I am not Italian and a far cry from a chef, though growing tomatoes and saucing does run in my family. Every year my grandparents would grow tomatoes and other garden vegetables and Can big batches of sauce for the year. They are both gone now, but my mom remembers it fondly, though sadly she doesn’t remember their saucing secrets…
So I have had to make up a few of my own to be able to handle the tomato bounty around here. First of all let me just say thank goodness for indeterminate tomatoes– Those that flower and fruit continuously throughout the season, not all at the same time. Most tomatoes are this way, thank goodness, let’s just say I would be in big trouble if they weren’t. But if you are ever planting fro processing, make sure you get indeterminate tomato seed.
Over the past month I have harvested over 50 lbs of tomatoes, usually in batches of about a dozen lbs at once, which makes processing manageable. I also have a few gadgets that help me along–
The beloved crock pot is a great way to simmer down those juicy fruits over night, giving me a more concentrated product to process the next morning. I have been running the crock pot stewed tomatoes through a food mill and and getting a nice thick sauce base that I mix with onions, garlic, herbs and salt and pepper before canning. The other gadgets I have come to love is the Cuisinart. I usually quarter the tomatoes and pulse them a few times to get a nice chunky sauce, or mix it with the crock pot/food milled sauce for a half and half effect. I also use the Cuisinart for lots if other things, but my new favorite is to pre-process garlic. I have a huge stash this year from our 11lb harvest and I have it all sorted into use now and use later piles. I have taken to peeling about 20 heads at a time- yep that is ALOT of garlic–but if you just smash them with a coffee mug the peeling can be pretty fast. Once peeled, I run them through the Cuisinart till minced and store in a mason jar in olive oil in the fridge– that way I have chopped garlic ready to go for all my saucing, pestoing and dinner making. It really is a such a time saver when making these big batches of sauce. I have taken to pressure canning all my tomato creations, though since this is new for me I have no secrets but to follow the instructions carefully.
When all is canned up I make all my labels now from old paper grocery sacks, It seems I just can’t have enough of them these days!!I am no chef, but I do love tips and tricks of the food processing trade. Got any of your own to share?
Bruce made an awesome sauce yesterday – our own tomatoes, basil, garlic, chard, oregano, tarragon – with onions, ground pepper, red NM chile powder,salt. But the thing that worked so well, is that he sauteed tempeh in with the onions and garlic and added it into the mix. It thickened the sauce, giving it body and protein. Yum!
MMMMM Great tip– I also wanted to talk to you about canning re-fried beans- at the rate Jangy eats them,freezing requires thaw– let’s talk.