Ever wonder how pasta sauce gets in those air-tight jars at the grocery store? Give your child an introduction to food preservation by making and canning your own yummy, homemade pasta sauce! Making your own food will teach him about wholesome cooking and encourage healthy eating. And, canning provides an amazing, hands-on lesson on the power of temperature, too.
Yield: About four 16 oz. mason jars.
What You Do:
- Have your child wash all the mason jars and lids. They will need to be boiled for complete sterilization, but this can be done while the sauce is cooking.
- Melt the butter in a heavy pot.
- Ask your child to add the chopped carrots and oregano. Cook carrots until al dente, or cooked until they are still crisp, and then add garlic and onion. They should be cooked until the onions are translucent. (If your child can see into the pot, have him watch the onions and tell you when he thinks it's time to move on to the next step!).
- After the vegetables are fully cooked, invite him to add the quartered tomatoes to the pot. If you have a fine meshed strainer, put the seeds and juicy centers into it. Over the pot, have your child press his hand into the strainer to filter the juice out from the seeds.
- Cover the sauce and let it cook on low-heat for about 20–30 minutes.
- After the tomatoes have melted into a sauce, add tomato paste until the sauce is about as thick as you want it to be. Let your little one be the taste tester! (You can always use water to thin out the sauce if needed.)
- While the sauce is cooking, place the cooking rack at the bottom of the kettle, fill the kettle with water, and bring it to a boil. Boiling water bath canning requires 1 to 2 inches of water above the tops of the jars, so make sure there's plenty of water in the kettle!
- Once your sauce is ready, have your child help you funnel it into the mason jars and stop one inch from the top. Put one tablespoon of lemon juice in each mason jar. Screw on the sterilized lids and rubber gaskets.
- Place the filled and tightly-sealed jars onto the cooling rack that is in the bottom of the boiling kettle. You will need a good set of tongs for this. Remember, the jars should be covered by 1 to 2 inches of water.
- Cover the pot with the lid. When the water comes to a rolling boil, start to count the processing time.
- Reduce heat slightly and boil gently for about 40 minutes. While the water is boiling, discuss the science of canning. It works to preserve food because the temperature of the boiling water destroys any micro-organisms that sneak in and cause food to go bad. The boiling water canning process forces air out of the jar, and creates a vacuum seal that prevents air from re-entering. Pretty cool, right?
- When the cooking time is up, remove jars at once (but be careful!) and place them on a rack away from heat and away from any draft. Keep the jars separated to allow for air circulation while they cool. Remind your child not to touch the hot glass!
- After the jars have cooled, it’s a good idea to test the seals. Gently unscrew the lid of each jar, making sure not to remove the seals. Have your child press his finger in the middle of the seal; if there is a popping noise, the jar was not sealed correctly. If there is no sound, screw the lid back on and store your jars in a cool, dark place.
Have your child make labels for the jars so the two of you can remember what's in them and when they were made. Try decorating the labels with pictures of the ingredients!