A meaty tomato sauce with both sweet and savory Mediterranean flavors, this Greek tomato sauce makes the best of summer produce and provides a shortcut for future Mediterranean-inspired meals (including my personal favorite: Moussaka!)
As excited as I am about preserving one of my favorite sauces, I have to admit, right now I am a little sad. I am mourning the death of my garden and it’s not even gone yet. I went out to sit in the garden again tonight, as I’ve done countless times this summer, seeking solace in watching the beauty of growth, of creation. But tonight I have the sad knowledge of the frost in the weather forecast ahead. It’s happened before, a small dip in the temperature, but not like this. This time it’s going to freeze hard and the temps are heading straight down and the garden will not survive.
The garden plants continue unknowing … I see blossoms on the tomato plants, flowers on the eggplants, a baby zucchini just starting. The kale are gloriously towering over the spots where I watched them early in the season as tiny floundering babies, once devastated in the spring by a hungry marmot. We (my neighbor and I) banished the marmot to other grounds and I was so happy to see the kale recover and flourish. Over the summer, I’ve so enjoyed the pleasure of going out to pick a few kale leaves whenever the fancy struck and watching them grow strong and tall. And now I wonder: Should I pick all the leaves now? Kale IS quite a hardy plant. I don’t want to kill it, yet I don’t want to waste any of it either.
There are itty bitty eggplant the size of a plum, little green tomatoes I had hoped would grow big, small green peppers I hoped would ripen. The basil plant has grown so big! Do I dig it up and bring it inside or just pick it and make pesto? What about the sage? All of these will cease to be if I do nothing …
Regardless of the answers to my questions and the things I have already preserved for winter, there is sadness in my heart. Throughout the pandemic, this garden has been my hope, my distraction, something to focus on aside from my fears and worries. So many things that are tearing at my soul .. I worry for my children, for our country … I sought solace in nature.
Throughout the summer and into fall, my little garden brought me hope. My garden offered life and promises of sustenance and good meals … and oh what good eating I’ve had this year! But gardens (in my part of the world) only last a short time. I’m trying to remind myself this is the way of life and seasons. It’s time now for plants to sleep. We shall continue on with our daily lives while the plants and the trees sleep … and there will be gardens and growing again in the spring. Every year in the midst of the snow and cold, I doubt it, wondering if spring and summer was just my imagination and if there really such a thing as flowers … and every year spring comes with all the beautiful colors and scents and promise of goodness. Why do I keep doubting the life-affirming magnificence of spring?
Ah but right now it is fall … right now, my number one priority is to make best use of all the beautiful gifts my summer garden has granted me. One of my most treasured harvest dishes is Moussaka (the Greek version of lasagna), but my moussaka recipe makes an 11x9x2 inch pan full … that’s a lot of servings and, with limited social interaction in the midst of this pandemic, I’m not sharing food as much as I did, so I thought it would be a great idea to pressure can the magical Greek meat sauce I use in my moussaka so I could make mini moussakas whenever I crave them.
Can I use a water bath to can meat sauce?
The short answer is no. The only way to safely can a meat sauce is with a pressure cooker. If you want a water bath recipe, make a meatless sauce and take care to make sure the Ph levels are safe.
As with most sauces, this marvelous Greek meat sauce (a.k.a. Moussaka Sauce) is versatile and quite useful. It’s marvelous ladled over pasta, zoodles, roasted veggies or even potatoes, topped with a little crumbled feta. Mix it with rice (or your grain of choice) to make stuffed peppers or zucchini boats … or use this tasty sauce as a base for a flavorful stew or a pot pie. You can also pour the sauce into oven-safe bowls, crack an egg on top, and then bake until the egg is done to your liking for a lovely protein-packed breakfast. Since this meat sauce is pressure canned, you can store it at room temperature for many months, pulling it out in the depths of winter to nourish you … and help remember the joys of summer.
I think you’re going to love it.
- 2 teaspoons avocado or olive oil
- 4 teaspoons cinnamon
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon allspice
- 1 lb. very lean ground beef (or other lean meat such as venison or elk)
- 1 lb. ground lamb (or substitute beef or other meat of choice)
- 2 large onions, peeled & chopped
- 8 – 12 cloves garlic, peeled & chopped
- 2 large bell peppers, chopped
- 1 cup red wine
- About 8 cups (2 quarts) fresh tomatoes with juices, peeled and chopped
- 2 teaspoons Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (or other salt-free seasoning blend such as Mrs. Dash)
- 2 teaspoons canning salt (or to taste) & freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Heat the oil over medium heat till the pan is hot, then add the spices and stir, allowing them to “toast” briefly in the pan. Add the meat and cook until brown. Remove the meat from the pan, leaving a thin layer of fat in the bottom of the pan. (If there isn’t any, add a teaspoon of oil.)
- Next, put the onion, garlic and bell pepper in the pan and saute over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the wine in and let it cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until most of the wine is evaporated, about 10 – 15 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook for another 10 – 15 minutes or until the sauce is thickened. Add the seasoning and salt, taste and add more if needed.
- Meanwhile, prep your canning area and pressure canner. You’ll need 5 clean, sterilized pint jars with lids and rings, 2 clean towels (one underneath to catch spills, one for cleaning the rims), a pressure canner, something to scoop/ladle the sauce into the jars and a canning jar lifter.
- Set the jars on one of the clean towels near the heated sauce. I like to put hot water in a couple of the jars to get them warmed, then pour out the water into another jar to get hot as I fill this one. Put the canning funnel into a warmed jar, scoop the sauce into it, leaving 1 inch headspace, then remove the funnel and use the other clean towel to wipe the rim down well. You don’t want any food or even water on the rim to disrupt the seal. Add the lid, then tighten the ring on nice and tight. Set the jar in the pressure canner. Repeat with the other 4 jars.
- Follow instructions on your pressure canner to pressure can the sauce at 11 lb pressure for 1 hour. Release the pressure, then gently remove the jars using your jar lifter, setting them in a stable place where they can rest and seal. Let the jars sit overnight, then remove the lids, inspecting each seal to ensure it’s secure. Label and store in a dark place.
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