Canapolooza 2016

One might call it a Labor Day tradition: a gathering of many hands, a pitcher of sangria, and an unreasonably large quantity of tomatoes in a Rogers Park kitchen for the annual Canapolooza. In case you missed it, this is what happened:

My absence from last year’s ‘polooza means that we haven’t had spaghetti and red sauce since February, so the 125 lbs of seconds from Earth First Farms split between three families is probably, definitely, not enough… but it’ll have to do.

Signing the recipe, per tradition.
Mid-processing. Also, Ann has an appropriate tea towel for every occasion.
Mid-processing. Also, Ann has an appropriate tea towel for every occasion.

From this stash came more than 50 quarts of stuff, including marinara, crushed tomatoes, tomato water (think broth, but, tomato), and tomato salt, which, again, sounds like a lot until you start making lasagnas. This year’s marinara sauce was adapted from a few different sources, a bit more aromatic than years past (thanks in big part to pureed onion, garlic and herbs from Midnight Sun Farm), and basically goes like this:

Marinara Sauce


  • 5-lbs. tomatoes (adjust quantities for the weight you desire)
  • 1-C. water
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 C. olive oil
  • 1 bunch basil
  • 1 TB. sal
  • 1 TB. sugar
  • citric acid or lemon juice


  1. Crush peeled, cored tomatoes into a big (big!) stock pot. We froze our tomatoes ahead of time instead of the blanch-ice bath method. As they thaw they become very easy to peel, plus you aren’t dealing with handling scalding hot fruit. If your tomatoes are super juicy, try and keep some of that out of the pot. We canned that soupy tomato water to use for adding flavor to rice, pasta, soups, etc.
  2. Combine half of the onion, water (it could be tomato water), bay leaves, and half the garlic in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 20 min.
  3. Transfer the onion mixture to a blender and add basil, the rest of the onion and garlic. Puree.
  4. Add your onion/herb puree to the tomatoes and cook over medium heat. The amount of time really depends on how thick you want your sauce to be – the more time it simmers, the thicker the sauce. This could take anywhere from 30 minutes to several hours.
  5. Remove from heat and add salt and sugar.
  6. Prepare canning jars:
    1. Each pint jar need 1/4 tsp. of citric acid, 1/2 tsp. for quart jars. If using lemon juice, you can use about 1 tsp. for pints and 1 TB for quarts.
    2. Seal the jars and heat them in very hot water. If you skip this step, the jars could explode… so don’t.
    3. Add sauce to jars, leaving about 1/2-1 inch of head space.
    4. Wipe the rim clean, seal the jar, and add to a hot water bath, ensuring that the jars are completely covered with water.
  7. Bring the water to a boil, and then set a timer – 35 minutes for pints and 45 minutes for quarts.
  8. Remove from the bath and let them cool on the countertop. You should hear a little pop when the jar seals. If any of the jars don’t seal, you can re-process them, or put that sauce in the fridge to use it right away.

2 thoughts on “Canapolooza 2016”

  1. hmmmm, you mean to tell me i can use the tomato water and skins! I have never thought of this! Do you can or freeze the tomato water? Recipes if you please! I have another 10lbs of home grown tomato’s just waiting!

    1. Yes! We canned the water (same amount of citric acid/lemon juice, process for 15 minutes). The skins and cores are dehydrating, and after several days should be dry enough to run through a food mill or grinder and mixed with salt. Out of the 125 lbs, we had about 1/4 cup of food waste. 🙂

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