe reviews make your grid look like a tomato-patterned wallpaper. (To be clear, I’m not complaining.)
But why mourn the end of summer when you can get ready for fall? Take the initiative and start making those soups and sauces that will warm your soul when the temperature drops. You don’t need to eat steaks like apples until you feel bent over from acid reflux. You can just eat those ripe tomatoes all year round.
For me and my family, as well as many other Italian and Italian immigrant families, this idea is taken to an extreme. Imagine a table full of bushels of plum tomatoes, a sauce pot big enough to feed a naval ship, and a platoon of relatives ready to take over. It wasn’t just my grandmother’s depressed mindset that prompted her to save the harvest and teach us to do the same. Tomato Day or Trade Wind Day is an annual tradition practiced by Italian families around the world. This is not just a seasonal exercise, but a family event. I can still imagine the cans of red liquid gold that were in my grandmother’s pantry cabinets, where they could be obtained at any time for the bolognese. Luckily, you don’t need an army of Italian aunts and uncles to make a trade wind or sauce. You can take on the project yourself, albeit on a smaller scale.
Difference between tomato trade wind and tomato sauce
To be clear, the liquid gold on my grandmother’s shelves was pure sauce for pasta, but many families choose to make a simple trade wind – a bright and crisp base for what will become the sauce. Passat Tomato – The staple of the Italian buffet – the raw tomato pulp, separated from the skins and seeds. It is a 100% unflavored tomato designed to keep the concentrated sweetness of fruits in their beautiful, fresh form. Salt is sometimes added, but otherwise it’s just the vibrant, silky essence of canned tomatoes at the peak of popularity. It can be used for any recipe that calls for diced or canned tomatoes (or even Bloody Mary’s), resulting in a sweet and vibrant sauce or dish due to its high pulp concentration.
In our family, we usually take the trade wind one step further, simmering it on the stove with salt and basil until it turns into a thicker, slightly caramelized sauce. Once canned, it can be used in richer sauces, soups, and stews. It can even be used as a ready-made pizza sauce. Similar to the trade wind, we use it for any recipe that requires gravy, diced or canned tomatoes, or to increase the acidity by adjusting the volume and salt content accordingly.
How to Make Tomato Passat and Simple Tomato Sauce
You will need:
- Glass cans with new lids and screw bands.
- Large saucepan
- A tomato press or food mill (you can also use a fine strainer and a wooden spoon as a last resort)
- Funnel for filling cans
- Jar lifters or large tongs (wrap tongs with thick rubber bands for extra grip)
- Tomatoes (rum or plum tomatoes tend to make more sauce)
- Fresh basil leaves (optional)
- Coarse salt
To make a tomato trade wind (5 pounds of tomatoes will usually make 1.5 liters of trade winds):
- Clean and sterilize the jars: Submerge lids and jars in boiling water for 10 minutes, remove, then keep them clean and closed.
- Wash and dry the tomatoes. Then cut the tomatoes into quarters, removing any unripe parts.
- Cook the tomatoes to remove excess water and help the skins separate from the fruit: fill a large saucepan with as many tomatoes as you can, but don’t add water! Place the saucepan over low to medium heat, stirring frequently. When they come to a boil, simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the tomatoes begin to break apart and the juice runs out at the base.
- Strain the tomatoes to remove excess juice.
- Grind the tomatoes: If using one, place the vegetable grinder on another large saucepan. Start pouring strained tomatoes through the mill or tomato press. You can skip them several times to extract as much of the pulp as possible.
At this point, you have a tomato trade wind that can be canned, or you can take a few more steps and make the sauce.
Basic Tomato Sauce: (For me, 5 pounds of tomatoes usually make 1 liter of sauce.)
- To reduce the trade wind and make the sauce, simmer on the stove for 1-3 hours until it reaches the desired consistency. Salt to taste.
- Fill the jars. Place 3 or 4 fresh, clean basil leaves in the bottom of each jar (optional). Fill each jar and close well, wiping the lids dry before closing them.
- Close the jars. Line the bottom of a large saucepan with a folded tea towel and arrange the jars around it so they don’t rattle. Add water to cover the cans 2-3 inches. Bring water to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to maintain a continuous simmer. Boil the jars for 40 minutes, then turn off the heat and remove with tongs or a jar lifter.
- When the jars have reached room temperature, store in a cool, dry place for up to a year.