Sorry for the long absence. . . I wish I had a good excuse besides being utterly unmotivated to sit in front of my computer or carry my camera around. But, there you have it. In this brutal Texas heat, we've been spending lots of time by the pool, enjoying Austin's summer family fun, and being SUPER lazy. Popsicles and pools pretty much sum it up.
Last week, however, we received our special order of local organic tomatoes from Johnson's Backyard Garden. . . ten pounds to be exact. The plan was to make homemade sauce that we can enjoy past tomato season.
I used this recipe as a general guide but as I don't have the supplies for canning (yet!) I froze mine in large ziploc bags(flat for easy thaw and storage space).
It's not terribly hard to process the tomatoes once you get rolling, but the first four took me about an hour. After that I got a little system down where I had the prep station, the blanch station, the ice bath station and the peeling station. I was like a machine with ten at each station in constant motion like the bermuda triangle of tomato processsing. All toddlers were removed from the premises.
1. First, you wash, core and score. I wasn't precious about it. Basically just get some scrapes in the tomato,so the skins will start peeling back a bit.
2. Blanch in boiling water for about a minute until the skins start to peel back.
3. Using a slotted spoon, I then transferred them to an ice bath to quickly cool.
4. While those were cooling, I peeled the ones that came out of the ice bath and threw in a big bowl. I didn't worry about it being perfect so bits of skin were left on. Many people leave the skins in the sauce for texture. I would say 97% of mine were eliminated. If you're looking for perfection, head on over to Martha. . .or Paula Deen? ha ha.. Okay, maybe it's too soon.
5. When they were all peeled, I minced several cloves of garlic and chopped fresh basil.
6. Then I threw the processed maters in my food processor. Mine is super small so it was kind of tedious to do it in batches, but whaddya do? I'm a normal person--NOT working in my dream kitchen. (dream kitchen prototype shown here)
7. I threw it all in one pot, and simmered for two hours, stirring every time I thought of it so nothing would stick. It smelled like absolute heaven in our house during the reducing process. At one point Ruby got this quizzical look on her face and said, "Mama, it smell wike pizza in here?"
8. At the end, I added a teaspoon of sugar, two tablespoons of red wine vinegar, and salt to taste. You can be pretty generous with the salt.
We served it that night with a bit of Italian sausage on the side and the FANCY pasta. I'm including a picture. Rustichella D'Abruzzo pasta is made of grain grown under salty Adriatic breezes and water from pure mountain springs and then extruded through century-old hand-carved bronze dies and packaged by virgins. Okay I embellished that a little bit, but most of that description is straight from the package. It is freaking six dollars for a pack of spaghetti. I know.. kind of absurd, but it is the most incredible tasting pasta I have ever had and we buy it once in a while if we have something really special to serve it with.
I think my first batch of completely homemade tomato sauce qualifies as something special. It looked beautiful. I must admit at first bite, I was a little baffled. It is hard to rewire your taste buds after eating the super sugary, over seasoned, extra salty stuff in the jar. It tasted like. . .gasp. . .tomatoes.
We determined it needed a bit more salt and some herbs. While it was cooking I was afraid to add anything that would ruin its simplicity but now that I've done it once, I will be more bold and add my own flair to it. Off the top of my head, I'm thinking a bit of celery, carrot, oregano, parsley, crushed red pepper, etc.. It's really meant to be more of a base and then as you reheat it, you can add more seasonings based on the flavors you are trying to achieve with your dish. In my recipe, it mentioned not to do any saute'ing as adding oil can alter the PH in a bad way. I don't know if this is specific to canning or goes for all sauces you plan to store. If anyone knows, please comment! I plan to swirl in a tiny bit of oil or butter when reheating the sauce to bring out its flavor.
We ate it twice and then I froze the rest in "two adult and one toddler" portions (about 1 and 3/4 cup per bag) plus two little bags for pizza making and what not. My tomato order cost $20.. and really I only have about 4 more meals out of it. Unless, you are growing or inheriting the tomatoes..this process is not about economy. The store stuff is way cheaper. It really was about taking some of summer's best bounty, and processing it MYSELF. It felt good. It's local, organic, super fresh, tastes great, and it kept me off the internet for a few hours. You're welcome, eyeballs.
Hope your summer is full of deliciousness.