August 14, 2011

GARDEN POST #1: Tomato Sauce

Posted by Ethne~

Tonight I started my annual summer produce preservation.  You remember from here where I make the best chocolate cake in the whole wide world out of garden zucchini?  Well, this is another garden goodie from stuff I plucked out of Thrifty Nana’s yard.

Aren't they beautiful?

Thrifty Nana (my mom) and I have, once again, planted more tomato plants than we can consume in one artery-clogging BLT summer (remember that bacon is a condiment??).  In other words, we planted a s**tload of tomatoes.  We threw about 8 zucchini and 8 pepper plants into her garden for good measure, and we planted several herbs including chives, basil, tarragon and dill.  I can use any combination of these for this recipe (method) for making tomato sauce.

Now these plants are HUGE.  I have to duck and peek around leaves and branches to find the red beauties that hide behind.  It must be the very rainy summer we’ve had, but I have honestly never seen such huge plants.  I feel like I’m weaseling and twisting myself around those invisible rays of lasers that protect giant diamonds in the movies.  Maybe my tomatoes will have diamonds inside like pearls inside oysters?  Ya right!

However I manage it, I end up dirty every time, but there is a pay-off.  I hand the tomatoes directly to Easy Mac and KD, which they eat like apples.  Is there anything better than seeing my children with tomato seeds dripping down their chins and shirts?  I think not.  It’s marvelous.  And makes for good photo ops for those grad picture galleries in 2026 when they graduate from high school.  (WTF??  2026??  Marty McFly is supposed to be able to float around on his hover-board in another 4 years to put that into perspective.)

I love 'mid-bite' food pics:
my little sis Whit will love that I put this one up.

The fruits are just coming on now – I can pick about 20 at a time.  In a week or so, it’s going to be CRAZY.  The big heirloom tomatoes (the juicy ones you want on your BLT) will be ripe.  The piles can get huge.  A few years back we canned tomato juice and sauce (another post) and we probably had two hundred tomatoes processed.

I’m not up for mass canning this year, so I’m pacing myself and doing what may be my most favorite preservation method - roasted and frozen.  Canned foods can last for years.  Second best is frozen – those’ll last about 6 months, which will get us through the winter.  For the next month, it’ll be ROAST and FREEZE, ROAST and FREEZE in the D household.

The beauty of my roasted, frozen tomato sauce is I can roast pretty much any combo of veggies I want, whiz it up in my food processor, and freeze.  I made so much last year that Shaun made me give a lot of my sauce away to my co-worker BG.  Her fam reported that the chili she made with my sauce was the best they ever tasted.  You’re welcome.

So what’s this all about?  Roasting vegetables is pretty straightforward.  Chop whatever veggies you want to use into cubes, drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper and bake in a 400 degree (350 would be fine too, it really doesn’t matter, but might take a little longer) oven for about 30 minutes, or until the tomatoes have juiced out and all the veg cubes are tender.  The flavor is fab-u-lous, really no comparison to any other cooking method for layers of flavor.

Veggies going into the hot oven - all home grown
except the onion

My fave combo:  all sorts of tomato varieties, basil (fresh or dried), garlic, onion, zucchini and perhaps some peppers.  Basically, use whatever you have on hand.

Roasted till tender and the juice is bubbly

Let it cool – trust me, I learned the hard way last year when I put the hot veggies in my food processor and my blade (yeah, the stainless steel blade) broke in two – and then ladle the whole veggies and juice (everything) into the food processor bowl.  Whiz it up until it’s smooth.  You can leave it chunky or let it puree down more, whatever your preference.  Freeze in the quart-size freezer bags, which will work well for one meal’s worth of sauce (generally).

Isn't it lovely?
You could puree it smoother, but I like it
with a few pieces of veg left
I always date and label when I'm freezing
so I can be sure to use the oldest food up first

That’s all.  Not too difficult and you will LOVE IT.  Your sauce can be used in just about any way.  I like chili (like BG), spaghetti sauce, pizza sauce and Mexican dishes made with my sauce.  This is THRIFTY because it’s all from your garden, HEALTHY because it’s all from your garden (completely organic too), and so diz-arn VERSATILE.  Whatever you can think up for combos and uses – the only limitation is your ‘magination’ (Easy-Mac and KD-ism).

Adding a deck-grown jalapeno -
I made some enchilada sauce with this batch
Avocado and ancho chili powder to the
enchilada sauce - for flavor and because
I needed to use up the avocado

Have any of you made sauce like this?  What do you make it out of?  What do you use it for?  We’d love to hear your comments or emails for inspiration.


Katie said...

My tomatoes aren't quite ready yet. Lots of green tomatoes though and I'll be freezing and canning also. But let me tell you there are always plenty left out for BLT's!

JanF said...

Have you tried fried tomatoes on toast for breakfast? Just a tad of butter (real) in a pan and add sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle lightly with Italian seasoning or the like and fry v. gently. Serve on toast and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top.