Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Girl ya got sauce...

Who knew that making sauce could be so easy?

The basil growing in the kitchen.

For those who haven't followed my twitter posts, we have had a bumper crop of tomatoes this year. We put in four plants of normal sized tomatoes, and two of cherry tomatoes. (We always put in cherry tomatoes because we found in our old house that the squirrels would go for them before the big ones, and it has worked ever since).

What we were expecting was enough of a yield that we would be able to hold off buying tomatoes for the summer, and could teach the kids a bit about growing things in the back yard. We go through normally about a tomato or two a day.

Well, fast forward to the weather we've had, alternating blisteringly muggy heat with humidity, and overwhelming deluges of water in the form of thunderstorms, and our tomatoes have become monstrous.

The one green pepper we got had an inferiority complex.

At the peak, we were harvesting fifteen to twenty a day, and for a couple of weeks we could not eat, give away, or turn enough into salsa to get through the backlog. They were going mushy before we could get to them.

The solution: pasta sauce.

I wanted to try something easy and relatively foolproof to start, and then move on to chutney and chili after.

Because I have nothing but thyme.
So, I took a whole pile of tomatoes, and didn't even count (if you're looking for specific measurements, you won't get them here. I'm a guy.)

First, to skin them, as skin does not break down in sauces. I boiled a big pot of water, and then put it in the sink, and then put in handfuls of tomatoes in batches for a couple of minutes each, sticking them with a knife quickly before pulling them out. The tomatoes kept their consistency inside, but the skin peeled off easily with a bit of coaxing from the knife. Next, I came up with a very good method for cutting off the top, and using my baby finger to clean out the seeds.

Different tomatoes have different properties, and I can see how certain tomato varieties became popular for sauces, for their ease in peeling and seeding.

I missed a seed or two. Oh well.

Black Krim: skin peeled off like a dream, pulp disintegrated. Yellow heritage: skin was harder to remove, seeds easy, and pulp was still solid, but lacked robust flavour. Red: skin was a breeze, seeds nearly jumped out themselves, and pulp was still fragrant and juicy. (winner!)

I began to saute some sweet onions at this point, in olive oil, not butter, as I wasn't sure if I'd make preserve or freezer sauce. For preserve, it's best to avoid the dairy products, as they can spoil the batch.

Next, I put the pulp into a blender, and poured it into a pot. For the last batch of pulp, I added two big gobs of minced garlic, several sprigs of thyme and more than a dozen fresh basil leaves, the lonely diced green pepper, and a tablespoon of salt. All went into in the pot, even the onions, though I didn't blend them. The only ingredients not from our garden were the salt, onions, and garlic.

This whole mixture simmered for just over three hours, and boiled off much of the liquid, until it was the consistency I wanted. Now, if you want it to firm up a bit more, you can add tomato paste, but I didn't. This is also the time, nearing the consistency you desire, to add some of your finishing herbs, and to fish out the thyme, which went in whole (and bay leaf if you used that).

I really like how the yellow heritage tomatoes made much more of a rose sauce, without dairy products. I left my sauce without finishing herbs, because we figured we'd add the herbs (oregano, cheese, or mushrooms, sundried tomatoes, etc.) to change the sauce with each meal, and use this as a base only.

With the finished product, you can also go through the whole canning or bottling process, but after tasting this batch, I didn't figure it would last the summer, so I put it in jars and dropped it into the freezer. Voila! Much simpler than I thought it would be.

Now, what to do with the next fifty tomatoes!?!

My wife, Jennifer's, blog can be found here:Cleverly Disguised as Cake

And my first novel, squeakyclean, here:
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  1. Your wife is very nice to help you in the cooking process don't you think? ;)

  2. I have been terribly remiss in neglecting to mention and praise to the ends of the earth the contributions of my lovely and charming wife. Her guidance in the process was essential, especially for an all-thumbed cretin such as myself. *bows*