Handcrafted Pasta Sauce

I found this recipe via a package of Sweet Roma Pasta Sauce Mix from Ball/McCormick, which is highly overpriced at $2.49 a card. You get the dried spices and a recipe card, that is it, for that price. You can easily replicate this at home, however, I don’t process the tomatoes like the card calls for. I like the sauce to have some texture!

Handcrafted Pasta Sauce


  • 8 pounds tomatoes*
  • ¼ cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 2 tsp dried garlic
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried onion
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • ½ tsp fennel seed
  • Sugar to taste


Finely chop or run the tomatoes through a food processor gently to break up. We use a manual food processor which doesn’t destroy the produce.

*If you are using small, delicate tomatoes leave the skins on. If your tomatoes are huge with thick skins you might want to peel them first (Make an “x” on the bottom, dip tomatoes into boiling water for a minute, drop into a bowl of ice water and then peel and proceed). I like the texture with the smaller tomatoes and don’t peel them.

As well, if using huge tomatoes, core the tops also. Small tomatoes don’t need this.

Add the tomatoes to a large non-reactive stock pot along with the remaining ingredients (wait till cooked to add sugar if needed). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer for 30 minutes, stirring often.

Meanwhile add pint canning jars to canner. Fill jars with water and about half way up the canner. Bring to a boil.

Add the rings and lids to a small sauce pan, cover with water, bring to a simmer over medium.

Taste the sauce, and if needed add in a pinch or two of sugar.

Pull out the jars, draining back into the canner. Place on a clean kitchen towel. Dip your funnel, air bubble popper and ladle into the hot water.

Fill each jar, leaving a ½” headspace. Run bubble popper through jar, add more sauce if needed. Wipe down the rimes with a damp paper towel. Place lids and rings on, finger tightening on.

Place into the canner, lower in. Jars should be covered with at least an inch of water, if not add in the water from the ring pot. Bring to a boil, let process for 35 minutes.

Take out, let cool on a clean kitchen towel. Remove rings, note date on lid. Use within a year for best results. If any lids do not seal, place in refrigerator, use up within a few days.

Makes 4 to 6 pint jars (depends on how much you cook it down and how juicy your tomatoes are).

As always, if you ever go to use a canned item and the lid is not sealed anymore, or bulging, discard it immediately!

Spicy Salsa

I adapted the recipe for this salsa out of the Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving, on page 203 (Fresh Vegetable Salsa). I don’t like cumin or fresh cilantro, but otherwise I followed the recipe. The recipe doesn’t call for salt, so you may want to taste it before canning and adjust as needed.

Spicy Salsa


  • 7 cups chopped tomatoes*
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 1 cup chopped green bell peppers
  • 8 Jalapeno peppers, seeded and finely chopped
  • 1 head garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 5.5 ounce can tomato paste
  • ¾ cup white vinegar (5% acidity)
  • ½ cup dried cilantro
  • Sea salt to taste


Add 5 pint canning jars to a canning pot. Fill jars with water, and the pot about halfway with water, bring to a near boil, then let simmer.

Add lids and rings to a small pot filled with water, bring to a simmer.

Add all ingredients in a large saucepan, bring to a boil over high. Reduce heat, simmer for 30 minutes. Taste for salt, adding if needed.

Drain jars into canning pot, place on a clean kitchen towel. Ladle the hot salsa into the bars, using a sterilized canning funnel. Leave a ½” headspace. Run a chopstick or canning bubble popper in each jar, add more salsa if there is room.

Dip a clean paper towel in hot water, then run around the top of each jar. Place a lid on each jar, then a band, screw on finger tight.

Turn canner up to high, place jars in water bath rack, lower rack into water. Water should cover by 1 – 2″, if not add a bit more from the other pot that held the rings. Bring to a rolling boil, covered, process for 20 minutes. Turn off the heat, let sit for 5 minutes with lid off. Carefully remove jars, placing on a clean dry kitchen towel to cool.

Once cooled, check again that seals are down (you should hear the Ping! as each one seals). Gently remove bands (wash, dry and store for your next project. While they look nicer on, if they have water inside from processing, they can rust. If you are giving away your canned items, you can always slip one back on), note on jar or lid what is in jar with a date. Store in a dry/cool/dark area and use within a year.

As always, if you ever go to use a canned item and the lid is not sealed anymore, or bulging, discard it immediately! (I have only ever lost one jar in all my canning, so don’t fret) If you are using a different brand of salsa mix, be sure to read their directions and to follow them.

Makes 4 to 5 pint jars.

*I use a variety of tomatoes. Salsa is a great way to use up lots of cherry tomatoes. I don’t peel my tomatoes. If I am using large ones, I do core. Small ones I do not.

Spicy canned salsa

Pear and Cherry Jam

I had found a great deal on red pears and had so many I decided to make jam with them. Added in some ripe Bing cherries, for a vibrant jam. This is a low sugar jam using our favorite Pomona’s Universal Pectin.

Pear and Cherry Jam



*Pomona’s Pectin is a little different from other pectin. To start, each box has 2 packets. The small one is calcium powder. Mix ½ tsp (basically the packet) with ½ cup filtered water. I do this in a small mason jar, seal and shake to dissolve. Store in refrigerator, it lasts for months. Just shake before using.

*Wash and dry the pears, peel, split in half and then core. Chop, then measure. Wash, dry and pit the cherries, then quarter.

Wash jars, with bands and new lids, in hot, soapy water. Rinse well, and drain on a clean kitchen towel. Add jars to the rack of a canning kettle, fill pot halfway, bring to a simmer. Bring a small saucepan of water to a simmer, turn off heat, add in lids and rings, set aside.

In a large pot, add measured pears and cherries, lemon juice and calcium water. In a small bowl, stir dry pectin into the sugar, setting aside.

Bring the fruit to a boil over high heat, stirring often. Add in the pectin/sugar Stir well to combine, continuing to stir as it comes back to a full boil (it will take 1 to 3 minutes). If you see any blobs of pectin, smash with a silicone spatula while stirring. Once it returns to a boil, take off heat.

Drain jars, and place on a clean kitchen towel. Using a sterilized ladle, pour into jars. Run a sterilized chopstick or plastic bubble remover through the jam, adding more if needed. Fill up to ¼” of the top. Wipe rims with a slightly damp new paper towel. Put a lid on and a band, finger tight. Add jars to canning kettle, making sure jars are covered with water, bring water to a boil and let boil for 10 minutes (see the above link for higher altitude canning). Take out jars, let cool on a clean dry kitchen towel. Once cooled, check that lids are flat and sealed. If any are not, just refrigerate and use within 3 weeks.

Store jars in a cool and dark location, for up to 1 year.

Makes about 5 pint jars.


The jam may appear runny for the first 24 hours or so, until it fully cools. It will then firm up.

If your pears are on the crunchy side, add them to the pot first with 1 cup water and the lemon juice. Bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes to soften. Then proceed.

Do not substitute other pectin brands, which require a lot more sugar.

Boozy Brandy Peaches

I adapted this recipe out of The All New Ball Book of Canning and Preserving. A fun adult only treat, great for spooning over ice cream or yogurt.

Boozy Brandy Peaches

  • Ingredients:
  • 1 lemon, juiced, or ¼ cup bottled lemon juice
  • 5 pounds ripe peaches
  • 3 cusp water
  • 2½ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 Tbsp pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup brandy


Put 6 pint jars into a canning pot, fill with water about halfway. Put on the stove to bring to a boil.

Add bands and new lids to a small saucepan, add water to cover, bring to a simmer over medium heat.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil, a stockpot works well.

Meanwhile fill a large bowl with ice and water, along with the lemon juice.

Add the peaches to the boiling water in batches, blanching for 60 seconds. Remove with a strainer and put into the ice water to chill. When cool enough to handle, peel peaches and slice into wedges, returning the cut peaches to the ice water to hold.

In a saucepan combine the 3 cups water with the sugar and vanilla, bring to a simmer, stirring often, till sugar dissolves.

Drain jars, place on a clean kitchen towel. Drain and pack peach into the jars.

Ladle the hot syrup over the peaches, filling about ¾ full. Add in 2 Tablespoons brandy in each jar. Remove air bubbles, adding more syrup if needed to reach ½” headspace.

Use a lightly damp new paper towel to wipe the jar rims. Place lids on, finger tighten bands.

Put jars into the canning pot, lower into the water. Bring the water to a rolling boil (jars fully covered) and process for 25 minutes. Turn off the heat and let jars stand for 5 minutes. Transfer jars and let cool. Remove bands and mark jars.

Store in a cool area for up to a year.

Makes about  6 pints.


Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate

It isn’t often I can justify buying vast quantities of fresh lemons in the PNW. A local store a few times a year runs a promotional “fill a bag” deal and this week it included lemons and no limits. Suffice to say I came home with 35 lemons as part of the deal and lemons are normally $1.25 each here! The lemons paid for the bag of produce ($25) and I still had half a bag to fill. And with lots of fresh strawberries around, I decided to do some quick and easy canning for winter. I followed the recipe out of Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving.

Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate


  • 4 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice (about 20 lemons)
  • 2 pounds fresh strawberries
  • 6 cups granulated sugar


Fill a canning kettle half full with water, and place in 6 clean pint canning jars. Bring to a boil. Fill a saucepan with water about half-full, adding in rings and new lids. Bring the pot to a simmer, take off heat.

Soak the berries in water with a few tablespoons of vinegar to wash, drain. Hull berry caps.

Process the strawberries in a high-speed blender until mostly smooth.

Add the strawberries, lemon juice, and sugar to a non-reactive stockpot. Bring to a simmer, till 190°, stirring often.

Lay out a clean kitchen towel on counter, drain jars and place on towel. Dip a clean canning funnel and ladle into boiling water to sterilize. Pour hot concentrate into jars, leaving ¼″ head space. Take a new damp paper towel, wipe the rim of each jar. Place a lid on top, then a ring, hand tightening on. Place jars in canning rack, lower into canning pot. Bring to a rolling boil (make sure the jars are fully covered with water, if not cover with more). Once boiling, process for 15 minutes covered. Turn off the heat, let sit uncovered for 5 minutes. Remove from pot, let cool on a dry towel overnight, listening for the ping sound as they cool. Remove and wash bands, mark when made on the lids.

Test lids by pressing gently and making sure they are flat and do not bounce back up. If any do not seal, consume soon and keep refrigerated. For best long-term storage, keep jars in a cool, dry and dark place, and use within a year.

Makes about 6 pints.

To make concentrate into lemonade:

Depending on your personal taste it will be 1 part concentrate to 1 part water for super sweet. We drink it at 1 to 4, but we like more diluted juice.

It’s also great to mix with sparkling water, for a carbonated drink.