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Friday, August 17, 2012

What to do with all those tomatoes!?

I've been busy in the yard all summer with more projects than I care to think about. (http://thegardenanticipated.blogspot.com/ ). Meanwhile the tomatoes just keep cranking out more and more fruits! So today I will show you how I make my homemade Marinara, or Spaghetti Sauce!

This is a near daily load from my garden!
slit the tomato skin with a small serrated knife.
I start by putting a large pot of water on the stove to boil. While the water heats up I begin washing all the tomatoes and cutting a shallow slit in the skin on the bottom of each tomato. Once the water is at a good boil I put a few tomatoes at a time in the pot and wait until I can see the skin where I cut the slit begin to separate and pull away. The idea is not to cook the tomatoes, merely to loosen the skin. When I have reached that goal, the tomatoes are removed from the boiling water with a slotted spoon and placed immediately in cold water. Preferably ice water. I usually fill my kitchen sink with cold water and dump in a good amount of ice. This boiling and cooling process should take about 3 minutes total (half in hot and half in cold).
blanching the tomatoes
Once the tomatoes are cool enough to handle, I slip the skins off and cut the cores out of each tomato. Depending on how large the tomato, I cut it up in smaller chunks- maybe an inch or two square.

peeled tomatoes
You could cut the tomatoes in half first and scoop out all the seeds with your finger- seeds are not pretty in spaghetti sauce. I used to do that, and found it very tiresome. I found a tomato mill at William Sonoma for making sauce. This tool is a huge time saver if you plan on making sauce every year and not at all expensive. Here is a link if you want to buy one: http://www.williams-sonoma.com/products/italian-tomato-press/?pkey=e%7Citalian%2Btomato%2Bpress%7C2%7Cbest%7C0%7C1%7C24%7C%7C1&cm_src=PRODUCTSEARCH||NoFacet-_-NoFacet-_-NoMerchRules-_- 




 I set up my mill on my kitchen table. I have granite counters and for some reason the suction cup on the bottom sometimes doesn't stay attached to the granite, which then makes an enormous mess. My old house had laminate counters and this was never an issue. I put one bowl under the main outlet in front and a smaller one on the side to catch the "waste". I always run the waste back through the mill FOUR MORE TIMES to extract all the good stuff! When you are finished there is basically nothing but seeds and pasty gunk. This could go back in your compost if you do that. The main bowl, I empty that frequently into my stock pot so it doesn't over flow and its easier to get out from under the spout if its not too full.

If you don't have a tomato press, just cut the tomatoes in half cross-wise, not top to bottom, and scoop the seeds out using your finger and discard. Cut the tomatoes up small or put them in a food processor or blender if you prefer. Proceed the same way from there.

tomato puree ready to season and cook
So now you have a full stock pot of tomato puree. It can be chunky if you prefer not to use the mill. To that I add a couple of chopped onions, about 6-8 cloves of chopped garlic, 2-3 anchovies (optional), a teaspoon or so of salt, half teaspoon or so of ground black pepper, a couple dashes of hot pepper flakes, and a teaspoon of sugar. I also like to use fresh herbs, but dry ones are fine too. Adjust the quantity accordingly and to taste. I use a good fistful of fresh basil leaves, perhaps 1/2-3/4 cup chopped, 3-4 sprigs of oregano leaves chopped, 5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves. You could be totally lazy with the herbs and just tie them together "bouquet garni" style with a string and let their flavors permeate the sauce while it cooks and then toss when it's done, but I like the little bits of green throughout my sauce. Sometimes I put in a chopped green pepper or so if I have one. You could add olives- green or black if you like. Chopped or grated zucchini, carrots, mushrooms, etc. Really whatever add-ins you like. I usually keep it simple for a basic sauce.
seasonings for the sauce

Another option is to saute the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until tender, but not brown, first and then add to the tomato. This is up to you. Sometimes I do, and sometimes I don't.

I turn the whole pot up to high to get it cooking, then turn the heat down to a nice low bubbly simmer. The pot should cook until it is reduced by half or more. You will notice over time it becomes a darker, richer color and the sauce gradually becomes thicker. Just watch the heat so it doesn't scorch on the bottom and stir occasionally.

seasoned sauce ready to stir and cook
Once my sauce is complete, I let it cool completely and divide it up in vacuum seal bags and freeze for later use. Every year I try to shoot for at least 2 dozen 2-cup bags of frozen marinara. Right now I'm up to about 10, so I've got several more batches to make. I'm due to start a new batch today as there are upwards of 30 tomatoes on my kitchen counter and more on the vines out back ready to pick!

Buon Appetito!



completed sauce


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