Tomatoes: The Season has started. Start your canning jars!
Ok so most of you just want to ripe the plump deliciousness off the vine as soon as it shows its rose head. I decided to not grow tomatoes this year but need them do to my sad state of being forced to buy tomato sauce instead of the sauce my husband says is near perfection or closer than he ever got with his attempts during his bachelor - pizza tossing days. (My man did a stint in college as a gourmet pizza prep guy in
I beg and scrounge all summer as I hear people proclaim..."I planted tomatoes this week hopefully I planted enough so I put 3 more in just in case." After church BBQs, I even stoop to the low point of swiping all the leftover homegrown tomatoes that no one wanted just so I can make enough sauce for our consumption since tomatoes and I don't seem to work out. I have decided to give it another go next year so I will have a year of planning and research and well a garden plot hopefully.
My Farm share came with a few (about a dozen) cherry and plum tomatoes. Oh heavenly sweetness, my mother would be shocked because even in my staunchly vegetarian days I stuck my noise up at tomato sauce and pasta or tomato anything... I even picked them out of the salad and told Olive Garden wait staff that my chicken parmesan must have cream sauce and no sign of red or it would be sent back and it did. Man was I confused and missing out. I don't remember when someone handed me a pint of cherry tomatoes and said try one, but since then tomatoes beware you have a stalker. Well maybe not that extreme but I will beg and borrow and trade sauce for tomatoes.
So here goes my simple but effective method of tomato sauce from tomato to creaminess. Take out and dust off your crock pot. The super large one (that you rarely use because when you prepare a normal portion of food all it seems to do is burn much to fast) set it to low or even better if you have a newer one warm. I like to slow cook my sauce, when without a crock pot the stove sits on the lowest setting it can maintain heat at for days. In art school, I would have a pot on the back burner for at least half the week.
Now that you have the pot out and the heat on, slice off the stem point and drop in whole until no more fit and cover overnight. Yes whole...it will work its way to gorgeously smooth sauce. Be patient. It helps to distract yourself by making a couple of loaves of bread to dip in the sauce later or do something creative.
Once you can poke hole in the tomatoes with a blunt spoon and the level has drop about an inch or so, pull out a blender. Most preferably an immersion blender and break up all the large chunks. If you are stuck with a basic blender, take the tomatoes out in groups and place in blender with the center of the lid removed and a kitchen towel placed over the top to avoid burning yourself if the mixture splashes. A few pulses should do the job.
Now it is time to add the spices - I normally add the following - garlic powder (it survives the long cooking process better), ginger, black pepper, salt, oregano, cumin, marjoram, zatar, basil, sage, parsley and a ring of fire habanero sauce but sometimes these change depending on what choices I have and what smells good mixed together that day. If you are new at mixing spices without precise measurement: Take a pinch or so of each spice you pick and place them in a small bowl and smell them. If something smells off to you, pull something out or put something in if it seems to be missing. Your smell and taste are your guide at this point.
At this point remove the lid and keep the sauce at a happy simmer till the liquid stops pooling at the surface and causes the sauce to thicken. Now beware hapless snackers have been known to dip tortilla chips in a good fresh sauce much like they would in a salsa and you might have less to can than you thought. Case in point my picture above has only a jar and a half.
Now comes the point of ladling your work of art into glass jars and canning it cleanly to last the winter. I will leave that for another day.
Happy Planning of all the delicious things you can do with tomatoes fresh or made to last the season cuz you could not consume that many in so short a time.