Canning and Preserving · Learning from Mistakes · Tomatoes

Laugh and the World Laughs With You, Cry and Total Strangers Give You Limburger to Go With That Whine

I posted this picture the other day:


Now here’s the story that goes with it.

I was making spaghetti sauce, as you may have guessed.  I’d roasted a whole bunch of tomatoes over the weekend, and to them I added more fresh chopped tomatoes, some garlic, some onion, some oregano…and I cooked that all down, pureed it to smithereens, ladled it into my prepared jars, and placed them lovingly in my pressure canner.

I tightened the lid, turned the flame up, and waited for the steady stream of steam, which would announce that it was time to put the little weighted pressure regulator thing on the steam vent and wait for the rattling and jiggling to commence.

Well, I got the steam, but unfortunately it was leaking out of too many little areas.  One, of course, was the vent itself, which was a good thing.  The other two spots were out the sides of the pot, between the lid and the pot, right above each handle.  I’m thinking next time instead of smearing a film of olive oil, I might use vaseline, which is thicker and should seal better.  I’ll let you know how that goes, unless I blow up the house.

So I watched, in frustration, as steam blew from too many openings and the pressure never got up higher than about 230.  Damn damn damn.  And it was getting later and later and I was just fed up with everything (this is what happens when you try to do TOO MUCH in one day and aren’t even enthusiastic about it), so I shut off the heat, waited for the pressure to drop back to zero, and sulked.

While I was sulking, I was also thinking to myself, “that’s some good-smelling spaghetti sauce!” without even wondering WHY I could smell it so abundantly.

And then I unscrewed the clamps and carefully lifted the lid off the canner.


I certainly didn’t expect to see tomato guts everywhere.

The thing is, I didn’t even hear anything that would have indicated that there was a problem.  Unless it happened while I was outside annoying the spider with all my paparazzi-like flash photography.

What I figure happened was I must have put the band on the jar incorrectly.  You know how sometimes when you’re trying to screw a lid on and it just won’t seem to get threaded correctly?  I must have done that without realizing it, and then, under all that pressure, the band unscrewed and the lid popped off.  And out gushed nearly a quart of tomatoey lava.

So – lesson learned – make sure you have the bands tightened CORRECTLY!

At least it was the lid, though, and not a jar actually shattering.  That would have been worse.

And, as you may have noticed, I figured I’d take that yucky picture of tomato flotsam and jetsam and turn it into a banner for the rest of this month.

banner second half of august

Because there’s no use crying over exploded tomato sauce. 

And here’s this one – If at first your cans don’t seal, can, can again.

2 thoughts on “Laugh and the World Laughs With You, Cry and Total Strangers Give You Limburger to Go With That Whine

  1. Lisa,

    When I make spaghetti sauce (for dinner, not for canning), I pretty much wing it with whatever Ive got on hand. Basically I start with some olive oil, some tomatoes (canned or fresh, and if theyre fresh, I dont bother peeling or seeding them), some garlic (or roasted garlic paste from the freezer if I have it on hand), some chopped onion, and, if I have it or feel like it, some ground beef or pork. Or mushrooms. Sometimes Ill throw in some wine – red or what, whatevers around. I let it all simmer for a while, and then, if I want a relatively smooth sauce, Ill puree it all, either in the food processor or, more likely, with an immersion blender. If you use the processor, just be careful with all the hot liquid – it could pop the lid off the processor, so only
    puree a little at a time, or let it cool, process, and reheat when you need it. You could also cook everything except the meat (if using), puree the sauce at that point, and then add in the meat and continue cooking everything together until the meat is cooked through. This way you still have chunks of the ground meat in the sauce.

    For herbs and seasoning…I like oregano and basil, salt and pepper. Add the herbs in at the beginning, especially if theyre dry, and a little salt. Finish seasoning with additional salt and pepper toward the very end of cooking.

    Thats what I do. I have no recipe – just guidelines.

    As for the rest of your tomatoes…I like to roast mine and then freeze them. Drizzle a bit of olive oil on a 13 x 9 pan, then slice the tomatoes (cut in half, or slice into 1/4 pieces – as long as all the tomatoes in the pan are about the same thickness), and lay them cut side up
    in the pan. Drizzle a little more olive oil and some salt and pepper over them all, and put them in a low oven – 275-300 – for a couple hours, depending on the thickness. Youre dehydrating them, somewhat, and you can let them go for as long or as short as you like. The longer they cook, the more water they give up and the more intense the flavor will be. No matter what, theyll be good. When theyve cooked as long as you want them to, remove from oven, allow to cool, then scrape everything – the bits that stick have a lot of flavor, as does the oil – into a freezer bags or other containers, label, and pack away for the winter. I use these as a base for sauce, either as they are or combined with canned tomatoes and other ingredients.

    Hope that helps!

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