Monday, May 5, 2008

Tomato Sauce

This is at FarmWife's request, due to her newly turned over garden plot.

This is actually my mom's recipe, so I take no credit except for sharing it with you all.

Enough fresh tomatoes to fill your biggest pot.
1 onion (optional)
1 bell pepper (optional)

rinse tomatoes, remove any "greens" from the tomato, and cut the larger ones into quarters.
Throw into your pot. If you wish, you can "pre-flavor" the sauce by adding a quartered, peeled onion, and/or a seeded and quartered bell pepper (I prefer green as it is milder than the rest). Put lid on pot, and put on stove on lowest heat setting possible. Check after an hour or so, stirring to insure that no tomatoes get overcooked. After your mixture has settled about halfway, remove from stove. Using a slotted spoon, remove all pieces of onion and pepper. Ladle out tomatoes into a food mill, or your Kitchen-Aid hopper to mill the tomatoes. The end result should be to mash/liquify the flesh of the tomatoes and remove the skins and seeds. You should end up with a warm, watery mixture that is red, and smells like tomatoes. Once you've done this with all the tomatoes, dispose of the skins and seeds (we compost ours), and onion and pepper pieces. Return the tomato juice to the pot, bring to a boil, turn down to a low simmer and cook down about halfway, stirring every so often. (I watched the first batch like a hawk, afraid it would burn or stick, or boil over) Once the tomato sauce is cooked down halfway, cool it, fill a gallon freezer bag not quite full, seal (remember to get as much air as possible out). I mark the bags with the date and whether the sauce is plain or flavored, lay it on a cookie sheet, so it is flat, and freeze it. Once it is frozen, you can then stack them like paper, or stand them up like books in your freezer. You can also can this using either a hot method in jars, OR cold into those nifty plastic containers you can get now and freeze that way. I freeze it, as its easier for me to do with our lifestyle.

Once you're ready to use the sauce, you have several options. As it is, you can use it as a base for soups and stews. You can also add the following things and make marinara to use for pasta dishes:

Marinara sauce:

Tomato Sauce
Tomato Paste (4 oz can per 24 oz of sauce)
Garlic (fresh - minced, or powdered)
Onion powder

Herbs, with the exception of the onion, can be either fresh or dried, your choice. I dry my own herbs, and use the dried for this type of thing.

In a large stock pot, heat about 1 TBSP of EVOO, add tomato paste (yes, I use canned from the store), garlic and "brown" the paste. It doesn't actually change colors, you just want to mix it with the oil and garlic, and heat it through to release and blend the flavors.

Add the sauce, and the other seasonings to taste (each batch is a little different). I start with about 1/4 tsp of pepper, 1 tsp of salt (but I use the well in my cupped hand to measure, not spoons - sorry!). Crush the dried herbs in the palm of your hand and sprinkle into the sauce. Depending on how "spicy" your family likes things (I call it flavorful, or savory...), add more oregano, basil, and onion. Salt and pepper are also flexible...its really an art, not a science for me.

Stir well to blend everything together, and bring to a boil over medium heat stirring occasionally. Turn the heat to the lowest possible setting you can, and cook down by half, stirring often to avoid sticking. You can cook this to your desired thickness, as each family likes things a little different. We always had it on the runnier side, as that is a traditional marinara thickness. It is thick enough to stick to your pasta, but not so thick that you feel like you're eating a stew, or paste on your pasta.

Once the sauce is made, you can either use it, or divide and freeze it for future use. I make a triple batch and freeze up the marinara for later on down the road. It definitely tastes better a few days after its been made as the flavors blend even more.

Feel free to send me your questions on this one.

kris zeh gmail dot com