I have written about my Great Grandma Rose before- she was a SAINT! I still miss her so very much even though she passed away many many years ago. Last fall I asked my mom when the right time was to make her famous sauce. She said the end of summer when everyone’s gardens are overflowing with tomatoes, peppers, and onions. So I was ready for it this year! I don’t garden, I can’t grow a thing, but I have friends that do- so thanks to them, Grandma’s sauce was made and canned this year. We grew up calling it Grandma Rose’s Chili Sauce, but believe me it is the furthest thing from chili. There aren’t even chili peppers in it. It’s more like a pasta sauce, but the sweet and tangy variety. It’s kind of its own entity and next to impossible to describe. But it’s AMAZING!
I have been on a canning kick lately. Not sure why, but I have been. It started with making strawberry jam/jelly as a birthday gift for a friend, then went to chili sauce, salsa, tomato juice, and now applesauce and apple butter. I love it! I’m no expert and I really have no clue what I am doing, but with the advice of my mom and many websites I am kinda killin’ it. I love seeing all the jars lined up on the counter as they cool, and hearing the sound of the “pop” when the seal is good. There’s just something about it that I am loving, so I’m gonna keep going. My mom canned a bunch when I was growing up, so I know the pleasure of garden-fresh ingredients in the middle of winter. She even canned her famous campfire stew to take when we went camping every year. There’s just nothing like that peak-of-the-season flavor when it’s freezing out, not to mention the convenience of opening up a jar and having something super delicious in no time flat. It’s also memories of working together in the kitchen, sneaking an irresistible strawberry, and time with my mom and Grandma Rose. I remember my dad coming home from work and mom showing him all the canning we (she, let’s be honest) did and him being proud and excited and HUNGRY. That’s what canning is.
So what is Grandma Rose’s Chili Sauce if it isn’t chili? It’s a little sweet, has a hint of cinnamon, and a little tang from vinegar. It’s the bounty of the garden with a twist, served over bowtie pasta, and its DELICIOUS! My mom always browned hamburger, then did a low and slow simmer with the hamburger and sauce together- talk about melt in your mouth! It’s been a good 20 years since I had this amazing sauce, but the mere mention of it made my mouth water that entire time. It’s that good! That is why I wanted to can it, so I could grab a jar whenever the mood struck and I could have one of my most favorite things in the world in a few minutes. So even though my canning frenzy started with strawberry jelly, it was because of Grandma Rose’s sauce. Like all great recipes passed down through generations, this one didn’t have clear measurements. It seems that I come from a long line of eyeballers because many of our family recipes have vague amounts attached to them. It’s frustrating to be the recipient of that kind of recipe because you want it to taste exactly the same, but that almost never happens. I once video taped my Grandma (Grandma Rose’s daughter) making her famous potato salad because she had almost no measurements, and my Aunt Paula shrugged and laughed when I asked for her deviled egg recipe. What is with the women in my family? Guess it’s genetic since I cook and bake by sight and feel a lot.
During one of many phone calls, texts, and FaceTimes with my mom about this sauce, she was telling me she remembered how Grandma Rose would grab an extremely hot tomato out of the ice water bath and slice it right in her hand. This woman was maybe 4’6″ tall, the gentlest soul on the planet, and there she was handling insanely hot tomatoes and slicing them in the palm of her hand. That saintly woman was made of tougher things than me, that’s for sure. I have spent many days thinking about Grandma Rose, remembering, crying, smiling, and enjoying the memories I have of her. It just so happens that as I write this, it would be her birthday. 126 years ago the most amazing woman was born. Wow, that is incredible! So how do I remember her like I saw her yesterday, and miss her every bit of the 30 years she’s been gone? I guess that is a testament to the absolutely incredible woman she was. Gosh I miss her!
I need to save some tears for chopping onions. Let’s make chili sauce, shall we? You need tomatoes- lots of them, bell peppers of whatever color you choose, onions, vinegar, sugar, cinnamon, salt and pepper. That’s it! I will warn you that this recipe makes 5+ quarts of sauce, so we will talk single-meal portions in a minute. I made 11 pints of chili sauce plus 3 1/2 quarts of tomato juice, which I will be using this winter in soups and stews. Quart jars are perfect for a family, but I made pint jars because Little Guy is not a fan (crazy!) and pints are the perfect size for Superman and I. The tomato juice is an extra bonus from this recipe, and I cannot wait to use it this winter. My mom recommended I use a food processor for the onions and peppers, but it’s one of the only kitchen gadgets I don’t own. I grated 2 of the onions, but I didn’t love what I was getting from it so I decided to dice by hand instead. And that’s where my saved-up tears come in. Yikes, chopping onions can be a real tear-jerker. I even ran them under water, but onions are onions, so I cried. Maybe I’m crazy, but I actually enjoy chopping veggies. There is something very methodic and relaxing about chopping vegetables, and I never mind doing it. I chopped veggies, listened to music, and was so grateful to my many friends who made this adventure possible. I made stops at 4 homes to get all my veggies, and the extra bonus was visiting with friends and sharing my excitement for what I was about to do, and thanking them for their part in it. They will all be receiving a jar of sauce and a sweet treat of some sort for their help.
Grandma Rose’s Chili Sauce
- 1 Gallon Tomatoes, scalded, cored, peeled, diced and juice drained (save juice)
- 4-5 medium White or Vidalia Onions, diced small
- 5 Bell Peppers, diced small
- 2 Cups Sugar
- 1 Tablespoon Salt
- 1 teaspoon Pepper
- 2 teaspoons Cinnamon
- 1 Cup White Vinegar
I started with chopping the peppers and onions, then got to work on the tomatoes. Boil a large stockpot of water, leaving room for adding tomatoes and the water to bubble and boil. Grandma called it scalding the tomatoes, but what you do is throw them in whole and wait for the skin to crack and start peeling. Then you take them out and place in an ice water bath in the kitchen sink or large bowl. Peel off the skins, core out the stem, and dice. She used larger chunks, but I like a good dice, so that’s what I did. Place diced tomatoes in a colander over a large bowl so the extra juice drains out. Save this juice for making/canning great tomato juice for future use. You want a solid gallon of tomatoes, 4 quarts, so that is several batches of scalded tomatoes in the ice water bath.
After I had enough tomatoes and allowed the juice to drain for a few minutes, I threw my vegetables in a large, heave stock pot and added the vinegar, sugar, salt & pepper, and cinnamon. Mix it all together and get some heat on the burner. I let it come to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer away for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once it has melded into absolute Heaven, it’s time to check the flavor, adjust any seasoning, and make sure the veggies are good and tender. I have to admit that when I tried it at this point, I got all teary- it was exactly as I remembered it! It was like Grandma Rose was right there with me, and I could not have been happier with how it turned out. Sometimes you build something up so much in your head that if it’s not right you are disappointed, but not this time. I FaceTimed mom so she could see it, give her nod of approval, and share my excitement. We did it!!!
Next, fill the sterilized jars and cover with sterilized lids and rings. I left about 1/2″ headspace (space between sauce and lid of jar) in each one, put on the lid and hand-tightened the ring. Then into the boiling water they went for 10 minutes. After carefully removing the jars from the water bath, re-tighten the lid rings and set on a couple dish towels (spread apart) to seal and cool overnight. I had to do 3 batches of water baths to do all my jars. Check the next day (if you can wait that long- I can’t ) to make sure the lids don’t spring back when you press on them. If any do, they didn’t seal correctly and it’s off to the fridge with them. They will need to be eaten in a day or 2. Thankfully, all of my jars sealed almost instantly, so that was another victory. Each POP of the jars sealing made me smile.
After the sauce was all made, I went to work on the tomato juice. Again, mom to the rescue for the recipe. She said 1 Tablespoon salt and 1/4 pepper, taste, and let it simmer for 10 minutes. Do the same thing filling sterilized jars, lids, and rings (this time I used quart jars because I know my soup/stew recipes) and give a good water bath. Re-tighten lids when done and place on towels to seal and cool overnight. And that’s it!
Single Dinner Recipe
- 1 quart Tomatoes, scalded, cored, peeled, diced, and drained
- 1 large Bell Pepper, diced small
- 1 medium White or Vidalia Onion, diced small
- 1/2 Cup Sugar
- 1/4 C White Vinegar
- 3/4 teaspoon Salt
- 1/4 teaspoon Pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon Cinnamon
Follow the same simmering directions, testing for flavor and veggie tenderness after 30 minutes. While sauce is simmering, cook bow tie pasta noodles in large pot, and in a medium sauce pan brown 1/2-1 lb hamburger with 1/4 cup diced onion, salt and pepper to taste. When meat is fully cooked, lower heat and slow simmer to tenderize. When sauce is done simmering, combine with browned hamburger. Serve sauce over pasta. Enjoy!
My great grandma may not be here, but memories and her famous recipes live on. Now that I have this first batch under my belt, I will be making and canning her sauce every end of summer when my friends’ gardens are overflowing. Thanks for all of the help, Mom. I sure couldn’t have done it without you! And Sheedy, you’ll be getting a jar of sauce very soon. It may even come alongside some Apple Crisp!
**If you make this recipe, please comment below and let me know what you thought.**